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Donald Glover, Kanye West, Kobe Bryant & Value in 2020: Toronto's Renaissance Manifesto

Updated: Jan 1, 2021

2020 is over tonight, it's strange knowing what this traumatic ass year has been. It's not often where you live through a whole year and are aware of the historical ramifications of the year. This year has been so meta, every moment was documented with the knowledge that this moment is unprecedented.

There’s already Netflix docs about this year, it’s insane. I don’t know what the future holds, but I’m a big believer in the fact that we create the future. This year proves that what we do is what becomes history. We have the capacity to build tomorrow, today. It's cliché and corny because it's true. In a world that's always meta and constantly documenting the moment, it can feel like tomorrow is just going to reveal itself to us, like a new episode in a series we are binge watching. But that is not the case. Tomorrow is a collection of our collective decisions, and it always has been.

I read back some of my articles from a year ago and there was already discussions about police brutality then, the George Floyd riots were just the final straw of a collective unrest after a long fight. When we focus on history, it can feel like the future is a predetermined outcome. When the present is historified, we can make the future feel like a predetermined outcome, when it is far from it. When we look at Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and all these moments in history, the trajectory seems guaranteed, but that is far from it. Those men had to decide what they were going to be in that moment, without knowing how that was going to turn out. They did the best they could, with what they knew and what they had.

We have to decide in the moment, with a limited knowledge of all of the possible outcomes, what we will do to affect the next moment, and our decisions might be wrong because we are limited in our scope of information, which is why we should do the best we can with what we know.

That is why we have started this Toronto Renaissance. Inspired by the centennial anniversary of the Harlem Renaissance and the Parisian Lost Generation from the 1920s, and influenced by the European Enlightenment Renaissance, the Islamic Golden Age, 1963-70s America, and polymath black artists like Kanye West, Donald Glover, Pharrell and Tyler The Creator, we have decided to embark on this journey of self and ultimately community betterment. We believe that people should try to embrace all knowledge and develop their own abilities as fully as possible.

Miyamoto Musashi said "if you know the way broadly, you will see it in all things." When you learn anything, you elevate everything. In using your interests to learn new information, learn any craft or better any circumstance in your life, you elevate your existence, you make life run smoother and better, and seeing those results pushes you to continue creating, learning and elevating your life and the lives of those around you to achieve the inherent value in that path that ultimately betters the broader society.

The death of Kobe Bryant this year was tragic, but Kobe himself remains a symbol for this movement. Kobe was a martyr for what he called ‘mamba mentality.’ Kobe pursued excellence in a wide variety of crafts, skills, information, values, morals and talents, he knew how to play piano, he was an incredible basketball player, he was an author and a poet, he made movies, and you could tell it wasn’t just for financial gain, he put a part of himself in everything. Kobe was richer and more accomplished than most humans would ever be, this guy just lived his life as passionately as possible, because why else are we doing this? Why are we doing what we do if we’re not gonna be passionate?

If we don’t love the actual game, why are we playing? Kobe understood his own value and was reportedly in talks with Nike to leave them and run his own brand, because he understood his influence and value. Those are the decisions we should make to further the future, own our value. Toronto is becoming a hub for art and culture, thanks to brilliant billion dollar corporations with foresight like RBC, HBO, Netflix, Google and Shopify investing into the arts, it can become a scene for young artists to thrive. Patrons and artists need to understand culture and quality. Artists need to have taste and that drive towards quality, it shouldn’t just be about the money. It should be about creating the best possible thing you can make, every time, because of your love for the actual craft.

The Toronto Renaissance is a revival of enthusiasm in art and literature to ultimately foster a community of critical-thinking, creative youth that want to disrupt the system and change the world by bettering themselves in the pursuit of excellence in various crafts. We do that through creating and curating our current counter-culture towards a doper world. That means creating everything with an actual understanding of quality, beauty and culture, not just function or utility.

All artists, but specifically, young black artists, need to understand that our value is not in the amount of liquid wealth or assets we have, but in the quality of work we produce and the information encoded in it. Its our cultural capital, and its valuable. There's an asset in the essence of what we are and how we choose to communicate it, that is infinitely valuable, the way we talk, the stories we have and can share, our slang, our personal life, these are all of infinite value. There's a reason why corporations spend billions into researching our habits, its because they are valuable. How you speak is valuable, the opinions you and your friends hold, all of those things are more valuable than you can imagine, they're quite literally worth billions of dollars. In understanding your value, you understand how to maneuver when creating art for the market, and you'll be able to focus on quality instead of desperation, which often leads to inauthenticity and clout chasing.

There's a huge difference between quality and clout. One thing could be very famous but be generally wack, but there are things that can have little clout but are still cool. Earl Sweatshirt, Mavi and Redveil don't sell as well as some pop acts but you won't find many works that achieve the quality level of Earl's 'Feet of Clay' or Mavi's 'Let The Sun Talk.' But on the flipside Kendrick Lamar is a megastar and none of your little underground artists can recreate the quality level of To Pimp A Butterfly. Its a taste thing.

