#ArtTransforms June 25, 2020

SKETCH Advocacy Letter to Community & Mayor John Tory in support of Defunding the Police

By SKETCH Team

Dear Community Members and Supporters,

SKETCH is reaching out to ask for your support.  We hope you will join us in writing to City Councillors and Mayor Tory this week in order to express our desire to defund the police and invest in arts, education, increased mental health services, housing initiatives, income security, harm reduction services, accessible rehabilitation, mutual aid, conflict resolution services, transformative justice, and other community-based support systems.  

There is a vote on Monday, June 29th on a motion put forward by Councillor Matlow and Councillor Wong-Tam calling to defund the Toronto Police Service by a minimum of 10 percent and, if approved, it would result in about $122 million in savings to be put toward community resources that could include SKETCH.

For this motion to pass, it is our understanding that the motion requires 17 votes to waive deferral to a committee, and 14 votes to pass. Currently, there are only 6 councillors willing to support this motion.

Please join us by reaching out to your councillors (especially those who do not currently support this motion) and by reaching out to Mayor Tory. We estimate that it takes about 5 minutes to send an email and make a call. Again the vote is on Monday, June 29th, so we all need to make our voices heard loud and clear before then. Our city can lead the way in defining public safety through the community, not the police, where Black, Indigenous, and people of colour are free from police oppression. We are calling on you to create a better future for all residents of Toronto by divesting from harmful policing and investing in life-affirming services.

This website has been a great resource to identify your Councillor and their position on the issue and find their contact. We used it and others’ templates to draft our own (see below)!

Thank you for your support and we look forward to having you join us in being a part of the change in our city!

—-LETTER TEMPLATE—-

Hello Mayor Tory,

SKETCH Working Arts is a community arts organization in the Spadina-Fort York Ward 10 of Toronto. The Toronto Police Service budget of $1.076 billion from the total $13.5 billion 2020 operational budget for the City of Toronto (an increase of 4% since 2019) is outrageous. This astronomical police budget costs the taxpayer more than firefighters, paramedics, libraries, and public housing combined. Following the recent horrific death of D’Andre Campbell, Regis Korchinski-Paquet, and Ejaz Choudry, I call upon all our elected officials to ensure a transparent investigation into these deaths and start divesting from the systematically violent Toronto Police Service immediately.

We support defunding the police. Councillor Matlow and Councillor Wong-Tam’s motion calls for a minimum of 10%, but we want you to know that we support dismantling the entire police system and rebuilding a safer, more competent community care. Defund, dismantle, abolish – please pay attention to these words, and know that we notice when you echo “reform” instead. Reform has been proven again and again to make no progress in preventing inadequately trained police officers from perpetuating violence on Black and Indigenous communities. To support reform over defunding is to ignore the spirit of the demands of this period in history.

This work is important to SKETCH Working Arts as the call to invest in community-led safety and divest funds from the Toronto Police Service budget into different forms of community investment supports SKETCH’s vision of youth-led community transformation through the arts.  

An increased police presence, which includes TTC inspectors and enforcement officers, does not keep us safe, rather it directly threatens the lives of our most vulnerable communities (BIPOC, the LGBTQ2S+ community, unhoused people, street-based sex workers, people with disabilities, people experiencing poverty, etc.).

SKETCH supports the call to action for alternatives to policing put forward by the Toronto Prisoners’ Rights Project, the prison abolition movement, and the call to divest the funds from the Toronto Police Service and invest in arts, education, increased mental health services, housing initiatives, income security, harm reduction services, accessible rehabilitation, mutual aid, conflict resolution services, transformative justice, and other community-based support systems. These initiatives must support our most vulnerable communities and centre the experiences of Black, Indigenous, and people of colour in Toronto. We should look to and learn from organizations like Not Another Black Life, Black Lives Matter Toronto, Black Legal Action Centre, Toronto Police Accountability Coalition, PASAN, Toronto Prisoners’ Rights Project, Maggie’s, Showing Up for Racial Justice, and so many more.

Our city can lead the way in defining public safety through the community, not police, where Black, Indigenous, and people of colour are free from police oppression. We are calling on you to create a better future for all residents of Toronto by divesting from harmful policing and investing in life-affirming services.

We demand a response from your office on Matlow and Tam’s motion, otherwise, we will be forced to champion and vote for a Mayor that will take a stand on this issue come to the next municipal election.

