Rosary Spence: Musician

"Sometimes I wonder how I’m viewed, as an indigenous woman living in Toronto. My awareness of all the missing and murdered indigenous women means there’s always an underlying fear."


Musician. rosaryspence.com 


Personally and directly in the music scene in Toronto, I have not experienced racism. I will say, as a person I have experienced it my entire life. I come from a small community up north. I’m Cree. I never lived in a real urban setting until I moved to Toronto eight years ago.

One of the things I liked about moving here was that it was very multicultural. I’ve had a lot of negative experiences, but in the music scene specifically I’ve yet to experience something racist. I don’t consider myself mainstream, while I consider Toronto’s music scene very mainstream, and there are not a lot of opportunities for me. The access to the media where you could get more exposure is tied to [a more mainstream] scene.

I know I’m different. The way I grew up was very traditional. Every experience I have, I feel I’m very blessed to have. Sometimes I wonder how I’m viewed, as an indigenous woman living in Toronto. My awareness of all the missing and murdered indigenous women means there’s always an underlying fear.

If I were to go missing tomorrow, how quickly would the community respond? How quickly would the authorities respond? Probably not as quickly as they would for a blond college student. I would automatically be stereotyped as an alcoholic, a drug addict, a runaway, whatever. Those are the things that would come up first. That’s definitely a fear I have and a reality for every indigenous woman.

I’ve been invited to perform at events that may not necessarily be a part of my community of indigenous people. All the settings I’ve performed at have been safe, and I don’t think I’ve ever not felt safe. Often I’ll get contacted by a really well-known aboriginal organization in Toronto because someone else has been looking for an aboriginal singer. I wish there were more of that kind of reaching out and attending and networking. I always take those opportunities to educate and inform people on some level. I utilize [tokenism] for the best interests of my community.

I don’t think Toronto’s music scene is racist from my own experience. I’m still an emerging artist, and if it has happened to me, I haven’t felt that it might deter me. I haven’t been directly abused within the music community, but I have been in other areas [like by] my neighbour across the street, the one beside me, in the medical field, walking down the street. It’s real, it exists and it is happening. 

But on a professional level, I take care of my spirit and my music.

At the Music Gallery (197 John) with Pura Fé on February 26. rosaryspence.com.

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