How one teen combats oppression through art
MAYA ADACHI IS FINISHING her final year of high school, but prom night and university applications are low on her priority list. Instead, she’s busy fighting systemic racism.
As a final project for an art class at Inglenook Community High School in Toronto, Adachi started making stickers and T-shirts scrawled with the message: Fuck White Supremacy. She sells the merchandise to her friends, people at poetry slams she attends, and others who find her through word of mouth. Once she’s made enough profit, she plans to donate a portion of it to a cause that will benefit minorities in her community.
“The inspiration behind this phrase was the white-on-black murders of Mike Brown, Jermaine Carby, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and so many more that happen everyday,” she explains. “Oppressions still exist due to ignorance and the idea that racism, sexism, etcetera are outdated concepts.”
The point of Fuck White Supremacy is to grab people’s attention and help remind the public that racism, especially white supremacy, is a serious and persistent problem both locally and internationally. “People who do not experience systemic discrimination may find it difficult to understand the importance of combating [it],” she says.
Growing up, Adachi was frequently a target of discrimination. Her mother is Japanese and father is Jewish, and she refers to herself as “a non-white girl.” “I have, and continue to, experience mainly racism and sexism, and therefore I am very passionate about putting an end to supremacies that benefit certain groups of people,” she explains.
Touting the anti-racism message on her merchandise is also an act of defiance against the societal “norms” and other social structures that legitimize and perpetuate racism and discrimination in general. At the same time, Adachi says that displaying such a blunt anti-racism message shows solidarity with victims of race-based discrimination.
“[I’ve been] putting up the stickers throughout Toronto, and I have encouraged people who buy the stickers to put them up in public as well.”
Currently, Adachi is working on a new project where she will silkscreen “feh-muh-nist” onto shirts in an effort to help combat the sexism that permeates our society.
“There’s so much negative association with the word ‘feminism’ itself,” says Adachi, who wants to start more conversations about what the term really means and what feminist concepts are about. Adachi explains that for her, feminism is about shifting the patriarchal paradigm and establishing gender equality on social, political, and economic scales.
The majority of Adachi’s friends in Toronto are aware of local and international issues that have to do with racism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of oppression. But typically, she says, the extent of each individual’s awareness depends on “their racial, cultural background, and their upbringing, like parental influences, neighbourhood, etcetera.”
Having awareness does not equate to having the drive and motivation to mobilize real change, however. Adachi says that most of her peers are “not usually passionate” when it comes to taking action to address these issues in their communities, nor when it comes to actively trying to make society change for the better, like she has done with Fuck White Supremacy.
In her opinion, the best way to be part of the solution is by being “mindful of what happens around us and acting on whatever discrimination we observe.” And when it comes to minority groups who face discrimination and the threat of persecution in their daily lives, she says there’s no such thing as an innocent bystander.
As Adachi approaches the end of high school, she plans to continue building her social justice movement, while working as a chocolate maker in the summer to save money.
“I’m hoping to find my interests through travelling to other parts of the world,” she says.
Adachi is open to attending post-secondary school in the future, and would especially be interested in programs and courses about social justice.