The Unique Vision of Black History in Toronto
February was Black History month in Canada and in Ontario that has led to events that celebrated African people who adopted Canada as a homeland. Much of Black Cultural influences to Canada came from the United States, the Caribbean and Africa. Toronto’s black community has recently been pegged at 900,000 strong making it the largest Black community in Canada. 1979, marked the year that Toronto became the first municipality in Canada to proclaim Black History Month. This formalized the celebration of the experiences and achievements of African Canadians. Canada acknowledges the roles the first wave of Black settlers had on Canadian history. 30,000 African Americans from the United States gained freedom from enslavement via the Underground Railroad to Canada. The unique vision is that in 2015 Black Canadians can celebrate Canada as their homeland. Toronto Mayor John Tory’s focus will be on bringing the city together as One Toronto.” This unique point of view means Black History month launched events that will eclipse the entire year of 2015.
Toronto Mayor John Tory, in a statement discussed the struggles for equal opportunity and freedom from discrimination that the Black community faces. A struggle that The Environics Institute is taking the time to document the unique challenges that the black culture still experience living in Toronto. African Canadians have made significant contributions to Canadian identity, culture, economy, literature, sports and politics. .All that is in the past but as Suelyn Knight Environicsproject coordinator emphasis that “the results are expected to provide a focal point for the Black community circa 2015 to better harness its assets and expand its successes broadly throughout the entire community. The narrative created will further expand the vibrancy of the Black community. Philip Vassel, from Word Magazine offers this sentiment. Canada’s unique take on Black history is that “it’s like Motown, where Music is made by blacks but found a universal audience in the process”. Blacks in Canada have found a universal audience to become one in Canada.
Many events as per the Black History month theme focused on the Music, the Food, and the Art that the Black community is known for. AGO, The Art Gallery of Ontario is featuring Jean Michel Basquiat in an exhibition where timing was a happy coincidence. Andrea-Jo Wilson of the AGO, “We’ve been hoping to arrange an exhibition of Basquiat’s work for years.” Ground breaking Graffiti style Black artist Jean-Michel Basquiat gained international fame through his powerful and expressive works that confronted issues of racism, identity and social tension in the United states. But as Ian Robertson, a visitor to the AGO exhibition states. “Basquiat embodies the renaissance and range of African Canadians by unifying our collective pride as an expression of artistic culture. And not just Black culture! But remember as he is Black Basquiat became a part of Black history. Robertson pointed to the quote on AGO’s wall. Basquiat said “he painted black protagonists because he didn’t see them in paintings.” To me the meaning for the Canadian community is be black right now. Black History is in this moment. The exhibition closes in May 2015. February only sparked the flame of Black history month in Canada.
By: Cristoph De Caermichael