Right beside the Drake General Store’s flagship location across the street from The Drake Hotel is our Egg, and a unique canvas for any artist. The Drake Egg has taken on a bunch of different looks and works over the years, and right now it’s featuring the bright and beautiful work from SKETCH artists Jess Devitt and Susie Mensah.
We asked Jess and Susie for the DL on their behind the scenes process for creating their work during this moment in history.
At the beginning of quarantine, Susie Mensah and I were talking about how we could leave messages to our Tkaronto communities outside of social media, that addressed the very real systemic sufferings of COVID-19 – specifically in regards to issues related to homelessness. As we were witnessing how unprepared the city was to respond to the care that was required for frontline workers and communities made vulnerable before and during this pandemic, we brainstormed about how to connect with each other. At that point the Drake Ball came to mind as a place to center messages of hope, personal & collective reflection.
Susie began capturing quotes and thoughts that would speak to her vision, which included reflecting on her own experience as a Front line Community Health worker and investigating the different meanings of togetherness. We were able to meet on June 7th to add these messages onto the ball.
These messages included:
- Existence is resistance
- You matter. We matter
- Be close to the pain of others
- We see you, we see you
- Thank you for your work
- Housing is a human right
- No Body Left Behind Patty Berne, Sins Invalid
- Right now, seeking justice & generosity might be the antidote to our collective suffering
- There is love here for you
- “The days are long, my heart feels heavier by the house, but my community keeps me going” – Susie
- Movements don’t happen solo. We need each other
- What can you be doing more of today?
- Hug yourself tight today.
As we were writing these quotes, Susie incorporated messages that reflected the Black Lives Matter movement, addressing systemic racism and violence in the institutions around us. The call asks: “How do we hold our communities and institutions accountable in dismantling anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism?”, while elevating the voice and care of Black and Indigenous communities in Tkaronto. These messages were:
- Black Lives Matter
- Black Lives, You Matter
- How do you benefit from my oppression?
- Which institutions serve us?
- No pipelines on stolen land
- The body is not an apology – Sonya Renee Taylor
After leaving the ball, Susie spoke to the importance of making this a living document. Her vision made sure to see this as also a demand to action, calling to amplify the voices of Black and Indigenous artists and thinkers in the city.
The original piece of the ball, themed around gender based violence, femicide and the “Ni Una menos” movement in Mexico, was a call to address the violence that attempted to control our bodies, our decisions and the exploitation of the environment. It was necessary for this ball to evolve, as a recognition that gender based violence and femicide exist within an intersection that is related to race, gender, disability, sexuality and class. Colonialism and white supremacy within institutions create violence towards femme and nonbinary people, perpetuating the erasure of Black and Indigenous people in Tkaronto, Canada and Mexico. This is the time to step up and dismantle Anti-Black and Anti-Indigenous racism. Interpersonal compassion cannot be our only political resource. Our demand is for a collective awakening – a new world order is possible.
In the powerful words of Octavia Butler,
“See to it!”