Get To Know Julian Mignott

Julian Mignott, who goes by the stage name Juelz, is a singer/songwriter and spoken word poet as well as the creator/producer of the LGBT concert series Pride x Soul. After moving to Toronto in 2012, Julian entered the world of the culinary arts working as a chef in many fine-dining restaurants across the city.  While working as a chef, he simultaneously pursued his other passion in life, music and acting.  Having studied with many great vocal coaches and acting teachers, he began performing in local bars, theatre productions such as Dreamgirls at the Lower Ossington Theatre and Fringe Hamilton, as well as TV productions. 

My proudest accomplishment – seeing the Pride x Soul concert series come to fruition.

His latest project is the concert series entitled Pride x Soul.  This event was created to give queer musicians of colour a platform to showcase their talents as well as provide a safe space where they can be their authentic selves.  The idea came to him during his time at Centennial College where he attended a vocal performance program.  It was there that he met other great vocalists, who were also a part of the LGBT community, who faced the challenge of wanting to share their art and be seen by an audience, but struggling to find events that would allow them to express their art through their unique perspective.  Thus the Pride x Soul Toronto showcase was born.

How are you staying creative?

I have been doing a lot more writing since we’ve been on lockdown. All of this down time has allowed me to become more introspective and write a few pieces that are very personal and thought-provoking.  I’ve also been exploring different artistic mediums such as sketching, music production, photography and videography.

Who are some of your influential authors or books to read? 

In My Own Words – Dalai Lama

The Long Walk to Freedom: Runaway Slave Narratives – Devon W. Carbado and Donald Weise

Giovanni’s Room – James Baldwin

Going to Meet the Man – James Baldwin

The Courage to Be Disliked – Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga

What are you most proud of accomplishing?

My proudest accomplishment is seeing the Pride x Soul concert series come to fruition.  For a long time I wanted to create a show where queer musicians of colour could be themselves and share their stories and talents to an audience of like- minded individuals.

Describe a scene of your vision for the future.

My vision for the future is to own a space where queer people of colour can congregate in a safe environment and live their truth without judgement.  This will be a place where we can party, listen to live music, hold events, eat good food, etc.  Representation matters and I feel as though an establishment celebrating the lives of queer people of colour is well-needed in our city. 

Connect with

Connecting with Courtnay

Courtnay McFarlane is a Jamaican-born visual artist, poet and spoken word performer whose work has been published in several African Canadian and Queer anthologies including: Fiery Spirits, and Voices: Writers of African Canadian Descent, Word-up, and Plush. He co-edited, along with Douglas Stewart, Debbie Douglas, and Makeda Silvera, the Sister Vision Press publication Ma-Ka Diasporic Juks: Contemporary Writing by Queers of African Descent. His performance poetry was recently featured in Phillip Pike’s documentary “Our Dance of Revolution.”

Over the last few decades, he has been an active volunteer in Black and LGBTQ+ community organizations such as the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention, and Inside Out. Courtnay was a founding member of AYA, a ‘90s Toronto-based group for Black queer men, and Blackness Yes!, the organizing committee for the Blockorama event at Pride. He recently curated Legacies in Motion: Black Queer Toronto Archival Project that unearthed and celebrated the political and cultural activism of Black LGBTQ communities in Toronto in the 1980s and 1990s. Legacies in Motion was exhibited at BAND Gallery and at the ArQuives as part of the 2019 Myseum Intersections Festival.

In his other life, he works in community health, most recently as the Interim Director, Health Promotion and Community Engagement at Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre.  Much of his work in the sector has focussed on the provision of diverse programs and services for marginalized children, youth, and adults to ensure access, build individual client capacity and create opportunities for making positive change in their lives and communities.

What’s your favourite thing to do right now?

Making lists
Making lists
Provides a sense of order/control
A notion that one is thinking forward/planning
Even if it is illusory
I am an inveterate maker of lists:
Barely legible work task lists scrawled in lined notebooks/on loose white A4 copy paper
Or typed and saved on various desktops
Grocery lists in my phone: Granny Smith apples, Greek yoghurt, Kingfish steaks, yellow yam…
Domestic task lists posted on the refrigerator
Lists of books to read, music to download, places to go
TTDs: things to do
And alas, lists of the lists I make
Though ultimately the true joy of list making
Is the act of crossing off
Putting a line through, or placing a check mark/tick
Beside something achieved/received
Imagined/accomplished

How are you staying creative? – By completing this profile questionnaire from BGMN

Who is your favourite streaming DJ on FB or Instagram live or what’s on your playlist?

