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Big It Up | 15 Years!

Big it Up Celebrates 15 years!

Big it Up — the expression defines the company: to show respect, to give support, to take pride, to value quality. Big It Up, is about all these things, about bringing you an attitude and a philosophy, along with the slamminest hats and accessories. Cause if you don’t have the right attitude, then what you wear isn’t going to get you where you gotta go.

Big It Up grew out of the streets of Toronto, Canada and came into being in the summer of 1996, the result of a unique collaboration. A group of friends got together. Tired of the same old same old, they were fed up with the mediocrity of so much of what was on the market. Just too many second-rate goods that reflected second-rate thinking and a lack of respect for a public that deserves better. They recognized in themselves a yearning for quality and we knew that if we felt that way, then others must too. They knew that if people saw quality, they’d respond to it, they’d respect it, be proud of it, they’d “big it up.”

And that is just what happened. Their company has been growing rapidly, but no amount of growth will allow them to lose their commitment to the principles that made them popular in the first place. At Big It Up, the quality of their products speaks for itself, and that quality — the finest fabrics, painstaking attention to details of design, material, color and fit — is matched by the quality of service and the quality of environment they share with you, in their stores, at their kiosks and on their website.

When you see the Big It Up team, you see the face of Toronto, the world’s most multicultural city. They are people from every corner of the globe — Africa, Asia, India, the Caribbean, the Philippines, Europe — all working under the same roof, working the way people are supposed to; namely, together. Black, white, young and old, male and female, the differences make all the difference and no difference at all. And out of this great mix comes the Big It Up style.

Big It Up provides financial and other support to various literacy and educational programs in Canada. What goes around comes around, and we’d like to see you around.

Check them out at bigitup.com

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The TROD | The Narrative

Entrance to the Smithsonian Institute's "Discovering Rastafari exhibit | photo: Patricia Scarlett

The film unfolds as a personal odyssey that will challenge the often cartoon perception of Rastafarians, and focus on putting the story and the message of this movement in a personal as well as a global perspective.

Donisha’s film odyssey, therefore, is both personal and historical, as she balances revelations about Rastafari with her own self-discovery.

The vision of the film is to look at Rastafari from a global perspective—moving out from the more familiar images of Jamaica to the various ways in which this religion and this movement has moved beyond the tiny Caribbean Island, how the ways in which the message of Rastafarianism has manifested itself in diverse cultures, how the tenants of the religion are rooted in history and made relevant by contemporary issues. The film’s narrative will unfold as a voyage of discovery driven by an intense desire on the part of Donisha to both understand the past and make clear a meaning for the present.

The film stays focused on Donisha—as a Rasta woman, as a young convert—as she personally discusses and experiences first hand the ways in which this movement has spread around the world. Her questions, her knowledge informs the narrative, and her vibrant and inquisitive personality drives the fast-paced and youthful nature of the film.

Through Donisha we learn the history, the core values, the cultural impact of a religion that was inspired by history and propagated through the music of her grandfather, helping us find new spiritual meaning in a fast changing, chaotic world.

The aim of the film is bring the issues and message of Rastafari into a contemporary context, illustrating how the acceptance of Rasta in Canada is in mark contrast to other cultures.

The Canadian Rasta story is a message for the 21st century, of how prejudice is formed from misinformation and myths, and how the acceptance of cultural harmony is both the model of Canadian culture and the triumph of multiculturalism.

Mixing rare archive footage, driven by the infectious rhythm of the music, told through interviews and interactions of Donisha with elders, with young converts, looking for connections and traditions rooted in the past, and the beliefs of a movement dedicated to living in the present.

RasTa is filled with archival history, and brought to life through Donisha’s passion for knowledge and charismatic personality, as she takes us up close and personal with people and places that will help unlock the mysteries of this movement, pull back the veil of misunderstanding and allow all of us to share the journey and the knowledge of a young women in pursuit of personal truth and contemporary relevance.

RasTa converges music and meaning in new ways, making a religious and spiritual movement more accessible to young people, and more understandable to all of us.

Stuart Samuels, director/producer


On location in London at Bob Marley photographer, Dennis Morris' Reggae Rebel's Exhibition | photo: Sabriya Simon

London, UK — Donisha visits landmarks and communities, which would have been familiar to her grandfather. She visits with notable Rastafarians, business success, artists and personalities, who populate these spaces and communities today. Many are able to offer anecdotes of Bob Marley’s early presence London, early activism against racism and social unrest in the 70’s – hopes and dreams against the realities similar conditions in Jamaica. Rastafari provided a spiritual escape and source of black pride? These discussions are juxtaposed against black life today in London – observations on how things have changed and how they have not.

