#BlackDeathsMatter: Performance, Queer-Trans-Black Bodies, and Public Space

February 28, 2017  6:30 p.m.

Debates Room, Hart House 

In the wake of intensified state-sanctioned murder, abuse, and disenfranchisement of Black people, bodies, and lives in the 21st century, as well as the advent of new media and technology (both civilian and state-based) capturing many of these murderers and abuses, and most directly inspired by the murder and maligning of teenager Trayvon Martin, and the non-indictment of his murderer, three Afro-descended women, two queer and one straight, founded the #BlackLivesMatter movement in an attempt to circumvent and expose the everydayness of Black material and social death at the hands of the State, its agents, and its allies. #BlackLivesMatter activists, scholars, and sympathizers have deployed all manner of performance from die-ins, to #BlackBrunch disruptions of gentrified white Sunday brunch, to teach-ins, to performances, benefits, and other public acts by famous and non-famous artists, actors, and athletes.

My paper thinks through #BlackLivesMatter’s silent but implicit twin, #BlackDeathsMatter by turning to a trio of dance performances that, to varying degrees, work through the questions, affects, and aesthetics of Black Death. The performance items I discuss—all in video format—include rap artist Flying Lotus’s promotional video for his 2012 album, Until the Quiet Comes, which features the haunting death dance of Brooklyn dancer Storyboard P; a voguing dance performed by a gender-non-conforming Black person at the April 29, 2015 Union Square New York City protest against the murder of Baltimore resident Freddie Gray while in police custody; and the March 2016 voguing protest Black transwoman activist Mickey Bradford performed in defiance of police in front of North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory’s Charlotte mansion—foreground Black trans(ed) and queer(ed) performance and performativity translated into what Tommy DeFrantz and Anita Gonzalez term “black sensibilities.” 


These Black sensibilities are, they argue, “the enlivened, vibrating components of the palpable black familiar [and they] demonstrate the microeconomics of gesture that cohere to black performance” (2014, 8). That is to say, these performances demonstrate the value and value-exchange of Black performance in the wider world, certainly, but they also function as doings that imbue the everydayness of Black performative gesture with vitality, vitality that contests social death, and even vitality after material death. These dance and gestural motifs shake up the naturalness of the trajectory of Black social death and queer, especially trans and genderqueer, death and abjection. I’d like to argue that these Black performative gestures traverse in a bodily, affective, and psychic macro- and microeconomy and serve to restore Black life at the site of transaction—viewership, hearing, watching, participating, and other sensorial modalities of incorporation. For if the Black body is a target as many have argued, then can the Black dancing/performing body not also be a restorative agent? It is one that travels, and through gesture, dance, scholarship, and other modes or performances, heals and restores the vitality that has been stolen from Black people. This paper also thinks through the possibilities of the historical, affective, performative, speculative, and political linkages between the terms “Black,” “Death,” and “Matter.”


January 2017 Hip hop for a different future 2017
Yassin Alsalman 2017 panellist
Pacinthe Mattar 2017 panellist
Marcus Frejo 2017 panellist
2016 programming Decolonization, spirituality and social transformation
Jasiri X Hip Hop artist, educator and community activist
Dr. Mark V. Campbell Scholar, DJ and arts advocate
Hawa Y. Mire Diasporic Somali storyteller, writer and strategist
Shibastik Hip Hop artist, painter, athlete and educator
Dr. Kyle T. Mays Historian of modern US, Critical Ethnic Studies, and Indigenous Studies

Dr. Shanté Paradigm Smalls

Shanté Paradigm Smalls is a scholar, artist, and writer. Her teaching and research focuses on Black popular culture in music, film, visual art, genre fiction, and other aesthetic forms. Dr. Smalls is currently finishing her first scholarly manuscript, Hip Hop Heresies: Queer Aesthetics in New York City. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Black Scholar, GLQ, Criticism, Lateral, Women & Performance, American Behavioral Scientist, Suspect Thoughts, Syndicate Lit, and Oxford University Press.

Dr. Smalls is also a certified mediation instructor and dharma teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist (Tibetan) tradition. She is a vajrayana student of Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche and teaches regularly at the Shambhala Meditation Center of New York City. For her schedule of Buddhist teaching and past podcasts, please visit: http://shanteparadigm.com/Meditation.