My number is [PHONE NUMBER] and my email is [EMAIL].

Sincerely,

XXXX

"You really want that utopian ideal of what our world could be? You want to be proudly and ACTIVELY anti-racist, more than fearing being called a racist? I want that for you too. If so, then do the work, educate yourself and others stand by us loudly, consistently, FOREVER." - Clara Amfo, BBC 1 Radio Host

Dear SKETCH Community,

The last two weeks have been yet another reminder that the Black community continues to be under attack by white supremacist systems. SKETCH's board of directors and staff sends their deepest sympathies to the families and friends of those who we have most recently lost including Regis Korchinski-Paquet, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and D’Andre Campbell, and all those whose deaths have not been televised.

In our grief and anger at these senseless murders committed by the police, SKETCH is ensuring that we stay accountable to our Black youth artists, staff and the Black community at large, by taking swift action to ensure that folks are supported, uplifted, taken care of and their voices amplified, as they continue to organize and march on the front lines for justice.

As an organization that is led by mainly white leadership, we are deeply committed to examining and activating our role as an accomplice to address violence, racism, oppression, and discrimination in our sector, in Toronto and in society generally.

This Means:
  • We will continue to look within and address our own biases and the ways that systemic and structural racism plays itself out in SKETCH;
  • We will increase investment and resources to young Black Artists;
  • We will endorse Black leadership in SKETCH and in arts and culture;
  • We will support self-care and resources for our Black staff; and
  • Our leadership will connect with other white leaders of arts and culture organizations to support Black leadership in the sector with resourced opportunities to lead in meaningful ways.

We want to acknowledge the trauma and grief of those who create with and work at SKETCH, who are Black. We know you endure violence on a daily basis. We want to reach out to support you, stand and work together with you, to fight for justice, for your health, and for your futures.

We seek to learn daily, with you, how to enact a more just present and future. Thank you for your leadership. Thank you for calling us to be better. All of our liberations depend on it.

We join the movements for prison abolition, and for strong redirection of funding for policing to go toward community-based transformative justice efforts.

We call on the Arts Councils to create a Black Artists Fund to support Black Artists and Black Arts and Culture Organizations, recognizing and investing in their leadership in arts and culture, and in building fair and inclusive communities.

We encourage the non-Black community members of SKETCH to stand with us and take action by:
  • Educating yourself on the issues;
  • Supporting your Black staff with personal time for self-care;
  • Supporting the community by buying from Black-owned business (which include Black artists at SKETCH);
  • Donating to organizations that are directly supporting Black folks;
  • Reposting and resharing information on your social media feeds;
  • Having constant conversations with your peers, families, and friends; and
  • Signing petitions that call for justice.

With so many ways to actively support the dismantling of systems that continue to oppress the Black community, silence is not an option.

We welcome you all to join SKETCH in allying yourselves with the Black community in the fight for liberation for all, not as a token event, but one that actually leads to a re-education, re-evaluation, and unbiased and selfless action.

In solidarity,

SKETCH Working Arts

Artwork: Egwu Ogwu Mystic Dance by Kanna Anigbogu

Dear Friends and Investors,

Greetings from the SKETCH Project Home Team! We hope that you and your family are keeping well and safe during this time.

UPDATE: SKETCH is placing the capital campaign to purchase our studios on brief hiatus until the fall.

Our campaign has been a great success so far, with over $370,000 raised in funds and Community Bonds! However, in face of the COVID-19 pandemic, SKETCH is taking action to suspend the campaign to allow the time needed for those excited about our campaign to be in a more secure position to participate.

If you have already donated to the campaign, or purchased SKETCH Community Bonds, we deeply appreciate your commitment to Project Home. If you've just recently submitted your bond-purchase documents, we will still process your investment.

Have any questions about your donations or bond purchase? Please do not hesitate to contact SKETCH Executive Director, Rudy Ruttimann at rudy@sketch.ca.

This summer, we'll be working with our campaign partners and SKETCH community to determine exactly when we relaunch in the Fall. We'll be sure to keep you posted over the summer.

You can still inquire about SKETCH, our capital campaign, and its progress at invest@sketch.ca or by following us at @SKETCHToronto.

Thank you for your time, and we wish all the best for you and your family.

-The SKETCH Team & Campaign Advisory

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