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Wisconsin's poet laureate explains class and race with cake

Posted at 10:34 PM, Oct 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-15 10:06:13-04

MILWAUKEE — Wisconsin's poet laureate is using the history of one of America's sweet treats to get us to talking with one another, rather than at one another.

Who doesn't love a slice of devil's food, red velvet or caramel cake. But have you ever thought about how it came to be?

In a one-woman show, Dasha Kelly Hamilton serves up the history of a sweet treat. The poet wrote this piece after years of research.

"It helped me to appreciate the days that we are living in today, right now. Some of these wounds that we are still trying to recover from," said Kelly Hamilton.

Layer upon layer, some bitter, others sweet, she shares how class and race in America evolved through this confectionery treat.

"Hopefully people will walk away and realize this story of race and class, instituted and all the -isms, is built into everything, even the cake that we share. Secondly, I want them to walk away rethinking what they think they know."

The monologue may stop when the curtain goes down, but that's when the complex dialogue starts between audience members. Of course, over a slice of cake.

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Dasha Kelly Hamilton

"It's a complex conversation, does not have to be painful. Now there is pain in it, but the 'what do I do now' - that is what gets people most nervous," said Kelly Hamilton. "We have people we are inviting from the community to help move the conversations forward. We are not just sending people out with cake and no tools to keep the conversation going."

Dasha Kelly Hamilton hopes her production will hit that sweet spot and give audience members the courage to better understand who and how we see each other.

"We hold on to an idea because its comfortable. Regardless of your background, your skin color, your social economic status, we all have to figure out if our story is real."

Kelly Hamilton is taking the show on the road for a nationwide tour. Her team is also in the process of making the performance into a documentary.

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