Livestream can be viewed here: https://livestream.com/ualberta/mysterious-barricades-2017/videos/162542888
Mysterious Barricades, a cross Canada concert for suicide awareness, prevention, and hope, aims to bring the gift of music to Canada on World Suicide Prevention Day, to raise awareness surrounding the mysterious barricades between mental illness and health, between the darkness of depression and a flicker of hope, between life and death. To encourage public discourse about the prevalence of suicide and measures for suicide prevention. To encourage the formation of community by those impacted by suicide, and to raise funds for education and support for those at risk and those impacted by suicide.
Les Barricades Mystérieuses (The Mysterious Barricades) was composed in 1717 for the harpsichord by François Couperin. It is the fifth piece in his “Ordre 6ème de clavecin” in B-flat major from his second book of collected harpsichord pieces (Pièces de Clavecin). It is emblematic of the style brisé characteristic of French Baroque keyboard music. With this concert project we hope to raise the level of discussion and awareness surrounding the
mysterious barricades between mental illness and health, between the darkness of depression and the light of hope, between life and death.
The Halifax portion of the concert was a star-studded event, with performances by Peter Allen, Erin Costelo, the Blue Engine String Quartet, Catherine Martin, D’Arcy Gray, Scott MacMillan, and El Jones. El’s composition, entitled Mysterious Barricades, is below.
In Canada if you suffer with mental illness
If you’re Indigenous, if you’re Black, if you can’t pay the bills
We don’t fund more beds, we don’t pay for treatment
We lock you away in prisons where it seems more convenient
It actually costs more, but still our use is more frequent
Jails are where we warehouse people with addictions
We say it’s a medical issue but then hand out convictions
And we say let’s talk about mental illness but this remains hidden
In fact, they make money off phone calls from prison
The barriers to help become actual barricades
Behind bars and in cages where people are erased
Solitary confinement just increases their rages
The UN calls it torture but we continue with placements
Over 80 percent of women in jail are victims of trauma
But we continue to act like their punishment’s karma
Residential schools passed down from Grandmother to mama
And if, like so many women, you start to self harm
They’ll put you in isolation behind locks and alarms
They’ll strip off your clothes, put you in a suicide gown
Leave the lights on all night, sometimes you’re strapped down
If you’re wondering if suicide’s cured by this humiliation
Most people lie and say they’re better just to stop being degraded
And they’ll arbitrarily cut people off their medication
Does this sound like the kind of treatment we should have in this nation
Did we ever ask why there’s so many Indigenous people in there
And the rate of Black women goes up every year
And who do we think ends up shot by the cops?
Mentally ill black men outside a coffee shop
Or why our jails are more crowded than ever though our crime rates have dropped?
And once you have a record good luck getting a job.
And I know people so desperate they tried to get caught
Because it was the only thing they could think of to get the addiction to stop
In winter there’s homeless men who go in for the cot
But please don’t think there’s comfort just because the meals can be hot.
I know people who died in there, some by suicide
I could talk about a woman who set herself on fire
And if you die in a prison in this province no one has to inquire
It can take years for families to find out what even transpired
Ashley Smith who the staff watched expire from behind the locked door
Off the top of my head I could think of a dozen more
Is this what we sentence people to in the court?
And there’s suffering passed down generation to generation
Abuse of Indigenous people a legacy of colonization
And our solution isn’t more care, it’s more legislation
Mandatory minimums leading to over-incarceration
And mental illness is more acceptable in some populations
But when it’s young black men it’s seen as a problem with behaviour
Black women aren’t allowed to suffer from anxiety or depression
It’s seen as bad attitude, anger or aggression
And parents are told they can’t get attention until their child’s been arrested
So many dont get any help until they’re in the system
For some kids in care that’s their entire existence
Young girls go from group homes into exploitive conditions
People get out and they suffer with PTSD symptoms
These are the stories that no one wants to listen
To question why prison expansion projects cost millions
And tough on crime policies get votes for politicians
In this country there’s money in prisons
And the mentally ill are the primary victims
Prison is not housing, therapy, or rehabilitation
It’s a cycle of poverty, pain, and desperation
I’m sorry if my poem isn’t a message of inspiration
But too many are living in a crisis situation
How can we talk about stigma and and suicide prevention
Leaving out the largest population that programs never mention
It starts in the schools with detention, then suspension
And then we lock people away with no intervention.
If you have a loved one in prison all I can say is be strong
If you’re struggling doing time keep your head up hold on
And for families who never talk about what’s going on
And deal with the shame alone while the sentence is long
I say to you, the shame isn’t yours it’s the system that’s wrong
And one day I pray that the bars will be gone
And there’ll be treatment, supports, and funding for beds
Resources for counselling, coverage for meds
And a diagnoses won’t be a label we dread
And as a society we choose compassion instead.