IG’s DJ @d-nice
Original Club Quarantine
Catching sets posted – after the fact
Though sometimes caught live – if I am lucky
And happen on a truly inspired late night/early morning groove
Provoking the ascension of thousands of digital hearts
Flowing ever upwards
Or chains of dancing emojis and virtual flags
He is verse – musically speaking – with old school leanings
Adept at mixing genres, moods, and decades:
The Manhattans, Ro James, Jodeci, Angela Winbush
Make a cocktail with “Insanity” Lalah Hathaway and Gregory Porter’s duet
I am a sucker for his celebrity shoutout: Oprah, Michelle O, Mariah, Grace
Even Kathy Sledge, Melba Moore, Shirley Jones of the Jones Girls
But Donnie Wahlberg?
Derrick is easy on the eyes and fond of hats
He of the big head
Has kept me company through Saturday afternoons vacuuming
Or solo Sunday mornings with a soulful Stevie set
Wonder/ful!
My Dj dotes on his young daughter
Who often pops up on screen
To whisper something secret in his ear/sing along with Beyonce
Or lean in for a squeeze
He is the ultimate virtual
Musical Black daddy
Whose oft-repeated phrase while spinning is
Let it breathe

Who are some of your influential authors or books to read?

In no particular order – list of books recently purchased, read, or re-read:
Augustown – Kei Miller
The Nickel Boys – Colson Whitehead
Fired Up! Ready to Go!: Finding Beauty, Demanding Equity: An African American Life In Art. The Collections of Peggy Cooper Cafritz – Peggy Cooper Cafritz
The New Black Vanguard: Photography between Art and Fashion – Antwaun Sargent
Robert Stilin: Interiors – Robert Stilin
Don’t Call Us Dead – Danez Smith
The Tradition – Jericho Brown
Theory – Dionne Brand
BlackLife: Post BLM and the Struggle for Freedom – Rinaldo Walcott and Idil Abdillahi
Ceremonies: Prose and Poetry – Essex Hemphill
Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches – Audre Lorde
Just Above My Head: James Baldwin

What are your favourite self-care activities right now?

Yoga and body weight workouts on the NTC (Nike Training Club) app
Biweekly visits to my therapist
Cooking something in the evening that I have been craving all day
Podcasts in lieu of sleep
Podcasts to lull me to sleep
Afternoon naps
Devouring design and decorating books and shelter magazine
De-cluttering and offloading stuff on Kijiji
Reimagining interiors
Looking at art
Talking about art
Collecting art
Patios with friends
Weekly visits to my barber
COVID-19 canoodling – virtual or otherwise
Family time
Afternoon naps

If interested in a BGMN Committee, which one would you like to be a part of and why?

  • Culture & knowledge production – as I was part of the original working group at the consultation last year. It is also an area of interest and professional focus.
  • Sexual health & pleasure
  • Substance Use
  • Mentoring

Getting Familiar with Garfield

Fun Fact – Donatello is my favourite Ninja Turtle.

Garfield Durrant is the Men’s Prevention Coordinator at the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention (Black CAP). He has served in this role since 2011 and is responsible for the development and delivery of prevention interventions specifically focused on African, Caribbean and Black gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (ACBMSM). Garfield has supported the development and implementation of interventions for them such as Many Men, Many Voices (3MV), AFFIRM for newcomer Black men, the www.myblack.is website, PrEP SquadTO online resource and the implementation of a number of ACBMSM-specific research studies. He is currently a member of the Priority Population Networks (PPN) — the Gay Men’s Sexual Health Alliance (GMSH) and the African and Caribbean Council on HIV/AIDS in Ontario (ACCHO).

What’s your favourite thing to do right now?

The thing I love to do any time of day or night is cooking. I love the whole process, buying the ingredients, matching them with other items and sometimes buying items from other cultures that I never tried to see if I can use these products properly.

How are you staying creative?

I love to read and write. I’m not sure what drives me, however, I love learning about new ideas and reading new material. It can sometimes be an insatiable craving, while at other times I may not pick up a book for a day or two. The same goes for putting pen to paper.

