Back in the early ’90’s, the nature of the world changed: ethnic war broke out in the former Yugoslavia, ethnic cleansing in Rwanda, Iraq was invaded, and against this backdrop some of the most atrocious acts of racism in Canada’s history were to dawn in l992.
Lisa Cherniak, a founder of Artists Against Racism, was a news monitor at Bowdens Media Monitoring, watching the news eight hours a day. Already appalled by what was happening worldwide, she was pushed to the edge when she had to watch the news eight hours a day: white supremacists targeting youth by pamphletting schools and using churches via their concerts filled with hate music.
Then there was the Oklahoma bombing, orchestrated by a man who subscribed to one of the band’s (Rahowa) magazines–run by a Canadian–which just validated his hatred. After a week of watching such news, she realized the change in scenery wasn’t just a fly-by-night event.
So did filmmaker Peter Raymont who produced an award-winning documentary about it, and Margaret Cannon, a university professor who infiltrated white supremacy meetings to end up writing a first-hand, investigative account into the new racism in Canada.
Against this backdrop of darkness, Artists Against Racism was born. After writing an article in the Globe and Mail about her experience with anti-semitism at university, Cherniak contacted a renowned ’60’s musician, Mendelson Joe, and a partnership was formed: Joe agreed to paint the poster that would eventually grace more than 20,000 schools nationwide in a huge campaign. With Joe’s prominence,they were able to attain the support of his friends Rush, Raffi and other artists, and dozens more would join the bandwagon when approached by Cherniak over the next three years.
The rest, as they say, is history. In November l995, at a nationwide-televised launch at HMV Record stores, Artists Against Racism was born. It has since won international awards, international press and, as you can view on this website, has done major campaigns worldwide.