Culturally Toronto is a mosaic that can't help but produce an intermingling of cultures that are bound to raise your taste levels. We are more cultured because of the vast array of influences that occupy this small land mass. We're exposed to too much European, African, Asian and Caribbean cultures intermingled with our own mini community cultures to create this new level of authenticity and taste.

Patrons of the arts and investors should provide opportunities for Toronto creatives to gain adequate resources to create the best possible product with our unique perspectives. Patrons should invest into literature, film, music, paintings, architecture, photography, products, fashion, businesses and aim towards building a real scene where modern creatives have the adequate resources and creative freedom. The amount of value that the Renaissance artists brought Rome is undeniable, the city has more tourists than residents because of the sheer beauty that the artists were able to bring. Barcelona's La Sagrada Familia still isn't done because Gaudi had a vision he wanted to see completed, that he knew would take hundreds of years and multiple generations. Its the foresight that built the Pyramids. Its a dedication to beauty and quality.

The way to get the best possible product is to create from a place of passion. That passion and inspiration can be found through new information, being with other creative people, seeing new art, sights and new horizons, but there needs to be a dedication towards creating quality and conveying feelings. Toronto needs its artists to step up and provide actual greatness, while the spotlight is on us. Lets get people who are passionate about their crafts to work with other people with that same passion and drive, and uplift each other into a creative hub for greatness. Not fame, not clout, quality. Toronto could be a mecca for the arts if creatives are supported.

Andy Warhol once said : “Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.” Every great cultural movement needed good business behind it. The European Renaissance only worked because patrons like the Medici family understood culture and quality, and they understood that by investing in the people with great ideas they were making priceless investments because beauty, quality and culture are infinitely valuable. The amount of tourism it attracts and the trillion other priceless assets that come from those realms, it’s incalculable from a strictly financial perspective.

There's a reason why Louis Vuitton works with Virgil, its the reason why Virgil worked with Pop Smoke, its the same reason why all these rappers and entertainers are working with different brands, because we create cool. Whatever we do is inherently cool. We are actually the culture my nigga. We don't need to be anything other than what we are, we are fascinating by the mere fact that we exist as ourselves.

Its a meta era and we understand our place in history. Every young black person in existence this decade has quadrupled infinitely in value, every piece of work you do, every drawing, poem, tweet, blog, painting, clothes, whatever it is, it is even more valuable because you exist in 2020. This applies to every human alive, but black people more immediately because of how rare we are. There aren't that many of us. Black people in North America only make up 13% of the whole continent, and the smallest margins of that are people pursuing the arts. We are rare and thus more valuable due to the current trends in the market. We like scarcity and rarity as a means of increasing value, thus making Black people the most valuable asset in existence today. Everything we do is deemed cool, there is value in that. There is a reason why McDonalds uses Travis Scott and Tik Tok wants to invest into Hip Hop and urban culture, that just means black culture and black people. We just need to understand how to take ownership of our value.

The way we are controlled is when we are made to believe we are expendable and disposable, the status quo needs us more than they'd care to admit. The system tries to force us into feeling worthless. That is why we see all this footage of black people dying and being murdered. To make us feel worthless and thus controlled, because if we were aware of our value, God forbid too many of us might start making some money. They capitalize on our culture, they wanna know what we think is cool, what we like to do, how we like to talk, that's not free and we deserve our worth because we provide cultural capital. Instead of getting mad when someone uses AAVE, I wanna get paid when someone uses my intellectual property. Lil Wayne added the term Bling Bling to the lexicon, how much value do you think there is in just that? Inventing a word? That's Shakespearean. There's no question about the value of Shakespeare, modern black artists of quality are in that respect.

Invest in young artists but specifically black people, we are historical artifacts that belong in museums. I'm a 22 year old black author from Toronto, I am one of the rarest creatures on Earth, living through a historic period in time, we are all making history by merely existing, we need to understand our worth. Art only goes up in value, art from artists from a certain period in time is infinitely valuable, especially a historic period in time, especially if they were part of a minority, it just keeps getting rarer and more collectible by the second, that is what artists of today make, the most collectible artifacts from a historic period in time, and we should carry ourselves in that respect. You should keep creating art and understand that your passion for your craft is necessary and your creativity today is very important in the grand scheme.

That is why we have started this movement, as a reminder to ourselves of our own value, as an ideal to aspire towards and as a way of expressing ourselves, embracing all knowledge and beautifying the world around us, while achieving our full potential during our time alive. Welcome to the 2020's Toronto Renaissance.

Check out these historic Space Odyssey hoodies designed in 2020 by 27 Year Old Toronto Filmmaker and 2020 Pov Director of the year Hanfare.

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