How have you been maintaining your physical health?

Nature Walks. The joy and adventure of giving my time and energy to nature. Walking or running on the trails admiring the beautiful landscapes. Treading through forests and grass fields just to be with my thoughts and ideas and then I will empty them out into the wild in exchange for the sounds of animals, insects and the smell of the flowers.

What are your favourite self-care activities right now?

I love travelling. I often travel to new places on the weekends and on holidays; sometimes with my friends, sometimes with family, and sometimes alone. Before setting off, I research the destination I plan to visit, including hotel bookings, restaurants and sightseeing spots. Travelling makes me very happy! I also spend quality time with members of my family of faith as we worship, serve, learn, and have fun together.

Join the Black Gay Men’s Network on Facebook and the centralized hub for Ontario African, Caribbean, & black (ACB) same gender loving (SGL) men, Afro Latino men and SGL men of the African diaspora.

Meet Eric Peters

Eric Peters is a social and community activist with a passion for and a commitment to ensuring that the lives of all Black people — including Black gay, bi, trans and non-binary people – matter, and that they achieve and sustain a good quality of life. His lifelong mission is to resist all measures of anti-Blackness and to protect our human rights and dignity.

I am usually a person who pushes back against guidelines or enforced rules

Presently, Eric works in health promotions concerning gay men’s sexual health using an anti-Black racism lens. His work is grounded in social justice and centres on building the capacity of service providers who work with two spirit, gay, bi, trans, queer (2SGBTQ) men to achieve and maintain their sexual health and emotional well-being. The goal is to help 2SGBTQ men develop and enjoy healthy, emotionally intimate, trusting and sexually pleasurable relationships. Eric is a lover of the arts and has a strong vocation for fashion; he launched his brand, Zavé, three years ago for custom and a clothing line (M/F).

How do you manage COVID-related stress/anxiety?

I am usually a person who pushes back against guidelines or enforced rules. However, early in the pandemic, I spiritually surrendered. My stress level was heightened by the videos shared on social media and other platforms for the world to see the modern-day lynching of two Black men, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, which triggered a global fight against anti-Black racism.

It was at this point that I was wrapped in perpetual emotional turmoil, moving cyclically from anger, fear, and rage to sadness/grief. I am not sure that I’ll ever be the same emotionally, psychologically, mentally or spiritually. However, to address these emotions, I meditate daily, exercise on/off, FaceTime and video chat with family/friends, and attend some social distancing backyard picnics. Recently, I was re-introduced to hiking (not sure how long this will last), I’ve limited my use of social media and have been making optimum use of the block/delete buttons. I have also been reading articles/papers (work-related) on the many new antiretrovirals, on PrEP coming down the pike, and Nigerian and South African fashion blogs. I just completed Pauli Murray’s “Song in a Weary Throat” and Rinaldo Walcott’s and Idil Abdillahi’s “Black Life: Post-BLM and the Struggle for Freedom” (not to be read like a novel). This works best for me; of course, lots of quality time with my partner (dinners on our balcony and conversations).

Who is your favourite streaming DJ on FB or Instagram Live or what’s on your
playlist?

D-Nice, who I recently discovered in early quarantine, has become my favourite Instagram Live DJ. He plays the genres of music that I enjoy and love to dance. My playlist stems from my early days of clubbing in NYC in the 80s/90s. It comprises mixes of Paradise Garage, Frankie Knuckles house, Kenny Bobien’s gospel house, Byron Stingily’s (Hate Won’t Change Me), Black Coffee, Robert Owens’s (I’ll Be Your Friend), DJ Chill X (Old School House Mix), Viola Sykes (Little Girl), Kimara Lovelace (When Can Our Love Begin), Shaun Escoffrey (Days Like This), lots of Anita Baker, Whitney, Luther, Regina Belle, our home grown (Toronto’s own Coco Brown) and 80s Dance music – think Alexander O’Neal, Kashif and Phyllis Hyman. I’ll stop there.

What led you to your current (career, art, activism)?

The mid-90s heightened Black community HIV/AIDS response coincided with a renewed intensity about the ever-evolving Black experience in NYC, especially for Black and queer men with multiple identities and intersections. In my quest for a space where I could actualize my Blackness and queerness, l became a member of Gay Men of African Descent (GMAD), participated in People of Colour in Crisis (POCC) meetings/rallies and, delved into Black queer radical politics, community organizing and HIV/AIDS activism.