The TROD | Ethiopia, Israel & South Africa

Jerusalem & Tel Aviv, Israel – Donisha visits with Rastafarians living in the Kibbutz Tze’eelim aka “Jamaica in the Desert”. She searches for the truths behind the Rastafarian references to the Star of David; in legends, which state that one of the 12 ancient Hebraic tribes may have been Black. She grapples with the Israeli struggle for their homeland vs her own Rastafarians desire for repatriation to Africa? Although the Rastafari livity in Israel is not a religious phenomena it is a value system espousing peace, love, unity and socialist elements that draws inspiration from the songs of Bob Marley.

Sheshemane, Ethiopia — Ethiopia is to Rastafarians what Mecca is to Muslims. Donisha visits Sheshemane, where many Rastafarians aspire to return. In 1948, Emperor Haile Selassie granted the land as a gesture of acknowledgement to Rastafarians. Few have actually made the journey and fewer still have settled there. Donisha explores this incongruity with some of the brethren now living in Sheshemane. If few Rastas have repatriated themselves physically, can ‘returning to Africa’ be a metaphysical state rather than geographical one?

Cape Town & Kynsna, South Africa — The Judah Square Rastafarian Community is one of the largest and most organized Rastafarian communities in South Africa. Judah’s Square is the venue for the annual Rastafarian Earth Festival. Donisha experiences, first hand, the effects of Reggae and the Rastafarian Movement on an international community. Her grandfather’s music often called attention to the political strife occurring during the Apartheid years in South Africa. How does the Rastafarian community in Kynsna come to the terms with the legacy of Apartheid?

Theatres & TV

Please check back for info and updates.


Please check back for info and updates.


Washington DC, USA — Donisha Prendergast visits the Smithsonian Institute’s DISCOVERING RASTAFARI exhibit. She reasons with curator, Jake Homiak about the roots and inspirations in the birth of Rastafari: Marcus Garvey; Emperor Haile Selassie; as well as her Grandfather, Bob Marley, and his role as a “major conduit” in the popularization of the philosophies of Rastafari around the world. This visit springboards her quest to travel to the various countries to learn more.

The TROD | Canada

On location at Toronto's Harbourfront with corn-soup king, Ras Iville | photo: Len D. Henry

Toronto, Canada – Donisha meets Rastafarian elders from the three mansions – Nyabinghi, Boboshanti and 12 Tribes of Israel – to explore their philosophies. Rastafari is a movement with no single dogma. There are divergent views among the brethrens and sisteren. What is the societal impact if any in a place like Toronto other than an association with reggae music in popular culture? Donisha grapples with the Rastafarian authenticity and its changing face in Toronto’s multicultural mosaic.

Our Ethiopia | “The JRDC School”

These films were produced with young people at the JRDC School in Shashemene – Ethiopia during Cafesociety.org digital workshops.

The JRDC School began with private lessons given to the children of the pioneers in Shashemene by Karl Hamilton and Bro. Donald Leach (Bro. Flippins) in their home during the 1970’s. Bro Karl Hamilton taught basic English, Math and Bible studies. This supplementary education continued at this level until 1997 when Bro. Teach Issachar arrived with plans to establish an official school. He started his operation in a zinc shed on the premises of the The Twelve Tribes of Israel headquarters in Shashemene.

The school soon outgrew the limited facilities there and was transferred to a building renovated through the initiative of Teach Issachar. There an Ethiopian Amharic teacher was added to the staff and with Sister Janet McLaughlin from Manchester, England and Brother Joseph Leach born on the Land to pioneer parents, coordinated a school program with Chemistry, Physics, Geography, Math and Biology.

With the support of the Shashemene Foundation, Inc. U.S.A. and other concerned individuals, a new building was added and the school rapidly grew to over 150 children and eight teachers by 2002. The school was soon incorporated under the Jamaican Rastafarian Development Community, as the first phase of its larger Shashemene Community Education Skills Training and Recreation Center project. A Board of Directors was created for this school consisting of all members of the Rastafarian community in Shashemene including: The Nyahbinghi Order, Bobo Shanti, Ethiopia World Federation (EWF), and Twelve Tribes of Israel (TTI) and other individual Rastafarians. The school has been appraised and certified by the Education Ministry of the Federal Democratic Government of Ethiopia as an indigenous NGO project. The operational budget of the school is approximately $25,000 US dollars annually. The school receives no government funding and relies totally on public support to finance its budget.

