Toni Smalls, one of our Recipients of Rest, a Black, nonbinary, queer activist, photographer, and poet living in Queens, NYC. We hosted Toni at Getaway Eastern Catskills in December. Here is Toni’s thoughtful reflection on their work, their connection to nature, and using their creativity as a form of resistance.
I go to the Fashion Institute of Technology, and I major in photography. Social justice advocacy and seeing black people as the main plot of my storylines in photography is the basis of my artwork.
I have done a lot of work that has helped the black community in many ways. This summer, during the height of the pandemic and the protests of police brutality after the murder of George Floyd, I paired up with Leveler – a platform that allows peer-to-peer financial redistribution and created helpyourblackneighborleveler. This platform allowed 100+ black people to receive reparations and financial support from white allies who were able to redistribute their wealth. This platform was geared specifically to black people who were unable to get their stimulus checks, such as dependents, immigrants, and others who didn’t qualify for whatever reason it may be. If you would like to redistribute funds, reshare the information, or ask for help – the link is in my bio @toni.creations under “black funding.”
I also worked with my partner Drew Ross and a small team of volunteers to create @letstalksocialjustice, a social media page that hosted an online protest and forum – LetstalkNYPD, where black people and allies were able to directly speak to officers, following a healing space. If you would like to take part, helping through social media platforms or launching our next forum, please follow the account and reach out via DM!
My current project as an artist is Under Inner Core, a visual poetry EP. My work is considered “fashion that makes you feel something”; by drawing lines from the poetry I’ve written, I’m able to create a visual and narrative world set designed and captured by me. The work will be creative directed, written, and shot by me. However, I would absolutely love it if I could outsource work to an all-black workforce. I would love to hire a black designer, producer, model, and assistant. In order to pay the people who would make this dream possible, as well as allow them to have tangible work for their resumes, I would need to crowdsource funds. The gofundme link to donating to Under Inner Core is in my bio as well under, “Under Inner Core Fundraiser.” There, you can read more about myself and my work as an artist, as well as make a possible donation.
I was so grateful to spend my time at Getaway house this weekend. The space was clean and simple, it has everything you need – and nothing you don’t. As I write this, I remember thinking, “Where is the microwave to heat up my food?” yet my partner and I deeply bonded boiling soup over the stove. The slowness of things, such as wind blowing the snow off the branches softly, really made me be able to take a breath and appreciate the love I had for my partner, myself, and the nature surrounding us. It was such an important tool to be able to rest and reflect, have a quiet space to talk about life, what worried us, the unknown circumstances – and yet we also giggled over small things, and took lots of naps. Rest is such an important thing, and with everything that has excessively affected the black community, I am extremely grateful to Getaway and Rachel Cargle for this amazing experience.
Ready for your own escape into nature? Book your Getaway today.