Khodi Dill is a Bahama-born, Moose Jaw raised teacher, writer, performer and race relations activist. Dill made a stop at the Humboldt and District Gallery on Thursday night for a talk and interactive session on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.  

Khodi’s upbringing in Moose Jaw as one of the few kids of racial minorities at the time was critical in forming his view of the world. The experience was formative in driving his disciplined study of language and adoption of western standards of English. His Bahamian mother spoke with a rich accent, and Khodi’s view, modified by the predominantly white environment he lived in, was that her code, her manner of speaking was somehow inferior. That initial drive influenced his language experience, eventually leading him to the world of poetry, word performance, and hip-hop.  

He’s come full circle in his appreciation of the richness of language and communication. He also is acutely aware that people are predisposed to looking at language – accents, regionalisms, slang – in ways that can spark prejudice.  

In a chat prior to the session, Dill talked about the mission he had with his books and his outreach in performance and interactive sessions.  

“I think unity is the name of the game right now. Right now in our society, we’re all bearing witness to some pretty serious division when it comes to race relations specifically, but also a whole host of other issues as they pertain to how we get along, or don’t get along as a society. I think generating some dialogue around the race relations aspect of it is one way to move toward greater unity.” 

His wide-ranging talk focused on many facets including challenges faced by people talking about race and racism, how identities are made and how identifying terms and concepts intersect, and the social nature of racism.  

There have long been efforts to create safe, comfortable and inclusive spaces and philosophies, Dill noted, but even the Federal Government’s multicultural policies coming out of the seventies were largely created to serve white Francophones in Quebec. Often those policies or those safe spaces inherently limit talking and expression in deference to imposed civility. He challenged people to be open and engaged, but respectful, in their conversations during the evening about racism. 

Dill is a powerful performer, mixing complex and eloquent spoken word with hip-hop rhythms and sensibilities born of his own experiences. One poem reflected on a saying delivered with the intent of a compliment but with a subtext that denotes pain and suffering black people have suffered. A second performance was a beautifully presented treatise on language, on code, and on manners of speaking one’s own tongue with authenticity.  

“Language has been a passion of mine for a very long time, both spoken word and hip hop. I think that arts of any kind have the potential to sort of unlock empathy within human beings, and it’s part of what I’d like to discuss.” 

Khodi’s books, Stay Up and Little Black Lives Matter, are both an invitation to reflect on the nature of racism and examine ways to dialogue about and explore counters to racism and prejudiced thinking.  

The presentation was a joint venture of the City of Humboldt’s Cultural Services and the Humboldt Regional Newcomer Centre, and Prairie Central District for Sport, Culture and Recreation.