Become a RasTa STAR, support the JRDC School in Shashemene, Ethiopia. RasTa support will go toward helping the school meet its current mandate which includes: continuing to provide subsidized healthy meals, introducing a health program to investigate and improve the health status of its students, increasing sponsorships for the students’ education and implementing a planned expansion of staff and facilities to include Grades 9 and 10. The most important REWARD is that you cared enough to help advance someone’s potential by giving them an education – a gift that keeps on giving. Contact the production to help. … Continue →

Stuart Samuels | Director & Producer

In 1993, Stuart produced and co-directed the award-winning VISIONS OF LIGHT: The Art of Cinematography, about the history of cinematography in motion pictures. The New York Film Critics Circle, The National Society of Film Critics and the Boston Society of Film Critics named VISIONS the year’s best documentary while The New York Times, USA TODAY, The Los Angeles Times and The San Francisco Chronicle awarded it four-star reviews. VISIONS OF LIGHT was the first High Definition (HDTV) feature to be shown at the Cannes Film Festival (1993), and was selected for the Edinburgh, London, Telluride, Chicago, Toronto, New York, Munich, Tokyo and Sundance Film Festivals. A survey of 40 major film critics named it “the most critically acclaimed film of 1993.”

In 1998, Stuart co-directed and co-wrote HOLLYWOODISM: Jews, Movies and the American Dream. Based on the acclaimed book by Neal Gabler, HOLLYWOODISM chronicles how Jewish immigrants founded and built Hollywood in the early twentieth century. The film garnered Stuart best director honours at Toronto’s Hot Docs Documentary Film Festival and best documentary at the Jerusalem Film Festival.

Stuart began his career first in academia. He has a Ph.D from Stanford University (1967), did post-graduate work at Oxford University (St. Antony’s College) and was a professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn), from 1968 to 1981, where he pioneered the teaching of cultural history using feature films from around the world. In 1981 he published the book, Midnight Movies (Macmillan, 1981). Two decades later, Stuart combined his academic training with his filmmaking, by turning his book into an award-winning documentary, Midnight Movies: From the Margin to the Mainstream.

Marilyn Gray | Producer, Consultant, Instructor

Marilyn Gray spent over 10 years in the industry with seven of those years in development, marketing and distribution. Marilyn is the Co-Producer on a 2 x 2 hrs miniseries for Hungry Eyes/CBC called “Guns” and the documentary “Rastafari Then and Now: A Message From Jamaica”, for Scarlett Media and Omni Television. Marilyn is also the Senior Producer on ten Episodes of the 1/2 hour magazine show “Caribbean Vibrations”, a cultural show on the carnivals, music and food of people from the Caribbean, for Omni 1 Channel in their first season in 2002. Marilyn is currently developing two feature films “Or Best Offer”, a comedy, developed with the assistance of Chum Television, the HG Fund and Movie Central, and a coming of age film “Bannock and Bratwurst”, also developed with the assistance of HG Fund, Movie Central and Telefilm Canada.

Recently, her critically acclaimed 90 minute feature length documentary “Rasta: A Soul’s Journey”, for City TV/CMF, screened at the Montreal Du Nouveau Cinéma and at the eleventh annual Whistler Film Festival (WFF), where it was the Audience Award runner up. The film will be hosted at the Rom, during Black History month in February 2012, under the title “Rasta at the Rom”. Rasta: A Soul’s Journey follows Bob and Rita Marley’s daughter’s global search of her grandparents legacy of reggae and Rastafari.

On the northern Ontario front, Marilyn is also the owner of M.E.G. Consulting, a consulting and distribution firm that trains and assist mid to large businesses, government and not for profit organizations on how to promote their company, services and products using video and multimedia.

Vladimir Czyzewski | Cinematographer

For over 30 years Vladimir has been putting his philosophy to work in his film and video assignments. His life behind the camera has taken him across Canada and throughout the world. Vladimir’s reputation as a filmmaker is the direct result of his complete and total immersion in the projects he’s involved in, contributing to all aspects of the production. As the original founder of Prisma-Light Ltd. (1982) and now Storm Film and Video, (1995) Vladimir has directed and / or filmed many memorable projects.

Demanding locations, sensitive subject matter and adverse conditions are Vladimir’s Forte. From boardrooms to back roads he remains a team player. Major Canadian and international corporations, community groups, government agencies and broadcast networks, have commissioned his work.

