Diaspora Dialogues, a non-profit Toronto-based arts organization, teamed up with the Art Gallery of Mississauga last Thursday to produce a night of vibrant performances by local artists. Music, spoken word poetry, and short fiction were among the powerful acts presented at The 905 Road Show: A Creativity Cabaret. The host of the event, UTM’s Wali Shah, spent the evening engaging the audience with thoughtful reflections on the performances and personal anecdotes to spark laughter between acts.

Diaspora Dialogues Charitable Society is an organization that fosters the talents of both emerging and established artists in the realms of new fiction, poetry, and drama. They seek to develop Toronto’s artistic culture and redefine the notion of “mainstream” art.

The 905 Road Show was coordinated by Diaspora Dialogues as part of its Event Series. Events within the series occur in neighbourhoods throughout the city and feature artists of different cultures, ages, and disciplines. Thursday’s event at the AGM offered a blend of song, poetry, and fiction. Each artist discussed the inspiration and origins of their pieces and how their meanings reflect society on a larger scale. Important issues such as racism, discrimination, immigration, egotism, politics, and cancer added depth to the artists’ work and provided an opportunity to educate the audience and raise awareness.

The Real Sun, a singer, songwriter, and performer, gave the first performance of the night. She walked through the gallery’s makeshift auditorium with an aura of confidence and positivity. She spoke passionately about issues of discrimination towards minority races—issues that were reflected in her songs.

Her first song was an adaptation of Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit”. The lyrics shed light on racist behaviour and actions with lines such as, “Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze / Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees”, and it was sung a cappella. Her voice was passionate and haunting. Her vocals inspired a power I’d never felt in a live performance before.

The Real Sun also discussed issues of the human condition. She encouraged the idea that no matter how difficult life becomes, we always have a choice. Instead of letting the negatives aspects of life hold us back, we can use them as motivation to carry ourselves forward. The Real Sun’s optimism was contagious. She infused these ideas into her original piece entitled “Brand New Day”, which she sang while playing guitar. She also performed another piece, “Learn from Your Mistakes”, on the piano with vocals.

Another artist, Pratap Reddy, performed three short stories detailing the experience of immigrating to Canada from India. Reddy immigrated to Canada in 2002 with the dream of becoming a writer. His stories shared the perspective of new immigrants, stressing the word “new”. Reddy explained that he preferred to write about Indians who have recently immigrated to Canada versus Indians who have had time to adjust to Canadian culture. He wished to capture the experience of immigration the moment it occurs. Reddy’s stories progressed in a series of three installments: the first involved an Indian man similar to Reddy who plans his immigration to Canada to pursue a career in writing. The second occurred at Pearson Airport immediately after the same character had arrived in Canada for the first time. The final story was a quirky piece about an Indian woman’s interaction with a Canadian man after he untangles her scarf from a vending machine. Overall, Reddy’s pieces were a fresh perspective on the widely discussed topic of immigration. He did an excellent job capturing the immigrant experience through the lens of his characters.

The 905 Road Show was certainly a night to remember. Each performance was a unique and captivating experience. I left the AGM with a feeling of inspiration that lingered long after the final act. The multitude of disciplines and cultures involved in this event offered a well-rounded portrayal of Toronto’s artistic community.