Muka celebrates identities and self-love through accessories, enamel pins and apparel
Muka, a Hamilton-based accessory, enamel pin and apparel brand, strives to help their customers feel confident and be unapologetically themselves. Founded in 2018 by two best friends, Lisa Wang and Alexis Fu, and their partners, Tony Song and Anita Tang respectively, the shop offers inclusive products for people of intersectional queer and racialized identities.
Wang and Fu met in high school and graduated from Sheridan College’s applied arts and animation program together. While working in the media industry creating content for children, they took note of the lack of representation of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour, 2SLGBTQIA+ community and intersectional identities in the media and took it upon themselves to fulfill this gap.
“We thought there wasn’t enough genuine representation in the media as well as in the fashion industry in general . . . We really wanted to have a place where artists like us who have intersectional identities, but also other artists, could showcase their work and products and have them made accessible to people,” said Wang.
As the Creative Director of Muka, Wang curates the shop’s products and paints the broader vision for the brand while Fu is charge of operations and logistics of the business. Wang’s husband Song photographs all the products and Fu’s wife Tang is the designer. Together, they built Muka on a foundation of strong friendship, family, love and teamwork.
Muka is also a story of allyship. As a cis, heterosexual couple, Wang and Song learned a lot about allyship through running the business with Fu and Tang. Through open dialogue with each other and the community about what it means to be an ally, they were able to learn, grow and explore complex topics of intersectionality and queer experiences together.
“It’s a journey of constant learning. . .The point [of allyship] is that everybody comes to the table with love for each other,” said Wang.
Wang understands the value of listening in cultivating allyship and community.
“For me, growing up as a straight person, there are a lot of things I take for granted. I grew up in an Asian household and so did Alexis and Anita but their experiences as queer people in an Asian household are very different, so it’s always good to listen to the stories because everyone’s got a different path—everyone’s different. Queer people aren’t monoliths just as how Asian people aren’t monoliths,” explained Wang.
It comes with no surprise their messages of inclusivity, love and community have resonated with many folks. The positive response from the community fuels their motivation to work harder.
“The number one thing that encourages us to keeping going is people’s reaction to us—[from] events or messages customers leave online—because, based on what the customers are telling us, there really isn’t a business that’s quite like ours,” said Wang.
Muka’s next collection will feature themes of fruits, a slur the queer community has been reclaiming, and flowers, particularly peony and chrysanthemum which are connected to Asian culture. The collection is still underway; however, Wang hopes it will be ready by spring or summer.
Muka is personal, intersectional and unique. Whether you are part of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community or learning to become a better ally, the messages about confidence, self-love and love for others promote by Muka are universal.
“The most important ingredient is love for yourself and love for others. . .The other thing I think is pretty important is always learning and trying to understand because the world is always changing and people are complex and so there’s always more to learn about ourselves and each other,” said Wang.
Piper & Carson’s second album Edgewalker’s Remedy is about divesting from colonist structures
By: Tracy Huynh, Contributor
For singer-songwriter duo Piper & Carson, music is about disarming people, building community and creating intentional art that heals. They sought to embody these ideals in their second album, Edgewalker’s Remedy, which was released on Oct. 23, 2020.
Piper & Carson is the stage name of duo and couple Piper Hayes and Carson Ritcey-Thorpe. Hayes and Ritcey-Thorpe met when Hayes, who was raised in the east end of Toronto, was performing at a Harvest Bash in Ritcey-Thorpe’s hometown of Millgrove.
Feeling a deep connection with the land and the community, the two moved to Hamilton five years ago. In 2017, they released their self-titled debut album, Piper & Carson. The theme of nature is apparent throughout their music, with sounds of water and birds underlying the melody.
Their second album, Edgewalker’s Remedy, is about divesting from capitalist and colonial systems. The title paints a picture of how colonialism pushes groups of people to the edges of society. Tackling themes of anti-racism, Indigenous sovereignty and respecting the Earth, the album is strikingly relevant to the topics currently explored by media today.
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For example, in Mother’s Prayer, background heartbeat sounds, vivid imagery and lyrics such as “Decolonize your mind/You don’t own anything” bring attention to the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s clear from the first listen that this duo isn’t trying to shy away from topics that spark conversation.
“We felt really strongly that it's really our responsibility as settlers here to be part of anti-racism and to be part of amplifying the voices of Indigenous people. It's people [and] it's communities that are going to change things. I have very very little faith in the current structures that are in place,” said Hayes.
The duo has been amplifying Indigenous voices by sharing content from Indigenous activists on their social media platforms. However, they aim to create a long-term exit strategy from social media.
