The Mensah Family
Gratitude to the Creator and the Ancestors for clearing the path and making this possible
Poster Image Design
Jason “S-Quire” Johnson
Kevin Fraser is a queer, Jamaican-born dance artist, actor, creative director, activist, and multidisciplinary artist). As a creative director, his mission and dream are to create more opportunities for marginalized and oppressed communities and underground artforms. His art encompasses questioning/ reimagining how various cultures and communities collide, the duality between the preservation and evolution of culture through movement, fashion, music, theatre, visual media, film. Dismantling Eurocentric ideas of creating work/ high art vs low art/ the body as a political vessel/the witnessing of art and work created by QT-BIPOC individuals and communities. Kevin Fraser also is host to many queer events in western Canada including being the main host and commentator for the balls presented by VanVogueJam (YVR), VogueYYC, Pink Flamingo (YYC), The Coven ( YVR x YYC x YVR), and The Bad Girls Club ( YYC).
VANCOUVER, BC /
Musqueam, Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh Territory
THE CREATIVE TEAM
SOUND DESIGNER / MUSIC
Wayne Burns (he/him) is an actor, producer and writer from Wagobatik/Truro, Nova Scotia. He is a graduate of the National Theatre School of Canada’s Acting program. He has worked across the country with companies like Soulpepper Theatre, Neptune Theatre, Swallow-a-Bicycle Theatre, the National Arts Centre and Summerworks and can currently be seen on Syfy/Netflix’s Olympus and OUTtv’s Award-winning series’ Avocado Toast and Slo-Pitch. His short films have been supported by The National Film Board of Canada, the Toronto Arts Council, Inside Out Film Festival and CBC. He is the recipient of two Theatre Nova Scotia awards, an ACTRA Award nomination, and was chosen as a breakthrough artist by Now Magazine for his performance in Michael Ross Albert’s Miss and his creative leadership through the acclaimed conversation series Dark Nights.
Sonya Mwambu (she/they) is an experimental filmmaker and editor based in Toronto. Born in Kampala, they grew up in Canada and their work centres on the intersections of their identities through the exploration of race, language and the connections they find through their cultural identity and the experimentations of analog film. Their films The Shirley Card (2018) and On Embracing the Stranger (2020) are currently showing as part of the McMaster Museum of Arts exhibition The Cut, The Tear & The Remix: Contemporary Collage and Black Futures, and their film Banange! (2016) as part of The Archive of Forgetfulness presented by the Goethe- Institut in Johannesburg. Their recent work also includes a screening as part of Cinema Politica’s Being Black in Canada programming, and in 2020 they directed and edited circa. as part of the City of Toronto’s History Museums Awakenings program. Mwambu holds a BFA in Film Production from York University.
Meg Roe (she/her) works as an actor, director, dramaturg, composer and sound designer. She has been seen across Canada at Crows Theatre, Shaw Festival, Theatre Calgary, Canadian Stage, Factory Theatre, PuSh Festival, Alberta Theatre Projects, Bard on the Beach, Theatre Junction, Citadel Theatre, Ruby Slippers Theatre, Electric Company Theatre, Blackbird Theatre, Theatre Aquarius, Arts Club, Belfry, Theatre SKAM, Manitoba Theatre Centre, Catalyst Theatre, RealWheels, Intrepid Theatre, Elbow Theatre, Vancouver Playhouse, Western Canada Theatre, National Arts Centre, Centaur Theatre, The Banff Centre, Yukon Arts Centre, Why Not Theatre, Savage Society, internationally with the American Conservatory Theatre (San Francisco), Center Theater Group (Los Angeles), and as a collaborator with Crystal Pite's renowned dance company Kidd Pivot.
TESSEL: A Community Conversation
"It's time we talk"
This gathering is a way to continue the conversation by asking ourselves what has changed. From June 1st, 2020, until now, have we seen a change in our communities? Many committees have been formed but have we seen the change we desire to see?
FREE ON FACEBOOK LIVE (Harbourfront Centre)
Join the Conversation
A Co-Presentation With:
Co-Executive Producers and Lead Commissioners
Lead Project Supporter
Esie Mensah is an artist whose creative footprint extends into many genres, disciplines and regions. As a dancer, choreographer, director, educator and public speaker, Mensah's mastery of storytelling is as diverse as her experience. From working with megastars like Rihanna, Drake and Arcade Fire to historic brands like Coca-Cola, TIFF and the Toronto Raptors, this powerful woman shows no sign of slowing down. She was a featured speaker at TEDxToronto 2019, where she spoke about her experience as a dark-skinned dancer and the process of creating her Dora-nominated production Shades. Her short film, A Revolution of Love, opened Toronto History Museum’s ongoing Awakenings initiative alongside works by celebrity Chef Roger Mooking and Director X. She has led equity and inclusion work at Sheridan College, the Royal Academy of Dance, the University of Calgary and is an Artistic Advisor at The National Ballet School. She is a faculty member of George Brown College and is a mentee of acclaimed dance artist Akram Khan through Why Not Theatre’s Fellowship Program.
WRITER & DIRECTOR
TORONTO, ON / Tkaronto
Natasha Powell is a Toronto native who has been working in the dance industry for 17 years. Her soulful approach to movement that transcends genre can be seen and felt in her dancing, choreography, and teachings. In 2016, she founded her company, HOLLA JAZZ as a forum for developing and presenting artists that work and improvise together, to create harmonious and transformative experiences. The company aims to reinvigorate jazz dance with its sister dances including hip hop and house, as innovative and important vehicles for expression, while showcasing freedom and one’s own identity through the spirit of jazz.
