Culture

Toronto poetry slam charges white people admission, but is free for 'black and indigenous folks'

Toronto Poetry Slam is offering free show tickets to black and indigenous patrons and charging all those who are not.

Mia Cathell The Post Millennial
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Toronto Poetry Slam is offering free show tickets to black and indigenous patrons and charging admission to all those who are not.

The Zoom event, part of a twice-monthly spoken word competition, upcoming on Sept. 13, will award $80 CAD presumably from the disproportionately-contributed entry pot to the winner. Sixty-percent of slam spots are also reserved for black and indigenous poets, leaving 40 percent for the marginalized remainder of the public to fend for.

Under the site's Code of Honour, participants must agree to "revel in an environment in which freedom of speech, self-determination, and pursuit of creative excellence are inalienable rights."

"To be a fair poet—one who in competition is fair and generous, one who in any connection has recourse to nothing illegitimate," admins wrote.

Quillette editor Jonathan Kay has since called out the business's discriminatory practices.

"Again, how can we make sure this system of racially stratified prices and services can be properly enforced without a government race registry?" Kay rhetorically asked on Twitter.

When performers log onto the virtual portal, they will be asked to introduce themselves if they identify as black and/or indigenous.

Halifax-based Indigenous Voices Award winning poet Arielle Twist will be featured—a Nehiyaw, Two-Spirit, trans woman originally from George Gordon First Nation, Saskatchewan.

Her debut collection, Disintegrate/Disassociate, appeared on Autostraddle's list of "best queer books" of 2019. Twist was a finalist for the Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBTQ Emerging Writers. Twist was also shortlisted for the Publishing Triangle Award for Trans and Gender-Variant Literature and claimed The Indigenous Artist Recognition Award from Arts Nova Scotia.

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Get ready for an incredible show Sept 13th featuring Indigenous Voices Award winning poet @arielletwist joining from Halifax! Scroll for feature bio and slam sign up. ACCESSIBLE VIA ZOOM ONLINE. Get your tickets in advance. Link in bio. Details: -Doors at 7:50 / Show at 8pm -12 Slam Slots! 2 rounds (3 minute poems) - more detials below -60% of TPS slam spots are reserved for Black and Indigenous poets. -$80 CND to the WINNER! -No open mic Tickets: $7 No one is turned away for lack of funds. Be in touch if you need. $14 - Redistribution/Reparations tickets for white/non-Black and Indigenous folks FREE for Black and Indigenous Folks. Email info@torontopoetryslam.com by 2pm ET on September 13 with the subject: TPS B+I TICKET. A link will be sent to you on September 13th before the slam. To Slam: Get your ticket. Show up on the Zoom call between 7-7:15PM ET on Sept 13. The draw for competing poets will happen at 7:15. Sound check from 7:15-7:45. Late comers are not guaranteed a spot. Please ensure you have good audio capabilities. For accessibility, create a google doc to share with your poem in it (also incase you have a glitch during your performance). When poets arrive, we will need: Your name, stage name (if you have one), if you identify as Black and/or Indigenous, your pronouns, the place you live, your email (for follow up if you are the winner, to ad you to our email list and to follow up with you for future qualifying slams), social media handles (if you are willing for us to post about you), and let us know if you are OK being recorded. Top 3 poets will have one of their poems posted online (with their consent). Please read this page before slamming: www.torontopoetryslam.ca/you-hit-stage-read If you can not find the answer you are looking for on our website (www.torontopoetryslam.com), please email us at info@torontopoetryslam.com.

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It appears that every slam session requests a minority spotlight. Last month's Aug. 23 show promoted Sofia Fly, also a trans creator. And the Jul. 26 exhibition marketed Tracey Kayy, a black rapper.

In June, the poetry slam's Twitter account released a Black Lives Matter statement. "We want Black poets and community members to know that we are here to amplify your work."

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Black Lives Matter. We want Black poets and community members to know that we are here to amplify your work. The police and state sponsored violence that is constantly incited against Black people and communities is an outrage and must end. In solidarity with ongoing protests against police brutality, we are postponing this evening's online Toronto Poetry Slam until Sunday, June 7 at 8 p.m. We are prioritizing Black and Indigenous people by only inviting Black and Indigenous poets to sign up to perform. Those interested, please show up June 7th at 7pm for a sound check. The show will be a non-competitive event at 8pm. Members of the Black and Indigenous communities will not be charged admission. Our feature poet, Sofia Fly, in solidarity, has chosen to postpone her set for another slam. All proceeds from this event will go to Black Lives Matter Toronto. The Toronto Poetry Slam has benefited from the work of Black and Indigenous artists. We have worked to highlight Black, Indigenous, and People Of Colour’s voices in our artistic vision for our events. We will continue to centre Black and Indigenous poets in our work. We are reassessing our ongoing solidarity and are looking to make regular changes to center not only Black and Indigenous voices but contribute to their efforts for justice on an ongoing basis from here on out. We’re committing to anti-racism in our spaces, policies, and programming. We hope you take care of yourselves and each other and find poetry and community that helps you get through this difficult and powerful time of eradicating white supremacy. Sincerely, The Toronto Poetry Project

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TPS asserted that in solidarity with ongoing protests against police brutality, officials opted to postpone the Jun. 5 online contest until the following two days.

"We are prioritizing Black and Indigenous people by only inviting Black and Indigenous poets to sign up to perform," the Commitment to Solidarity and Care graphic read.

Members of the black and indigenous communities were not charged admission and the precedent appeared to be the guiding principle moving forward. All proceeds from the delayed event were donated to Black Lives Matter Toronto.

Toronto Poetry Slam did not respond to The Post Millennial's inquiry for comment by the time of publication.

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