“Compassion is good, but it’s just motivation. Cars need engines. Movements need mobilizations. ”
Through spoken word, storytelling, and hip hop, acclaimed wordsmith Donna-Michelle St. Bernard challenges racial discrimination, the suppression of expression, and the trials of activism. By weaving her personal experiences in Canada around a reflection on the Tunisian emcee Weld-El 15’s unjust imprisonment for insulting cops and a politician in a song, she creates a space to reflect on how we are part of the systems that oppress us, and on how to be a part of a solution.
Donna-Michelle St. Bernard is an emcee, playwright, and arts administrator. Her work has been recognized with a Siminovitch Prize nomination, SATAward nomination, the Herman Voaden Playwriting Award, the Enbridge playRites Award, a Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding New Play, and two nominations for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama. She is the current artistic director of New Harlem Productions. She is based in Toronto.
SLOW CRUISE (Lecture) Have you ever been slow cruised?
If you have, you know it.
If you haven’t, it’s impossible to explainIt’s like. .. like this. The cops are always out there, making themselves knowNothing sinister, just visibility
So when it happens. .. It’s a thing you know for sure happened when it was happening, but when you try to say what happened, there’s no happening there to describe. This incident, which very definitely is something, becomes nothing. It is like a sentence without a verb.
They . .. blehhhh’d me. I’m sorry can you spell that?
No, I can’t. And I can’t draw a picture of it either, or point to it on a doll. But this thing happened . .. happens. Frequently. It is the frequency that gets under your skin. The perpetualness. Each time they pass they are saying something. Do you see me?
I see you.
And I know what you’re about to do. Am I gonna stop you today? Maybe . ... Nah. Today I’ll keep driving. But I could have stopped. I could have. It’s a very grown up game of “I’m not touching you. ”And you don’t want to get touched. So when you see them, you suddenly think, “act like nothing’s going on” which is how you were acting before you saw them, because nothing, genuinely, is going on. But suddenly you can’t remember what that looked like, so you are racking your brain trying to remember how fast you were walking before you saw them, and then you wonder, did I just speed up, or slow down, and does that look suspicious, and is there a more suspicious looking person nearby I could walk past in order to become less threatening on the curve, and fair enough, I look like the type, right? Fair enough. Cuz why didn’t I wear a bowtie to the laundromat today? And all the while they are slowly cruising by, Do you know what I mean?
Have you ever been slow cruised?If you have, you know it. If you haven’t. ..You say ‘just take it cuz it all serves a purpose’
And ‘if you never did nothing, why you getting nervous?’Seems knee jerk on the surface but it goes deeper:
Sound of the beast is sound of the reaper.
Or the sleeper or the choke
It’s a taser for a toke
Grab the phone, then remember them three numbers is a jokeAnd you’re on your own when you hear that note
cuz the system’s broke. ...
. ... Have you ever been slow-cruised?. ..
“Unusual and disarming. ”
“As poignant as it is playful. Utterly affecting. ”
“Effective, disturbing, and enlightening. ”