“For years it has felt imperative as musicians to have a Facebook, Instagram and Twitter account. Lately, however we are questioning this reasoning and wondering what better ways we can collectively invest in each other and our relationships,” said Hayes and Ritcey-Thorpe in a press release.
Wanting to further reject the predatory capitalist practices of the music industry, Hayes and Ritcey-Thorpe did not put the album on streaming platforms. Instead, the album is available on their website and Bandcamp in a pay-what-you-can model. They wanted to make decisions centred around their art, rather than around what would do well on the market.
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The project also includes a companion book of lyrics and stories for “adult children.” The book features custom illustrations by Métis artist and friend of the couple Riley Bee. The physical and digital versions of the book are available on their website.
“Our goal is to just get us all collectively to slow down, reflect and hopefully seek out the connection to this natural world, to step into that as much as possible and build and foster wonder,” said Ritcey-Thorpe.
Hayes and Ritcey-Thorpe recorded their latest album in their Hamilton home in the midst of the pandemic. For the pair who are used to performing live, this was new territory. With the help of their friends, Greyson Gritt and Chris Bartos, the duo navigated the challenges of learning new equipment, setting up their home studio and working digitally with other artists.
It was important for the duo to collaborate with artists like The Rough and Tumble and Lacey Hill. They found that the digital space combined with the insights of other artists allowed for creative and serendipitous ways of building a song.
Piper & Carson are livestreaming a show on Nov. 29, 2020. As with their other work, tickets are being sold using a pay-what-you-can model. Hayes and Ritcey-Thorpe are going to use the show to serenade, tell stories and connect with their guests. Through this show, they continue to build community with their music even during the pandemic.
By Ouss Badran, Contributor
cw: mentions of homophobia, transphobia, ableism
A concerning trend that I’ve noticed — especially in more socially aware places such as university — is people adopting the label of “ally” and not actually doing anything about being one. In other words, they’re reaping the positive status of the word without actively being an ally.
What do I mean by this? There seems to be a misunderstanding when it comes to what being an ally actually entails. I can tell you that it isn’t like an article of clothing you can put on or take off at your convenience. Those who are actually marginalized can’t shed their identity at a moment’s notice, so neither should you.
So what actually is an ally? Well, for one, allies are people who are not part of the marginalized group for which they are advocating for. You don’t have to necessarily know what it feels like to be oppressed or experience the difficulties that marginalized groups go through. All being an ally means is that you are taking on and understanding their struggle with them.
If you’re new to the concept of allyship, being an advocate is a great start! This means, for example, not just claiming the title of ally because you watch RuPaul’s Drag Race, but actually fighting for better LGBTQ+ representation in the media.
Additionally, this also includes defending said marginalized groups when they’re not in the room, and especially when they are. What do I mean by this? On a more subtle scale, calling out bigoted comments such as “that’s so gay” or the use of the r-word publicly challenges the status quo and reinforces that these sorts of comments are not okay in any shape or form.
On the more extreme end, if you see a marginalized person disparaged in public or even private spaces, it’s your responsibility as an ally to stand up for them. Yes, that includes your racist grandparents and it also includes your parents who “just don’t understand all that transgender nonsense”.
While I don’t want to get too much into the intricacies of intersectionality (as it deserves its own article), I do want to touch on privilege. Most of us have it in some way, shape or form. Nowadays, the very word sets people on edge, and some people may even get defensive. Don’t worry straight, white dudes, I’m not going to attack you. For the sake of this article, privilege is an aspect of society or reality that you don’t have to worry about, but something that another marginalized group does.
For example, I’m speaking mainly from my experiences as a gay, able-bodied and cisgender man of colour. I face certain issues that are relevant to me and other people of my background, but I also lack knowledge and perspective on what it’s like to be a woman, a person under the trans umbrella or someone who has a physical disability. Being aware of your own privilege as an ally can potentially help you understand the struggles of the groups you’re advocating for.
Also, I mean this with all due respect, but if you are an ally, it isn’t about you. Bragging about how you support the Black Lives Matter movement, or about how you “only volunteer at camps for kids with special needs” makes you come off in a not-so-positive light. Specifically, it makes you look like you’re using these groups for your own social gain. Rein in the saviour complex and instead have some respect for those around you who fight for social justice out of a need to survive, not because it looks good on a resume.
So, if I’ve successfully convinced you to change your ways, there’s just one more thing for me to address with you. It’s that making mistakes is completely okay. Everyone has to learn somehow! Acknowledge it, accept responsibility, learn from it and move on equipped with the knowledge you have now.
