C/O Muka

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.  

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“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.  

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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.  

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“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.

Photo C/O Maddie Brockbank

By: Abi Sudharshan

CW: Discussions of sexual violence

 

On March 7, the YWCA Hamilton hosted the 43rd annual Women of Distinction Awards dinner. These awards recognize the achievements of women in the Hamilton community. From business to education, the night celebrates exemplary leadership by women in an effort to inspire other women.

One of the most watched award categories is that of the “Young Woman of Distinction,” which celebrates a woman between 18 and 25 who has demonstrated passionate and committed stewardship of a cause in her school, community or workplace.

This year’s winner is fourth year McMaster social work student Maddie Brockbank.

Over the course of the last few years, Brockbank has spearheaded projects addressing the issue of sexual violence prevention, specifically by directing efforts to establish meaningful male allyship.

On March 15, the Silhouette sat down with Brockbank to discuss these initiatives.

 

Before we really get started, tell me a little about yourself. What things define you?

I would say that I am very hard working. I really value hard work and my parents have taught me to value it. I’m pretty passionate about the work that I do with sexual violence. I’m also pretty honest about my outlook on issues on campus.

 

When would you say you first became aware of sexual violence issues?  

I didn’t hear the word “consent” until I was in university. I went to a Catholic high school, and though I overheard troubling conversations in the halls, they were never addressed.

 

I’ve read about your work in broad terms, but am so curious about the specifics. How did this all begin and what exactly have you done?

There’s a bit of a story to it. In my second year of university, I applied for and received an undergraduate student research award in experiential education. Through that, I found out that women currently bear most of the weight in discussions regarding sexual violence, which does not at all reflect the situation. So, over that summer, I interviewed seven guys from a couple of different universities, and asked them questions about consent, sexual violence, and treatment of victims. I found that there were extremely large gaps in their knowledge.

It was concerning, but it was also promising as they all talked about how they had never been asked these questions before and how they had never thought about these conversations before. There was willingness on the other end and it became a matter of engaging them.

 

This isn’t the first time that your work as garnered recognition. Last year, you were awarded 1st Prize in the Clarke Prizes in Advocacy and Active Citizenship competition. Could you tell me a bit about that?

Yes, I did get the Clarke Prize grant in March of last year. Ryan Clarke is an alumni who donates $6,000 every year to fund initiatives addressing issues in the community. First prize wins $3,000, second wins $2,000 and third wins $1,000. Most campaigns that address sexual violence have a very general approach to them.

From my research, I found that young men wanted to join the conversation. So, I created an event to educate young men: Commit(men)t and Allyship. Although the event was independent, we did collaborate with individuals and organizations within the community, such as Meaghan Ross, the university’s sexual violence response coordinator, the Sexual Assault Centre of Hamilton and the McMaster Students Union Women and Gender Equity Network. McMaster Athletics had expressed interest, but they didn’t show up.

It was extremely disappointing. However, 10 Mohawk athletes did attend. Tristan Abbott, facilitator of the WiseGuyz program in Calgary, attended as well. We donated $2,700 to SACHA and the remaining funds from the Clarke grant to others like the male allies of Waterloo who facilitated our debriefing spaces.

 

How do you feel about the university’s current efforts to respond to the issue of sexual violence?

Well, the sexual assault policy at McMaster is relatively new, and thus yet to be evaluated in terms of efficacy. In general, however, universities need to address that there is a rape culture on campus and that it is a prevalent problem. There needs to be more support for survivors, to shift the response from interrogation to believing them. Perpetrators need to feel the consequences of their actions and need to be barred from positions of power within the Student Representative Assembly, MSU and other student governing bodies.

 

How does it feel being recognized for your work?

Surprising and really amazing. There were so many incredible candidates. I think it just speaks to the merit in the work that I’ve done. It’s affirmation that the work is important and needs to be done.

 

What’s next for Maddie Brockbank?

I am continuing my studies at McMaster in the Masters of Social Work for fall 2019. I am also continuing my research and doing my thesis on male student perspectives of sexual violence. I recently received the McMaster graduate scholarship as well, so I'm stoked!

 

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