Dr. Shanté Paradigm Smalls

January 24, 2017

We are the Future

Art, Media, & Representation

A conversation with Yassin Alsalman and Pacinthe Mattar

January 24, 2017, 7 p.m.

Music Room, Hart House

Presented by the Multi-Faith Centre for Spiritual Study & Practice, First Nations House, Hart House, Muslim Students' Association, Centre for Culture & Media in Education (OISE), and Department of Social Justice Education (OISE).

Join the event on Facebook for updates.

January 25, 2017

From Basra to Standing Rock: Decolonial Love, Hip Hop, and Solidarity

A Conversation with Emcees Marcus Frejo "Quese IMC" and Yassin Alsalman "Narcy"

Moderated by Dr. Audrey Hudson

Opening by Brianna Briskool Olson

January 25, 2 pm

Debates Room, Hart House

Presented by First Nations House, Multi-Faith Centre for Spiritual Study & Practice, and Hart House Debates Room, Hart House, Centre for Culture & Media in Education (OISE), and Department of Social Justice Education (OISE).

Join the event on Facebook for updates.

Yassin Alsalman “Narcy”

Yassin Alsalman “Narcy” (formerly known as “the Narcicyst”) is a musician, actor, professor, and multi-media artist based out of Montreal, Canada. Yassin pioneered the Arab Hip Hop movement with his Iraqi trio Euphrates in the early 2000s. Currently teaching one of Canada's only Hip Hop courses at Concordia University in Montreal, he blends performance with education, media with literacy, and creativity with cultural heritage. Yassin is a founding member of WeAreTheMedium, an international family of independent creatives. He is an actor, doing voice overs for video games, including Civilization 5 and The Secret World, principal actor in feature film titled, City of Life, and many shorts. Recently, Yassin co-starred and directed a short film for Indigenous Super Group A Tribe Called Red, sharing the screen with legendary emcee Yasiin Bey (formerly known as “Mos Def”). 

Yassin Alsalman “Narcy”

Pacinthe Mattar

Pacinthe Mattar is a radio producer at CBC's The Current. Her work has taken her from floods in Calgary to protests in Baltimore. She was born in Alexandria, Egypt and has since called Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Toronto home. Pacinthe was the University of Toronto at Mississauga's valedictorian in 2008, and went on to complete a master's degree in journalism at Ryerson University, where she wrote, produced and directed a film on the niqab's place in Canada titled, "Tempest in a Facecloth."

Marcus Frejo "Quese IMC"

Marcus Frejo "Quese IMC" is a Hip Hop artist and cultural activist from the Pawnee and Seminole Nation. As an advocate for Indigenous, social and environmental change. Marcus is a water protector of Standing Rock. He established the Pawnee Camp within Oceti Sakowin in solidarity for the sacred water, the Missouri River.

Marcus Frejo

Hip hop for a different future 2016

Hip Hop culture is a manifestation of the radical imagination of Black and Brown youth coming of age in post-industrial South Bronx in the mid-1970s, an era marked by massive joblessness, defunding of schools and youth spaces and programs, the expansion of the prison industrial complex, and the militarization of urban space (Akom, 2009; Rose, 1994). These youth dreamed of a different future, liberation for their communities and for themselves, and began building toward it innovatively, resourcefully and defiantly. Hip Hop emerged as a site for creativity, play and insurgency, countering alienation and disillusionment by engaging youth with humanizing discourses and cultural practices (Akom, 2009; Williams, 2008). Hip Hop is anti-racist and de-colonial as a cultural movement, art form, educational philosophy and way of being.

This series of events features critical conversations with artists, scholars, educators and activists on Hip Hop, decolonization, liberation, spirituality and preferred futures.

Presented by the Multi-Faith Centre for Spiritual Study & Practice, First Nations House, Hart House and the Anti-Racism & Cultural Diversity Office at the University of Toronto.

