RAGGA NYC

Family Dinner: RAGGA X The Table X Mercer Union

A RAGGA family dinner in Toronto to celebrate the RAGGA x Mercer Union opening! RAGGA teamed up with the amazing folk at The Table to enjoy a Jamaican meal for the RAGGA Toronto family and special guests to discuss family ties back to the Caribbean and how we can keep connected as a family over country lines. To start off the evening the brilliant Michèle Pearson Clarke read Syrus Marcus Ware’s piece and contribution to the RAGGA X Mercer Union show. Thank you Syrus for your necessary work, heart and this beautiful text.

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 “Start of recording. Journal notes, August 10, 2031.” by Syrus Marcus Ware  “We started small, telling stories on the curb. Telling stories when we got together. Telling stories that allowed us to find each other and build our community. We published these stories widely to reach others like us and create a sense of welcome for all of our people. Back when we used to prioritize written traditions over oral ones,when capitalistic ideas about preservation, archives and remembering told us whose stories were worth remembering, whose families were valid and whose lives were worth preserving, we resisted. We recorded story after story after story in every imaginable form, and created our own counter-archives of QTBIPOC magic.  “It's hard to imagine the Ragga of then, when we are so far into the NOW. It began as a small thing; Ragga parties then online publications until this smaller, more local engagement spread out across the eastern seaboard and reached diasporic communities the world over. I remember meeting Christopher Udemezue in Toronto, before the elections that sparked the fires. He was dripping with magic: a fur shawl and cream blouse, the epitome of New York fashion, glamorous in the humble brunch place where we were eating. I remember him talking of storytelling, of the ways that the Ragga family had begun to heal relationships with families estranged while deepening relationships in chosen, supportive families. He talked of re-centering our frames around diasporic communities of black and brown queer and trans people. That brunch feels like ages ago. Before Ragga was the main organizing body of our time. Before Ragga showed us a way forward through the revolution towards community and peace.  The NOW revolution came about peacefully, at the end of 2025, as a dying capital was gasping its last breaths, as giraffes finally became extinct after a decade on the endangered list, and as many were beginning to accept that we were truly fucked Earth-wise. We were living in a social world hat needed radical change and Ragga, a beautiful uprising of black and brown, queer and trans people telling their truths and building families together, was there and ready to offer a different picture of what community- of what the world- could look like.  “Who would have thought that a revolution led by black and brown queer and trans people would succeed in such a global way – seemingly changing the world overnight. The stories of that revolution are at the core of Ragga’s power – what happened, how we came together, how we made something new. These stories of hope and inspiration, of struggle and, ultimately, triumph bring Ragga’s network into the core of our new society. According to the official records, NOW began one night in February with a rally that turned from an occupation, into a movement. But we know that NOW began long before then, with whispered stories and tales of family, migration, queerness, and love passing through Ragga communities. Deep in the soil around the rhizomatic roots of diasporic communities spread world-wide. These were the first seeds of the revolution that led to the rising of a community of outsiders ready and hungry for change. Ready and hungry for a re-centering of power and of focus.  “About seven years before that magical night of change, the Ragga family gathered in Toronto to tell stories and to enjoy being alive together through a celebration to end all celebrations. Toronto was raw from its recent mayoral race and the conservative swing in politics was leaving many feeling vulnerable and unsafe in their own city. At the Ragga exhibition and parties, people came together to commiserate, and began planting seeds of change, talks of infiltration and whispers of more radical direct action spreading through the room. We talked and dreamed and laughed and kissed and hoped for something better, something bigger to happen to make this world a place where we all felt as free as we did when we gathered through Ragga.  “I remember that night like it was yesterday – as one of the older-timers, I have been around for a long time, and remember well life before our NOW. I remember people decked out in resplendent outfits, hand crafted with care in the months leading up to the party. The music. The laughter. The dancing. The beginnings of a yearning, of a wanting for this to be our everyday free and open community, a chosen family leading the world to a new way of being. The lyrics of Follow Me, by Ally-Us ringing out through the loudspeakers,  I'm hoping to see the day,  When my people  Can all relate  We must stop fighting  To achieve the peace  That was torn in our country  We shall all be free  Follow me  Why don't you follow me  To a place  Where we can be free  Come with me  Over there  “I remember seeing a young person dancing, crying while they danced. I came over to them and danced with them, moving to the beat as it played out through the speakers. “You okay?” I mouthed. Their face was partially obscured by the shadows but I could see wet tears streaming down their face as they said, “It’s just been a long time since I felt this sense of family.” We stopped moving, and I leaned in to listen. He continued, “I spent all day looking for this gathering, I kept going to the wrong places, but when I found it and came in it was like I was coming home, coming home to people I’d never met. And it’s so so beautiful.” I opened my arms to offer a hug, and he quickly fell into my arms and we danced ‘til the end of the song before parting ways.  “In the end of times, we all followed Ragga; we found family and found that place where we could all be free. And this root magic of music and celebration is still at the core of Ragga today, in the NOW. The celebrations of the past still look similar today but everyone is imbued with relief and gratitude that we finally made it here, to NOW , in the free that we dreamed of.  “Tonight it is my turn to tell a story at our nightly gathering. After today’s reflections, I think the story I tell will be this one: of how we grew from whispered stories to street-wide shouts, to change, to NOW. More than anything I want to share the story of the dancer that I met all those years ago, who was feeling so cut off from family because of their fear of his life choices. I want to share about his beautiful experience of being black and queer, and how much joy this had brought to his life, even in the face of his family’s fear. I want to share about his trying to find a sense of home in a diaspora– something that would be hard for our youngest members to imagine since everyone is so connected to chosen family units NOW. But to remember this time before our belonging, this is essential for us to remember why we are living in the NOW, free, in the ways that we are. And to thank Ragga for carving out a new way of being with each other.  End recording. Journal notes, August 10, 2031.  I turn off the recording unit and rise up. Standing has been more of a challenge since I turned 84, but I get on my two feet and stretch my arms upwards towards the sun. I look around. A new Ragga community is being shaped before me. After all of these years in the NOW, I still feel that the start of a new Ragga community is so exciting to witness. I lean on my walking stick and make my way back to my home to prepare for my evening story, the recording device warm in my palm. Our stories were always what bonded us together, and I can't wait to share mine.  —  Syrus Marcus Ware is a Vanier Scholar, visual artist, activist, curator and educator. Syrus’ work explores social justice frameworks and black activist culture. Syrus is a core-team member of both Black Lives Matter-Toronto and Blackness Yes!/Blockorama. Syrus has won several awards, including the TD Diversity Award in 2017. Syrus is a PhD candidate at York University in the Faculty of Environmental Studies.