"Black artists are not monolithic. From different experiences and varying practices, living in different parts of the country, while many of us experience some of the same challenges, many of us are experiencing challenging lifestyles in different ways. I am grateful for the opportunity to connect with those in different cities and begin that relationship building that I so desperately desire."
YVON "CRAZY SMOOTH" SOGLO
OTTAWA, ON / Adawe
Crazy Smooth is one of Canada’s top street dancers, performers, choreographers, instructors, judges, and community leaders. He is the founder and artistic director of Bboyizm, an award-winning street-dance company that has been instrumental in the preservation and proliferation of street dance in Canada. In 2004, three of his full-length creations, The Evolution of B-boying, IZM, and Music Creates Opportunity toured throughout Canada. The company has been nominated for a Dora award (2012) and won both the Atlantic Presenters Association Touring Performers of the Year Award (2013) and the Ontario Presenters Network Emerging Touring Artist of the Year (2012). Crazy Smooth was named the 2020 Clifford E. Lee award recipient by the Banff Centre for the Arts for his work-in-progress, and Long Term Artist in Residence at the Centre de Création O Vertigo in Montreal. In My Body is currently in creation as the 2019-2021.
"I am so grateful to have shared in the experience of making this film. Connecting with other Black artists to speak candidly about our lives and making art in Canada was a refreshing reminder of the depth and breadth of our lived experiences. While we can be perceived as a monolithic group, we are in fact a diverse chorus of unique voices. I am left with a heightened sense of excitement and motivation to continue my work, with a solid dose of optimism about what we will accomplish going forward. "
EUGENE "GeNie" BAFFOE
WINNIPEG, MB / Win-nipi
Eugene "GeNie" Baffoe is a freestyle dancer, educator, actor, choreographer and filmmaker originally from Montreal, Quebec. GeNie has been training, instructing and studying hiphop culture for over a decade. As the Director of B.O.S.S Dance Team since 2011, GeNie has brought his community several battle events such as DANCE 4 MS, The Artist Within, Who’s the iLLEST, BeatMakeUSDance and more. He has choreographed 2 Blue Bomber halftime shows, 3 opening numbers for WeDay at the Bell MTS Place, and was selected to be 1 of 2 Canadian choreographers to create the Sharing Dance flash mob-style routine for Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2018. Last year, GeNie created and directed a documentary called Our Scene The Movie, a film about the history of hiphop dance in Winnipeg. Honoured by the City of Winnipeg with the Youth Role Model Award in 2009 and now a CBC Future 40 under 40 finalist, GeNie is a dedicated artist passionate about his community and continues to educate and spread the culture through dance and film.
“Upon being asked to be apart of this project I was excited and felt empowered. The opportunity to tell our stories in an authentic, personal way. A chance to demonstrate our experiences over the last year and beyond, to share those experiences, feelings, thoughts, ideas and dreams with the country and each other. My hope is the project will represent the resilience and strength Black Canadians have running through their veins. Their passion, their art and their story. My hope is not for it to simply resonate, but shine the necessary light to create dialogue and insist on self reflection needed by us all. I cannot wait to see the final product and hopefully continue to collaborate with my fellow Canadian artists. "
Gabrieille Martin is a choreographer and contemporary and aerial dancer, originally from the unceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples (Vancouver). As a choreographer, she is in perpetual study of tenacious, defiant bodies and those autonomic states that rapture the body. She obtained her BFA in Contemporary Dance from Concordia University (Montreal, 2009) and presented her own choreographies nationally from 2009-2011. The body’s ephemeral subversion of gravity drew her to aerial dance; Gabrielle performed over 1,400 shows internationally as an aerial acrobat and dancer with Cavalia (2011-2015), and as a principal character and aerial soloist with Cirque du Soleil’s TORUK - The First Flight (2015-2019). In 2019, she presented Limb(e)s, a co-choreography under Company Ci, at Montreal Complètement Cirque and Edinburgh Festival Fringe with Assembly Festival. Gabrielle completed a certificate in Circus Dramaturgy at the Centre National des Arts du Cirque (France) in 2020.
VANCOUVER, BC / Musqueam, Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh Territory
The invitation to bring myself to the camera, authentic and unchoreographed, inspired a deep exhale from within. I am so used to working with my body to meet extrinsic objectives and replicate others' aesthetic forms that I felt graced with the right to be unapologetic. With all the criticism that’s internalized as a dancer, compounded by being Black, being a woman and not having a foundation in ballet, this kind of invitation, as part of a collective movement, becomes a celebration.
HALIFAX, NS/ K'jipuktuk
"To be a part of this project is to remember, reach out, and rejoin. To long and call for community and connection, and to have that call answered. As one of very few professional contemporary Black dancers in Kjipuktuk/Halifax, this project is a gift. It is a reminder and a celebratory affirmation that we can journey through space, put down what we carry, and meet each other in our wholeness, full of our beautiful and contradictory complexity."
Liliona Quarmyne has an eclectic background that has taken her through many performance styles on four different continents. Liliona is a dancer, choreographer, actor, singer, community organizer, and activist. She performs across the country and internationally, creates original works as an independent artist, facilitates community programming, and is the Artistic Director of Kinetic Studio. The scope of Liliona’s artistic work is broad, but is particularly focused on the relationship between art and social justice, on the body’s ability to carry ancestral memory, and on the role the performing arts can play in creating change. Liliona loves to work in collaboration and community and is mom to two wonderful kids.