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The campaign for Jashane – By Javon Walker

Watch the Full Jashane Montaque Documentary

The Campaign For Jashane

On January 17, 2015 a video of Jashane Montaque being kicked out the Apple Store went viral. Jashane suffers from Autism and uses the Apple store computes as an outlet to record his music.
While most people viewed it as entertainment, one brave man decided to find a way to help him.
This is their story.

The story of Jashane Montaque at first seems no different than many others: a young, hopeful artist uploading music videos to his Facebook page to launch his career as an artist.
The problem is, since Montaque’s laptop was broken he had been making his music and recording his video out of Toronto Apple Stores, on Apple store computers, sometimes 10 a day.
In the videos customers are often captured in the background looking bewildered as the 20-year-old jumps up and down bellowing his own lyrics to whatever instrumental is blaring from the computer.
These public performances had been going on for close to a year before it came to an end at the beginning of 2015.

January 17 started like any other visit to one of Toronto’s Apple shops, he began recording a video with loud music and singing, but this time an Apple store employee intercepted him and told him to leave prompting Montaque to scream in agony that the worker was trying to kill his career. Complaining that making videos in the store was his only option since his laptop broke.

The painful event, of course, was captured on video and uploaded for the world to see.
Almost immediately comments, most of them unkind, were left on his Facebook page, with people ‘tagging’ others they knew as he slowly gained notoriety. Soon, everywhere he went in Etobicoke there was someone asking him to take group selfies or to sing a song so they could upload the video on Instagram. Some laughed with him, some laughed at him. Locally he became as recognizable as Rob Ford.

A portion of the last Apple Store video somehow found its way onto WorldStarHipHop.com, a website known for creating viral stars. It got more than 60,000 views in less than three hours before the video was removed for reasons unknown.
But the damage was done. Within moments new visitors flooded Montaque’s Facebook page to have a good laugh, until they saw the full video.

Suddenly people weren’t laughing anymore as it became apparent that there was something different about him.
This young man with boundless energy and a passion for his music is also autistic. It was clear he didn’t understand why he was being asked to leave and could no longer work on his videos.
As the cruel comments disappeared, heartfelt comments of support swiftly replaced them.
One of the comments that kept popping up was from someone posting a link in effort to help Montaque get a new laptop in order to record his music. The link led to GoFundMe.com, a website used to fundraise for all kinds of causes.

Salahuddin Zafari is the 23-year-old Seneca College student who launched the crowdfunding project on GoFundMe. Zafari says that although he’s not a friend of Montaque, they had met before and after seeing his video he wanted to help.
Zafari first met Montaque at North Albion Collegiate in 2006, where Zafari was a new grade 10 student in a new country. He says though Montaque didn’t attend the school, everyone knew him as the guy who would sing any song any time someone asked.
“I was not very close to [Montaque], but I used to watch him because my English wasn’t very good,” Zafari says, talking about a time when he was just learning his ABCs in a new language.
“I used to just watch him, and I was kinda surprised about his talent and how he remembered all these artists, and he would sing with so much passion and he would have so much confidence,” Zafari says.

That much hasn’t changed. Montaque, who lives at home with his mother and two younger siblings, has uploaded more than 300 makeshift music videos in the Apple store since last year.
Today Zafari has a busy life as a business student at Seneca College – Newham Campus, where he works as a student ambassador. When he saw the now infamous video Zafari says he had to find a way to help.
“I knew I had to do it.”
“I actually had the idea of building a GoFundMe campaign for him in my mind, but the right time was never there,” says Zafari. “And this was the right time to do it.”

"I was so excited when Sal called and said what [he] was doing for Jashane"

-Lavina Montaque, Jashane's mother

Crowdfunding has taken on a life of its own in recent years, with websites like KickStarter seeing massive growth. As the websites have grown, so has the sheer amount of crowdfunding campaigns, like when Azel Prather raised over $300 in just four days. The cause: buying a plane ticket to go to Miami with his girlfriend so she wouldn’t be tempted to do something regrettable while she’s down there.