Queer and trans* topics rarely come up in my class discussions (which is an issue for another day), but often when they do, I find that I voluntarily take on the role of makeshift educator.
Just recently in one of my tutorials, someone brought up the Belgian man who was granted permission for euthanasia after an unsatisfactory sex change surgery. What followed could be described as a very awkward, uncomfortable silence and a few unpleasant reactions.
A lot of people aren’t necessarily as exposed to discussions surrounding topics of gender and sexual diversity as I am, which is why I will often reluctantly excuse and overlook these signs of prejudice and ignorance.
While rude and offensive, these moments serve as reminders that there’s still work to do, awareness to raise and people to educate.
I know that a lot of people in the Queer community and other marginalized groups don’t hold the same view about the process of educating privileged folks. I completely understand this perspective; having to constantly repeat your story, the same information; the same facts that are easily accessible online can become frustrating. Sometimes you wish people would take the time to learn about issues that don’t directly affect them.
Unfortunately, as we all probably know, this isn’t the case for most individuals who are privileged in one way or another (myself included with respect to certain privileges I hold).
Becoming an ally to a group is an extensive process – one that never really ends. As someone who isn’t experiencing what the people you’re supporting are experiencing, your activism looks different from theirs.
The process will definitely consist of a lot of mistakes, especially at the start. However, everyone has to start somewhere, and for some people it may be that time they spent five seconds listening to the uncomfortable silence of their tutorial room.
I like to give people the benefit of the doubt during the first few moments of this “process.” Even if I was offended by the reactions, the eye-rolls and the sounds of confusion, I don’t like to point fingers or start yelling (at least not right away).
Privileged people have spent their whole life in a society that has taught them that things are a certain way, and I think expecting a two-second paradigm shift to take place isn’t realistic.
That’s why I like to begin the process by educating. Some people are very receptive, and others not so much.
And I think it’s at this point, after I’ve attempted to educate someone on issues they aren’t familiar with, that I can begin to make the distinction between those who have good intentions and are trying to be allies, and those who don’t. The latter, of course, can be incredibly unnerving, and it can be another reason why members of marginalized communities don’t like having the burden of educating privileged people placed on them.
However, I think it’s important to recognize the difference between well-intentioned folks who might be asking ignorant questions in the process of learning, and those are intentionally offending and refusing to learn/unlearn.
That’s not to say that members of marginalized groups owe anyone any sort of education. In the end, it’s up to the person and not the entire community. Everyone has different experiences with oppression, activism and advocacy, and educating should never be an individual responsibility.
So when someone is talking about a group of people you’re not very familiar with, listen. When you hear terms you’ve never heard before, try to remember them. If someone is getting up the courage to educate a room full of strangers on a topic they’re intimately familiar with, respect them.
These aren’t hard rules to follow, and can make the discussion have a positive tone, while also making the burden of the educating that a lot of marginalized people feel obligated to provide much more bearable.
By: SJ Jany
As we approach McMaster’s annual Pride Week (November 5th-9th), you might be curious about what you can do to show your love and support for your queer and trans* friends. Good intentions are half the battle: here are some pointers on the ways in which you can be an ally to this fabulous and diverse community.
Tip 1: The golden rule The absolute number one tip to keep in mind here is this: be nice. Seriously, it’s often that simple! It’s okay if you don’t know all of the lingo and the history and the bajillion fancy flags; if you try your hardest to be kind and respectful to the people around you, you can’t go too far wrong!
Tip 2: Don’t assume It’s very common to assume that everyone around us is heterosexual and cisgender, since that’s what we’ve been told for a very long time! Part of being an ally is refraining from making these assumptions
Tip 3: Pronouns! Quick grammar lesson… Pronouns are those words we use (e.g. I, it, he, we, they) to take the place of nouns. Most of the time, we judge someone’s gender from their appearance and use the pronouns we think fit. However, in conjunction with Tip 2, to be an ally to those with diverse gender identities and expressions, it is important to find out someone’s preferred pronouns. Ask people (politely!) which pronouns they prefer and make sure you use them.
Tip 4: Respect privacy Although it’s totally cool to ask questions when you’re confused or uncertain about something, there are some topic areas that should be avoided unless you’ve specifically been given the green light by the individual with whom you’re chatting. For example it’s invasive and rude to ask people about their genitals (including genital surgeries) or about how they have sex.
Now you know a little bit more about being an ally to the queer/trans* community. Remember that part of being an ally to any group is taking the time to learn new things, so always keep your mind open to new information!