“Start of recording. Journal notes, August 10, 2031.” by Syrus Marcus Ware

“We started small, telling stories on the curb. Telling stories when we got together. Telling stories that allowed us to find each other and build our community. We published these stories widely to reach others like us and create a sense of welcome for all of our people. Back when we used to prioritize written traditions over oral ones,when capitalistic ideas about preservation, archives and remembering told us whose stories were worth remembering, whose families were valid and whose lives were worth preserving, we resisted. We recorded story after story after story in every imaginable form, and created our own counter-archives of QTBIPOC magic.

“It's hard to imagine the Ragga of then, when we are so far into the NOW. It began as a small thing; Ragga parties then online publications until this smaller, more local engagement spread out across the eastern seaboard and reached diasporic communities the world over. I remember meeting Christopher Udemezue in Toronto, before the elections that sparked the fires. He was dripping with magic: a fur shawl and cream blouse, the epitome of New York fashion, glamorous in the humble brunch place where we were eating. I remember him talking of storytelling, of the ways that the Ragga family had begun to heal relationships with families estranged while deepening relationships in chosen, supportive families. He talked of re-centering our frames around diasporic communities of black and brown queer and trans people. That brunch feels like ages ago. Before Ragga was the main organizing body of our time. Before Ragga showed us a way forward through the revolution towards community and peace.

The NOW revolution came about peacefully, at the end of 2025, as a dying capital was gasping its last breaths, as giraffes finally became extinct after a decade on the endangered list, and as many were beginning to accept that we were truly fucked Earth-wise. We were living in a social world hat needed radical change and Ragga, a beautiful uprising of black and brown, queer and trans people telling their truths and building families together, was there and ready to offer a different picture of what community- of what the world- could look like.

