T. S. Banks has always noticed what he and many other Madison-based organizers call “the tale of two Madisons”: “I don’t understand how I could be living in what white folks would say is the best city or one of the best cities to live in,” Banks says. “I’m not seeing that here when there is food insecurity at home, not when sometimes I am wondering what shelter I’m gonna have, and as I became disabled, how could this health care system fail me, why are these institutions trying to kill me?”
Banks is known for his play We the 350: Stories of Racism, Incarceration, and Poverty in WI (2015), a critique of mass incarceration in Dane County. His first volume of poetry, Call Me Ill (2017), was received with enthusiasm and acclaim. Call Me Ill explores living chronically ill with a sharp and compassionate perspective. He released his second volume, Left, in 2018. Left centers on survival, healing, and liberation. Banks recounts his experiences with the racist medical industrial complex, writing impressions left on mental wellness, body, safety, and the right to self determination. He has showcased his work through the TransLiberation Art Coalition, and is also a teaching artist for Arts + Lit Laboratory.
Banks’s writing has been recognized with numerous awards, including OutReach’s Courage Award (2019), Queer Pressure’s Dopest Writer and Wellness Advocate in the Land Award (2018), and the Wisconsin Network for Peace, Justice & Sustainability’s Dennis Bergren LGBTQ Advocacy Award (2015).
In 2019, Banks announced his partnership with the Broom Street Theater to produce the Loud ‘N Unchained Black Theater Festival, focusing exclusively on producing the works of Black artists. Due to COVID-19, the 2020 Loud ‘N Unchained Black Theater Festival was postponed, and will return in 2021.
Currently, Banks serves on the board of Disability Pride Madison and Leadership Council for Neighborhood Organizing Institute and is deeply involved in community organizing for Black, Trans, Queer Liberation & Disability Justice. He co-owns CocoaBean Skin Care with his partner Alix.
Banks’s work and life are rooted in his overwhelming and deep love for Black people: “The only way I can fully live is being creatively me and seeing everyone create around me. And I’ll be there with my pen, documenting, what love and truth and life looks like.”