By Stephen Weir
The Hon. Wanda Thomas Bernard, Senator from Nova Scotia (East Preston), recipient of the Order of Canada and the Order of Nova Scotia, and a highly regarded social worker, is getting ready to blow her whistle and yell “All Aboard the Freedom Train” as Toronto gets set to mark Emancipation Day. For the seventh year in a row there will be a special midnight TTC train that will take hundreds of people to the Sheppard West Station on July 31st to celebrate the August 1st date.
It all begins July 31st at 10:45pm at Toronto’s Union subway station. “We will be boarding the Underground Freedom Train at 11:30pm and travelling straight to Sheppard West subway station (previously Downsview station), arriving there at 12:15am on August 1st,” explained organizer Itah Sadu. “The date is internationally acclaimed as Emancipation Day”.
“This year’s seventh annual Freedom Train ride will be an incredible journey and experience about the Underground Railroad and the history of Emancipation Day. Opening ceremonies will begin at 10:45pm at Union subway station and half-an-hour later Hon. Wanda Thomas Bernard, our honourary conductor, will give the call to board the train.” People will gather by the Brookfield Rotunda TTC entrance on the main floor of Union Station.
Last year over 1,000 people took the train to Sheppard West Station to recognize the brave people who travelled the Underground Railroad to freedom in Canada and then celebrate Emancipation Day.
As people board the train there will be drumming, spoken word and songs will be sung, along with a tribute to the resilience of the many that travelled along the Underground Railway, seeking freedom in Canada. During the ride there will be a moment of silence.
Notables confirmed to participate during the Freedom Train Ride include:
George Elliott Clarke – Canadian poet, playwright and literary critic who served as the Poet Laureate of Toronto from 2012 to 2015 and as the 2016-2017 Canadian Parliamentary Poet Laureate
Michael Thompson – City Councilor and Toronto Deputy Mayor, Tiki Mercury Clarke – Canadian jazz artist Adisa S. Oji – recipient of the Community Resilience award.
Also in attendance will be special guests from Buffalo and Albany in New York and also the Toronto African Drumming Collective.
Everyone is welcome to join the Underground Freedom Train Ride to celebrate Emancipation Day. People will need a regular TTC ticket for admission and come prepared for being part of a very unique subway ride.
Seventh annual Underground Freedom Train Ride t-shirts are available for purchase at A Different Booklist store, prior to the ride. For more information call A Different Booklist at 416-538-0889 or by follow on twitter @FreedomTrainTOR.