The story quickly went viral, with MTV, People Magazine and the Daily Mail covering the story.
Maybe that’s why it hurt Zafari so much when news outlets failed to pick up on Jashane’s story.
Zafari says by January 19 he began contacting various media outlets, and admitted that he was very excited when CTV replied to him, but nothing blossomed from that interaction.
This Zafari saw as a huge blow to his cause, as he was relying on the media exposure to reach his goal.
Zafari says it could have meant so much even if the campaign was mentioned on social media “not even on air, just on their social media – it would have had a positive impact on my campaign…without media attention I reached $550, so imagine how much I would have raised with media attention.”

That $550 was raised within a little over a month into the campaign, just $150 short of its goal.
Determined to meet his goal he very quickly moved on, managing to raise an additional $100. By March 12, Zafari began the search for a computer for Montaque.
Montque often gets taken advantage of because of his autism. Any cellphone or laptop he carries with him gets stolen or broken, so Zafari needed to find a desktop computer that would stay at home.

Even then, he would need a camera to continue making his videos, so an all-in-one computer seemed like the best option.
But once he found the best machine, even more costs started adding up. Zafari discovered he needed to purchase an Intel processor and a warranty, made the search a challenge as the price increased, he didn’t have enough.

A week later when he was able to make up the difference the same computer saw a price hike of nearly $200 and Zafari began to feel defeated.
“There was a point where I felt fed up,” Zafari admitted after striking out on the computer. “I don’t think that I will find the right thing that I’m looking for…that fits our budget, that fits Jashane’s ability to use the computer.
“We’ve come this far. We’ll get it done.”
During all this Zafari was facing even more challenges as his father fell very sick.
Soon his faith and persistence would pay off after turning to Kijiji in a last-ditch effort to find something for Montaque. The Canadian local classifieds website advertised a used, mint condition iMac for just $750. It was certainly a machine Montaque was familiar with. Zafari says it seemed almost too good to be true.
After he contacted the seller he found out the computer had already sold, but the buyer wasn’t picking it up for another two days. After hearing Zafari’s story and why he needed the laptop the seller quickly changed her mind and even agreed to a $50 discount Zafari requested to fit into his budget.

In the end Zafari had to use some of his own money to cover the difference. (GoFundMe automatically takes a 5 per cent cut from each donation, meaning Zafari had less than $650 to work with the whole time) but it didn’t matter to him now: he was at the finish line.
It was on April 3, Good Friday, when Jashane walked in to his living room to see Sal grinning brightly at him, with wrapped box.
Jashane’s mother, Lavina Montaque, knew all about Sal’s tireless efforts.
“I was so excited when Sal called and said what [he] was doing for Jashane,” she says.
Montaque was unaware of all the work that had gone on leading up to this day. During the fundraising he never responded to attempts to contact him or to help him. In fact, he never spoke online, ever.
It wasn’t until the day he delivered the iMac that Lavina revealed that Montaque does not know how to read.
Yet Montaque was able find music on Youtube and navigate Facebook fluently.
His mother explains that Montaque only needs to be shown something once and he’ll know what to do after that. According to the Autism Research Institute it’s possible that Jashane might be an autistic savant. Which, according to ARI is an “individual with autism who has extraordinary skills not exhibited by most persons,” with these skills often showing themselves by way of “mathematical calculations, memory feats, artistic abilities and musical abilities,” which might also explain Jashane’s talent with memorizing music.

As Jashane tore through the thin wrapping and laid his hands on the keyboard, holding it as one might hold a newborn, he exclaimed “The devil is a liar!”
He was vibrating with excitement. And talked about the love of his fans and family.
Within moments he was on Facebook and was already back to doing what he does best: making music for his fans online. Sal posted an update status for him: “I finally got my new computer... stay tuned for more!! Thanks!!,”
It seems that for now, Toronto’s infamous Apple store musician is now back in the game.

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