Sponsored by Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society


February 24, 6 p.m.  Presentation Room, Student Centre, University of Toronto Mississauga
Black liberation: A conversation with Jasiri X. 
Moderator: Professor Beverly Bain, Women and Gender Studies, Department of Historical Studies, University of Toronto Mississauga

February 25, 6:30 p.m.  East Common Room, Hart House
Hip Hop for a different future: Decolonization, spirituality and social transformation
Panellists: Dr. Mark V. Campbell, Hawa Y. Mire and Jasiri X
Moderator: Dr. Kyle T. Mays, Post-Doctoral Fellow, Department of History, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

February 26, 2 p.m.  Music Room, Hart House
Rhyming for Black and Indigenous liberation: A conversation between two emcees
Panellists: Shibastik and Jasiri X
Moderator: Professor Karyn Recollet, Women & Gender Studies Institute, University of Toronto

Jasiri X


Jasiri X is an emcee, educator and community activist. He is the creative force and artist behind the ground-breaking Internet news series, This Week with Jasiri X, which has garnered critical acclaim, thousands of subscribers and millions of internet views. A six-time Pittsburgh Hip-Hop Award winner, Jasiri recently became the first Hip Hop artist to receive the coveted August Wilson Center for African American Culture Fellowship. Jasiri has recently released his latest album, "Black Liberation Theology." 


Dr. Mark V. Campbell


Dr. Mark V. Campbell is an Adjunct Professor in the School of Media and a former Banting Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Regina's Department of Fine Arts.   Dr. Campbell is a scholar, dj and advocate of the arts, with more than a decade of radio experience with the Bigger than Hip Hop Show.  His research interests include; Afrodiasporic theory and culture, Canadian hip-hop cultures, dj cultures, afrosonic innovations and community development projects.  Dr. Campbell is Founding Director at Northside Hip Hop Archive, Canada's first national hip hop archive and a Co-Founder of the non-profit arts organization, Nia Centre for the Arts which celebrates arts from across the African diaspora.  Dr. Campbell has published widely with essays appearing in the Southern Journal of Canadian Studies, Critical Studies in Improvisation, Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture and Society and the CLR Journal of Caribbean Ideas.

Mark Campbell

Hawa Y. Mire


Hawa Y. Mire is a diasporic Somali storyteller, writer and strategist who focuses on themes of Blackness and Indigeniety, (dis)connection and (un)belonging. Her writing is seated somewhere between oral tradition and the written word, celestial and myth, past and present, ancestry and spirit. A Master of Environmental Studies candidate in the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University, her research incorporates traditional Somali stories with discourses of constructed identity while pulling from archival histories of resistance and radical curatorial practises. Hawa is the co-founder of NSOROMMA, a Pan-African arts movement that cultivates creative action and innovation in African communities. Her writing can be found at Jalada Africa, The Feminist Wire, Rabble, Araweelo Abroad. Recently, she co-edited a 2015 special issue of Our Schools, Our Selves titled, “Constellations of Black Radical Imagining: Black Arts and Popular Education” (2015). Her short story series Black Woman, Everybody's Healer was long listed in 2015 for the Jalada African Literature Prize, and is currently in the process of being written as a book-length manuscript.

Hawa Y. Mire



Shibastik, Cree for “underground flow,” is an accomplished painter, athlete, lyricist and Hip Hop artist. He is a member of Moose Cree First Nation, along the southwestern coast of the James Bay. Inspired by life as a Cree hunter on the James Bay Lowlands, his music and art promote awareness and appreciation for both the land and First Nation culture, past and present. It was while working at a youth detention centre that Shibastik developed his “Healing through Hip Hop” workshop. He has since presented his workshop at conferences, in schools, and at various events nation wide. 


Dr. Kyle T. Mays


Dr. Kyle T. Mays (Black/Saginaw Anishinaabe) is an historian of modern US, Critical Ethnic Studies, and Indigenous Studies. He is currently a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Transdisciplinary in nature, his work focuses on how various actors construct indigeneity and other social meanings in modern US cities. During his time as a postdoctoral fellow, he will be working to transform his dissertation into a book. A cultural and social history, the book will tentatively analyze how indigeneity functioned in Detroit’s modern development. An idea central to the project is that we cannot comprehend the development of modern US cities without also understanding how indigeneity was central to their development. Dr. Mays is currently completing a book (under contract with SUNY Press) that explores how Indigenous Hip Hop artists construct identity and challenge colonialism through Hip Hop culture.

Kyle Mays