“Who would have thought that a revolution led by black and brown queer and trans people would succeed in such a global way – seemingly changing the world overnight. The stories of that revolution are at the core of Ragga’s power – what happened, how we came together, how we made something new. These stories of hope and inspiration, of struggle and, ultimately, triumph bring Ragga’s network into the core of our new society. According to the official records, NOW began one night in February with a rally that turned from an occupation, into a movement. But we know that NOW began long before then, with whispered stories and tales of family, migration, queerness, and love passing through Ragga communities. Deep in the soil around the rhizomatic roots of diasporic communities spread world-wide. These were the first seeds of the revolution that led to the rising of a community of outsiders ready and hungry for change. Ready and hungry for a re-centering of power and of focus.

“About seven years before that magical night of change, the Ragga family gathered in Toronto to tell stories and to enjoy being alive together through a celebration to end all celebrations. Toronto was raw from its recent mayoral race and the conservative swing in politics was leaving many feeling vulnerable and unsafe in their own city. At the Ragga exhibition and parties, people came together to commiserate, and began planting seeds of change, talks of infiltration and whispers of more radical direct action spreading through the room. We talked and dreamed and laughed and kissed and hoped for something better, something bigger to happen to make this world a place where we all felt as free as we did when we gathered through Ragga.

“I remember that night like it was yesterday – as one of the older-timers, I have been around for a long time, and remember well life before our NOW. I remember people decked out in resplendent outfits, hand crafted with care in the months leading up to the party. The music. The laughter. The dancing. The beginnings of a yearning, of a wanting for this to be our everyday free and open community, a chosen family leading the world to a new way of being. The lyrics of Follow Me, by Ally-Us ringing out through the loudspeakers,

I'm hoping to see the day,

When my people

Can all relate

We must stop fighting

To achieve the peace

That was torn in our country

We shall all be free

Follow me

Why don't you follow me

To a place

Where we can be free

Come with me

Over there

“I remember seeing a young person dancing, crying while they danced. I came over to them and danced with them, moving to the beat as it played out through the speakers. “You okay?” I mouthed. Their face was partially obscured by the shadows but I could see wet tears streaming down their face as they said, “It’s just been a long time since I felt this sense of family.” We stopped moving, and I leaned in to listen. He continued, “I spent all day looking for this gathering, I kept going to the wrong places, but when I found it and came in it was like I was coming home, coming home to people I’d never met. And it’s so so beautiful.” I opened my arms to offer a hug, and he quickly fell into my arms and we danced ‘til the end of the song before parting ways.

“In the end of times, we all followed Ragga; we found family and found that place where we could all be free. And this root magic of music and celebration is still at the core of Ragga today, in the NOW. The celebrations of the past still look similar today but everyone is imbued with relief and gratitude that we finally made it here, to NOW , in the free that we dreamed of.

“Tonight it is my turn to tell a story at our nightly gathering. After today’s reflections, I think the story I tell will be this one: of how we grew from whispered stories to street-wide shouts, to change, to NOW. More than anything I want to share the story of the dancer that I met all those years ago, who was feeling so cut off from family because of their fear of his life choices. I want to share about his beautiful experience of being black and queer, and how much joy this had brought to his life, even in the face of his family’s fear. I want to share about his trying to find a sense of home in a diaspora– something that would be hard for our youngest members to imagine since everyone is so connected to chosen family units NOW. But to remember this time before our belonging, this is essential for us to remember why we are living in the NOW, free, in the ways that we are. And to thank Ragga for carving out a new way of being with each other.

End recording. Journal notes, August 10, 2031.

I turn off the recording unit and rise up. Standing has been more of a challenge since I turned 84, but I get on my two feet and stretch my arms upwards towards the sun. I look around. A new Ragga community is being shaped before me. After all of these years in the NOW, I still feel that the start of a new Ragga community is so exciting to witness. I lean on my walking stick and make my way back to my home to prepare for my evening story, the recording device warm in my palm. Our stories were always what bonded us together, and I can't wait to share mine.

Syrus Marcus Ware is a Vanier Scholar, visual artist, activist, curator and educator. Syrus’ work explores social justice frameworks and black activist culture. Syrus is a core-team member of both Black Lives Matter-Toronto and Blackness Yes!/Blockorama. Syrus has won several awards, including the TD Diversity Award in 2017. Syrus is a PhD candidate at York University in the Faculty of Environmental Studies.

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