Join the official launch and reading event for poet Em Dial’s virtual exhibition, “The Ball.”
Monday, February 13th | 5:30 PM EST | FREE | ASL Services Available
Featuring readings by Desiree Mckenzie and Shelly Grace
Hosted by Andrea Thompson
*If you aren’t able to attend, please consider visiting the exhibition at takemetotheball.com between February 13th and April 13th.*
About the Exhibition:
Content Warning: This exhibition contains references to sensitive topics such as racism, slavery, eugenics, and sex. The words “quad***n” and “mul***o” used in this exhibition are derogatory racial terms that should be treated accordingly.
Across the American South in the late 1700s and early 1800s, light-skinned mixed Black women, or “quad***ns,” paraded through ballrooms in their finest gowns under the watchful eyes of their hopeful mothers, in attempts to win one of the hands of the wealthy white men in attendance. Or did they? The implications of these “quad***n balls,” namely that women who are one-quarter Black are pawns towards achieving racial eugenics, have reverberated through literature, medicine, and pop culture, though there is little evidence that these race-based matchmaking soirées ever actually happened.
In “The Ball,” poet Em Dial explores how the mythos of the overtly sexual and desperately self-loathing “quad***n” has been crafted by some of the most atrocious sides of science and history. Throughout this exhibition are poems, self-portraits, and artifacts through which an artist attempts to separate themself, their queerness, and their complex familial history from the disturbing resonance of the American imagination.
About the artists:
Em Dial is a poet, performer, and educator born and raised in the Bay Area of California, currently living in Toronto, Ontario. Em is a Kundiman Fellow and recipient of the 2020 RBC/PEN Canada New Voices Award and 2019 Mary C. Mohr Poetry Award. Their performances have brought them to venues across Turtle Island, from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to the final stages of the Feminine Empowerment Movement Slam and College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational. Her work can be found in Sonora Review, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Crab Fat Magazine, and elsewhere.
Desiree Mckenzie is an award-winning poet, arts educator, national poetry slam champion, voice actor, and photographer from Toronto. Her poetry and voice have been featured in works for CBC’s Poetic License series, When Sisters Speak, Clearco Financial, Button Poetry, Kids Help Phone, and Home Depot. She facilitates a range of community poetry programming for organizations like JAYU, VIBE Arts, Unity Charity, Poetry in Voice, and Shakespeare in Action. In March 2021, she released her debut spoken word EP, Wet Hair, now available on streaming platforms. In December 2022, she opened for Rupi Kaur on her world tour stop at Massey Hall.
Shelly Grace is a Toronto-based spoken word poet, photographer, and arts educator. She uses her art for community building and healing and focuses on the experiences of women and the Black community. In 2022 she was named Toronto’s Breakthrough Artist by Toronto Arts Foundation, and JAYU’s Emerging Artist of the year. In 2019 she won the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word while on the Up From The Roots slam team, becoming a National Spoken Word Champion. She has competed internationally as well, representing Canada in three American competitions. Shelly continues to be unapologetically Black, loud, giving, and a force. Andrea Thompson is a writer, editor, educator and spoken word artist. She was featured in the critically acclaimed documentary, Slamnation and was host of the Bravo TV series, Heart of a Poet. Andrea was the 2009 Canadian Festival of Spoken Word’s Poet of Honour, in 2005 her spoken word album, One, was nominated for a Canadian Urban Music Award, in 2019 her album, Soulorations earned her a Golden Beret Award, and in 2021 she received the Pavlick Poetry Prize. Andrea currently teaches spoken word through the University of Toronto’s English & Drama department. Her most recent work is The Good Word, a spoken word album that explores the intersection of Black history and faith.