The Daniel’s Spectrum event space in Toronto’s Regent Park is dimly lit. Painted photos of the late Jordon Veira are propped on top of easel stands at every corner. Guests’ all-white outfits pop against the brightly coloured walls. The luminous spotlights break through the shadows, emphasizing the mid-size performance stage and the chalkboard wall of handwritten love notes to Jordon hanging from strings of lights that shine bright – just as he did.
Known to many by his initials, JV was a loved and highly respected figure in Toronto’s spoken word arts community. He continuously involved himself in the arts and education sectors within the city, co-founding organizations and initiatives such as Spoke N’ Heard (now known as The HEARD) and Black Boy Brave, a group that aims to provide mental-health focused arts programming to Black youth in Ontario.
JV died suddenly on June 23, 2019 following a violent asthma attack. He was 26. At LEGACY: A Celebration of Jordon Veira close friends, family, community members and fans join together to celebrate the artist and educator’s life.
Curated by JV’s sister Shamaia Veira and his fellow The HEARD team, the event features various performers who knew him both personally and professionally and were inspired by his passion for creative arts and his positive spirit.
“I’ve known him since I was like 15,” says Bidhan Berma. “And to watch what he’s done and watch the level that he’s taken it to, like he’s always been big bro to me so I’m just so happy to see this turn out and to see everybody come celebrate him.”
Berma, who DJed the event alongside JV’s sister Shamaia, describes his friendship with Veira as one filled with empathy and understanding. “When I would talk to him it always felt like that’s the only conversation that mattered in that moment, like everything else that happened didn’t even matter.”
What I love about JV is that he was one of the most high spirited, funny men I knew.
LEGACY begins with opening remarks from The HEARD’s co-founder Jermaine Henry, followed by a performance from The HEARD crew of their theme song which Veira helped create upon the group’s inception in the mid-2000s.
The floor then opens up to guests to participate in an open mic night style presentation. Immediately guests begin taking advantage of the opportunity, adding their names one by one to the ever-growing performance list.
A succession of artists take to the stage baring their souls as they perform emotional tributes dedicated to the late artist. The performances range from a comedic set by Big Norm, to tear-jerking spoken word sets about mental health, anxiety and the grieving process.
Local rapper, Za’kisha Brown performs her rendition of Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright”. She remixes the song to describe her history with Veira, and his outspoken free-spirited nature that made him loved by many.
“What I love about JV is that he was one of the most high spirited, funny men I knew,” Brown says after her performance.
That man was such a good soul with such good energy…
Next, spoken word artist Tamir shares his memories of Veira.
“The first time he came through to see me [perform] he was like ‘yo, dog your crazy good,’” Tamir shares. “I was dealing with a lot, kind of an insecurity kind of thing, so I was like, ‘cool thanks man,’ you know like whatever.”
As time went on Tamir and Veira grew closer with JV inviting him to perform as a headliner at one of his major shows.
“I was just a dude with a book and I’m going to this show with this book and he didn’t care,” says Tamir. “He believed in me so much that he let me get on that stage and I delivered out of the book, and you know, I felt like I did a good job.”
Veira later caught up with Tamir after the show to give his review on the night telling him the performance was great and that he was his favourite poet.
“That man was such a good soul with such good energy and I’m so glad we’re all here celebrating his life,” Tamir adds.
The open mic performances end with Veira’s mother Coco singing her own medley about the passing of her only son. She also introduces Veira’s grandfather who shares a few memories of his grandson as well as his hopes to continue pushing forward the legacy Veira left behind.
“When I first heard [of Jordon’s passing] I looked up at my master and said why? He is supposed to bury me, this is not how it’s supposed to be,” he says.
“I remember three months that he spent with me last year, swimming, trying to get rid of that stuff out of his sinuses and after about three or four weeks he started getting a little better. I said why don’t you stay? He said, ‘Grandpa I’ve got so much to do.’”
JV’s grandfather continues, describing the epiphany he had in realizing the gravity of his grandson’s impact. “I never realized what Jordon was doing and the effect he has on all of you and many others.”
Jordon Veira’s spirit and legacy live on through his work, impact and the influence that he was able to build throughout his short life. The hearts and souls of those JV touched is evident in the outpouring of love and fellowship at his celebration of life ceremony. It goes to show the everlasting power of his message. The message of peace, unity and positivity rooted in bettering oneself and those within our communities.
Main image supplied courtesy of The HEARD.
Inline images © Keysha Watson & Urbanology Magazine.