This experience motivated me to volunteer at an AIDS service organization (ASO) in Harlem, NYC around 1995. It was a time when young Black gay/bi men were dying from HIV/AIDS complications and wanted to learn more about HIV/AIDS. At the time, I had no plans of leaving my then position in Corporate America. However, in 1997, I enthusiastically took an outreach coordinator position at that ASO.

Today, 23 years later, not only have I gained knowledge and skills in almost every capacity of this work, but I also learned about community and myself. This brought me to the realization that one must be consciously ready (WOKE) for this career because this is “Wake Work.”

Describe a scene of your vision for the future.

In recent years, there have been ongoing conversations about older gay men’s fear of returning to the closet, due to the lack of “culturally gay appropriate” long-term care (LTC) facilities and spaces for this population. Therefore, my vision is that there’ll be LTC facilities that are held accountable and, committed to providing racially and culturally sound, diverse care to 2SGBTQ men (along the spectrum of sex, sexuality & gender identity). They will be facilities whose entire staff/board are not only “gay friendly,” but trained and have comprehensive knowledge of providing adequate and appropriate care centred in dignity and respect. They must have activities and policies embedded in gay culture that are not limited to, for example, books, music, films, rooms that partners can live together, lounges for socials — tea dances (Sundays, 4 – 8pm)/Saturday supper club soirees (dragshows/comedians/etc.). They will also create routine opportunities for residents’ engagement to discuss ways of enhancing their quality of life.

Connect with the Black Gay Men’s Network of Ontario and join the hub of same-gender-loving men of African, African diaspora, Afro-Latino, Caribbean and Black identities.

Lyle Borden

Born, raised and educated in a small town in Nova Scotia, Lyle has lived and worked the majority of his 67 years in Ottawa for the federal government. In total, he worked for 35 years; the first 25 with the Public Service Commission and the next 10 with the Department of National Defence before retiring in 2012. Lyle specialized in human resources. In reality, his career choice did not match his academic studies as he graduated from university with a Bachelor of Science (Biology) degree. He accounts for this by noting that he was deeply rooted in social justice and civil rights in the Black community and became a people person. Excelling in person-to-person interaction has always been a defining feature of his career.

Lyle is the second youngest of 18 children whose family, relatives and friends from the Black community have a long and varied history of activism in Nova Scotia. This spirit of activism was a natural segue into the fight for queer rights, especially when he moved to Ottawa in the early 1980s, where he became involved in Egale Canada, Pink Triangle Services, Pride, and numerous volunteer projects within the queer community. Now, as a senior Black gay man, Lyle’s focus is on the Ottawa Senior Pride Network of which he has been a founding member since 2008.

His efforts are now directed to the needs and visibility of queer seniors, especially in relation to their social and physical health. Having been an athlete most of his life in physical body training, tennis and martial arts, Lyle is keenly aware of the need to maintain a healthy mind and body while ageing. The current COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the shortfalls in the healthcare system for seniors and the fears of many queer seniors when entering and navigating this system.

How do you manage COVID-19 stress/anxiety?
My educational training is in science, therefore, from the beginning of the pandemic my approach has been to follow the science. This eliminates much of the stress generated by non-scientific explanations, conspiracy theories and panic remedies. I keep my eye on the target, which is an eventual vaccine, and take one day at a time.

How has your upbringing influenced you as an adult?
Nova Scotia, for many years, had the largest Black population per capita of all the provinces. Because of this there were numerous small Black communities, as well as the larger Black community in Halifax, and thus a strong network throughout the province. There were also numerous Black role models from whom I gained a great deal of insight and experience.

What are you most proud of accomplishing?
Without a doubt, my biggest accomplishment is my 43-year partnership with my husband. To be a senior Black gay man today with a relationship that has seen the many ups and downs, good and bad, and all the pressures of a same-sex relationship over the past four decades, is proof of true love, strength and devotion.  

Describe a scene of your vision for the future.
My vision for the future is of a united world and for the respect of, and action toward, the saving of our planet. Along with that I would like to see a world with true full equality, respect and embracing of diversity, and a feeling by all people of safety and support. Without our planet nothing else can exist.