The Future of Brantford is Coming
Will You Be A Part of the Revolution?
Maichina Veri, April 13, 2022 // Brantford, OntarioSteve Hall, in his t-shirt that reads: FIRST NATIONS FIRST / JUSTICE FOR EVERYONE ELSE WILL NATURALLY FOLLOW; (back) I AM A GLOBALIST / I HAVE EIGHT BILLION SISTERS & BROTHERS / MOTHER EARTH IS MY COUNTRY. Photo credit Paul Smith, Photohouse Studio.
The light of an overcast afternoon dimly illuminates the upstairs room. There is a small bed in the corner and a writing desk between two windows. In each window, violets. Taking up most of the eastern wall is a striking, colourfully painted banner of Imagine Rainbow Warriors. Then, in nearly every space absent from art, pages of a manifesto are adhered to the rest of the walls, floor to ceiling. The political messaging in this room is almost overwhelming in its power.
Ishiomatsi Lone Wolf, on the cusp of 78 years of age, is a subtle Brantford legend. Ishiomatsi is a writer, musician, anti-capitalist and, most importantly, a revolutionary. “’Activist’ isn’t a strong enough word,” he says. A champion for the environment, animal rights, feminism, non-violence and Indigenous rights, Ishiomatsi’s life’s work is to contribute to the removal of colonialism – which he identifies has been rebranded as capitalism – and replace it with the traditional Indigenous worldview.
You might have met Ishiomatsi, also known as Steve Hall, before. In his efforts to raise awareness for Indigenous rights, he has personally distributed 500 T-shirts that promote “First Nations First” in Brantford and Hamilton. He’s also performed his music at political events at Laurier pre-pandemic. In addition to this, an advocate for the homeless, Ishiomatsi has spent time in campsites around the city, most notably the ‘Welcome Love’ camp that once existed behind the food bank. Speaking about this specific camp causes deep emotions to rise in Ishiomatsi. Ishiomatsi believes in young people, and has stories to tell about them.
A collection of writing by Steve Hall. Photo credit Paul Smith, Photohouse Studio.
He speaks highly about the students at Laurier and the support they provided him. Whether by attending his performances or sharing his writing and art across social media, Ishiomatsi states that students are his greatest audience. He goes on to speak about the dreams of young people, and their hopes and inspirations.
Ishiomatsi makes bonds with all youth, not just students. He speaks again of the ‘Welcome Love’ camp (which he firmly believes is yet another relocation of Indigenous peoples). At this campsite, Ishiomatsi made familial bonds with the residents. He would call some of them grandson and granddaughter. “Some of them actually wanted me to be there and missed me when I wasn’t. Some of them called me grandpa. They became my adopted grandchildren in a way. I got very close to some of them. From two years ago, four of them are dead. Fentanyl. Four or five more are in jail.” A wave of various emotions spread through his words. He lists the crimes then goes on to say, “As you can imagine, most of them didn’t really give a shit about the consequences because they were at the bottom – they are at the bottom – of the barrel, so anything for a kick, a laugh, to put off the pain until tomorrow…”
"'Welcome Love' no longer exists. It was swept away by police with their billy clubs, and a local politician who spoke out of both sides of his mouth."
‘Welcome Love’ no longer exists. It was swept away by police with their billy clubs, and a local politician who spoke out of both sides of his mouth. To the media, Ishiomatsi recalls the politician diplomatically saying, “I’m very concerned about Brantford’s young people – I want to make sure they’re OK.” However, when Ishiomatsi asked, “So where do you think these young people are supposed to go?” the politician answered him in one word, “Elsewhere.” As despicable as this was, it wasn’t surprising – Ishiomatsi has sat in on council meetings and has frequently been left unimpressed by those at city hall.
While conversation is, at times, heavy and disheartening, Ishiomatsi is conscious of tone, inserts a few jokes and offers hope. Imagine Rainbow Warriors, now called SINVA, is his most important and potent tool in his mission. SINVA, which stands for Studies in Non-Violent Action, is Ishiomatsi’s reggae-rock band. It has been a family band both literally and figuratively over the years with musicians from all over the world. In the band’s informative write-up is the following statement: great potential power for positive change is in the hand of musicians.
Photo of Steve Hall. Photo credit Paul Smith, Photohouse Studio.
Ishiomatsi is very precise with his lyrics. SINVA’s political songs tackle “horrendous” topics, but unlike some other political musicians and bands whose songs are full of rage, sorrow and hopelessness, Ishiomatsi wants to inspire hope and empower people. His aim is to leave people with the feeling they can do something about atrocities. “I thought, since you’re writing about these horrible realities, every song has to include hope. Every song has to empower the listener. If I’m going to clobber him with the evils of corporate capitalism, I better at some point leave him with the feeling that he can do something about it. If I call myself a political songwriter, I’m not doing the world any favour if I’m leaving the listener feeling more depressed and angrier.”
When asked what his message is for Brantford, Ishiomatsi becomes quiet and pensive. He has spoken to so much already, but when he speaks again, it is to urge people to study the history of Brantford (and all of Turtle Island), the Indigenous peoples and to visit the Woodland Cultural Centre. “Hopefully after doing all that, you will see fit to make changes.”
If you would like one of Ishiomatsi’s shirts, you can call him at 519 304 3709. You can contribute financially “if you want,” but a shirt is free if you will wear it publicly. You can also find the music of SINVA on YouTube at youtube.com/sinvaforall and Facebook at facebook.com/SINVAImagine-Rainbow-Warriors. Ishiomatsi is willing to play his political music “any time, any place and anywhere” and has extended an open invitation to anyone who would like to photograph or distribute his flyers that he has on his walls. Again, you can reach him on his phone line for music bookings and flyer requests.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Maichina Veri is a writer based in Brantford, Ontario. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing from Montreal’s Concordia University and has a background in Journalism – Print from Niagara College.