Gina Binetti | Editor & Line Producer

Since 1989 Gina Binetti has worked in the Canadian film industry as a Producer, Director, Picture editor and Production Manager, on commercials, feature films, television series and documentaries. As an editor, Gina has used her storytelling skills to contribute to more than thirty hours of television programming including the docudrama, Honour Before Glory which was a winner at the Hollywood Black Film Festival and received a 2002 Gemini Award.

Her two short films, Just a Day and La Trattoria on Barton Street appeared in the festival circuit. Just a Day screened at the Mannheim-Heidelberg Film Festival, The Ann Arbour Film Festival and the Blue Sky Film Festival. La Trattoria on Barton Street is being broadcast on Movieola.

Gina co produced and edited the documentary Shattered Dreams for Global Television. Shattered Dreams had a successful film festival run and received the NFB Kathleen Shannon Award at the Yorkton Film Festival. She also edited the Gemini nominated documentary Embracing da Kink which won a Golden Sheaf award. Most recently, Gina co produced and edited Knocking on Heaven’s Door, a film shot in Jamaica spotlighting two garrison communities who, through community leadership, cooperation and unity, were able to stop the violence and start rebuilding and reshaping their neighborhoods.

Roger McTair | Writer

Roger McTair teaches media writing at the School of Communication Arts at Seneca @ York. He is a writer and documentary film director.

His interest in documentary film parallels his ongoing interest and participation in Canadian society. His most recent film, Journey to Justice, focuses on the role of Blacks in Canada’s civil rights movement. His films have been shown at a number of North American festivals and screenings. Journey to Justice received the Black Film and Video Network’s award for best documentary film. It was a finalist in the Best Documentary Category in the 2002 Gemini Awards, and has been shown at universities across Canada. Journey to Justice was aired on February 25th 2002 on TVO.

Roger is a Ryerson graduate, with a degree in Film Studies. He has taken additional academic credits from the University of Toronto and has participated in, and given, numerous writing workshops. He is a past-president of the Ryerson Afro-Caribbean Association.

Kirk Cooper | Festival Strategist

Kirk Cooper is the founder of Film Market Access. Kirk has 10 + years of vast experience in the arts and entertainment industry, providing professional services in Communications, Marketing, Development and Project Management of special initiatives, industry events, film and television productions.

As a festival programmer working with young professional filmmakers, Kirk discovered that there is a lack of proper access and knowledge for most filmmakers attending Canadian and international festivals. He designed the FMA Program packages to incorporate knowledge of film commerce, great intuition and confident networking that are affordable for the young professional artist’s to increase their visibility.


Len D. Henry | Branding and Promotions

Len D. Henry is the visionary founder and currently a principal at fashcam – a fashion/music new-media platform designed for the integrated promotion of fashion, music and lifestyle products and has won numerous awards and nominations from BravoFACT!, VideoFACT and MuchMusic’s MMVAs.

fashcam is a collective of creative talent and smart services targeted at the branding and promotion of lifestyle products, music and fashion. From websites design to graphics to stills to moving images, animation, video – films on fashion or style on film, fashcam brings it all together to presents brands with style. fashcam understands that even though fashion is a mystery to many, everybody loves it – sort of a love/hate relationship. So fashcam brings brands to the people with panache. Even when your image-making needs are not directly about fashion, fashcam helps you get your goals and objective met – flawlessly fitted — made-to-measure.


Kevin C. Pennant | PR & Publicity

Established in 2003, Pennant Media Group (PMG) is a boutique communications and public relations firm specializing in the music, entertainment, fashion, hospitality and lifestyle sectors. Kevin Pennant and his trained team of public relations practitioners bring over 20 years progressive communications and media relations experience to PMG. Based out of Toronto, with affiliates in Montreal, New York and Los Angeles, PMG offers services in brand development and media relations, providing individually tailored media campaigns to enhance the public exposure of its clients, reaching audiences on an international scale.


The TROD…Jamaica

On location at Pinnacle with Rasta historian, Michael Boyd | photo: Sabriya Simon

Kingston & Pinnacle, Jamaica — While in Jamaica Donisha visits Pinnacle, the site of the first Rastafarian settlement. She travels to Trench Town, where her grandparents once lived. This trod helps her summarize what her faith means to her, and how it might be changing as the elder foot soldiers that worked to gain acceptance give way to younger men and women. Younger views about the movement are evolving in ways that are uncomfortable to the elders, who continue to shun all materials trappings and systems associated with Babylon.