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Support Team

The Mensah Family

Valerie Moss

Collette Murray

Iris Nemani

Kevin Ormsby

Kafi Pierre

Kimberley Rampersad

Audrey Rose

Chris Russell

Robert Sauvey

Tika Simone

Tyler Shaw

Mark Stevens

Gratitude to the Creator and the Ancestors for clearing the path and making this possible

Quentin VerCetty

Poster Image Design

Felix Russell-Saw

Graphic Design

Tony Tran

Website Design

Nicole Crozier 

Translation (French)

Francine Labelle


Walt Bijan 


Thank You

Kobéna Aquaa-Harrison

Vashti Arthur

Zahra Badua

Nathalie Bonjour

Michael Caldwell

Keleshaye Christmas-Simpson

Brendan Jensen

Jason “S-Quire” Johnson

Teagan Cook

Carmelo Galle

Ilter Ibrahimof

Colanthony Humphrey

Virgilia Griffith

Marissa Magneson

Ravi Jain

Christina Giannelia

The Cast

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).

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Musqueam, Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh Territory







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?

12:00 pm

FREE ON FACEBOOK LIVE (Harbourfront Centre)

Feb 26

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.

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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.

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"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."


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.

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"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. "


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.

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“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.

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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.

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Both Canadian (from Calgary) and a New Yorker, Lisa La Touche’s credits include Broadway’s Shuffle Along, choreographed by Savion Glover and Directed by George C. Wolfe, receiving both the Fred Astaire Award and the Actor’s Equity Award for Outstanding Broadway Chorus. She appeared on 70th Annual Tony Awards and Amazon’s Original “Z, The beginning of everything” and also toured with Savion Glover in Stepz. She was in both the New York and North American touring casts of STOMP. She currently runs her own performance company Tap Phonics and has been commissioned to present for such organizations such as The Brooklyn Museum, 92Y and Fall For Dance North. As an educator and Professor she has taught for PACE University, NYU, The School of Jacob’s Pillow, University of Calgary, Decidedly Jazz Danceworks, and on the creative council for the American Tap Dance Foundation. Above all, her proudest achievement is the gift of being a mom.

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CALGARY, AB / Mohkínstsis


"This project is an answered prayer.  As a black woman moving from Harlem back to Canada, specifically Calgary, during such a heightened sensitivity and an enlarged global movement towards black lives… I felt extremely alone.  Working on this project with these empowering black artivists, gives me a hope and a sense of belonging in this country which I realize I have never felt until now.  Just maybe, more lives can be saved, and more lives will actually matter as we bring light and awareness to our full human selves as people of color reach out towards one another across this land."

"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."

"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."

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Livona Ellis is a dance artist based in Vancouver on the unceded Coast Salish Territories. She danced with Ballet BC from 2010-2018 and returned again this past October. Independently she has collaborated with Jennifer McLeish-Lewis for the EDAM Spring Series and Rachel Meyer and Jennifer Mascall for Dancing on the Edge Festival 2019. This past year Livona was a guest artist with Konzert Theater Bern in Switzerland. Livona has performed in international venues such as Sadler’s Wells, Movimentos Festival Wolfsburg, Jacob’s Pillow, Fall for Dance NYC and North, and International Dance Festival Birmingham UK. She created works for Small Stage, Dance Deck Trois, Public Salon 2019, CAG Gala 2018, and Arts Umbrella Season Finale. In 2017 she received the Vancouver Mayor’s Arts Award for Emerging Artist. She completed a residency at Left of Main this January and is developing a new work which will be seen in the BC Movement Arts Society Dance Series.

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VANCOUVER, BC / Musqueam, Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh Territory


"This project has allowed me to connect with some beautiful souls during this trying time. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to speak and share virtual space with these artists. I felt a sense of home even though we started out as strangers. There is beauty and pain in our individual and collective experiences and I believe this film will have a profound effect on its viewers.”

From main stage Theatre to world-renown battles, Raoul Pillay has become a staple name in these communities. His passion for learning and educating has become his prompt and looks to further introduce, a new approach to learning. He is now a part of a Dora award-winning company, Holla Jazz as well as a local dance collective The Moon Runners. He is a multifaceted artist, whose love for fashion has opened up many doors from being a lead male actor to modelling print for Walmart and E-Commerce for vintage clothing stores. He approaches life, as a constant journey but its path forever changing.

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TORONTO, ON / Tkaronto


"Taking on this project helped me self reflect and carry my message. It allowed for space to showcase my truths without limitation and have the creative freedom to portray my story. My hope is that communication comes out of it, and an openness to the message. Collaborating with this group was more than refreshing especially when we relate in so many ways but each message so vastly opposite."