The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) popularly known as ‘The Better Way’, has embarked on a special journey this February, and will celebrate Black History Month across its network. Under the theme “Building on legacies: Celebrating Black excellence in Toronto,” the TTC is showcasing the work of eight remarkable local Black artists. Their art, scattered throughout the system, pays homage to influential Black figures who have made indelible marks in civil rights, law, culture, government, health, sport, education, and transit.
Among the celebrated figures are Irma James and Walter Alexander Foster, both former TTC employees whose groundbreaking contributions are etched into the city’s history. In 1983, James shattered barriers by becoming the first Black woman to operate a TTC streetcar, a role she proudly held for 24 years. Foster joined the Toronto Railway Company in 1916, and became the first Black transit conductors.
Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow lauded the initiative, emphasizing its significance in honoring the contributions of Black Canadians to the city. She commended the TTC for showcasing local Black talent and recognizing the historical impact of Black leaders in Toronto.
TTC Chair Jamaal Myers echoed this sentiment, emphasizing the important role Black Torontonians have played in shaping the city. He extended gratitude to the artists whose creativity enriches the celebration, along with Astrosankofa Arts Initiatives for their partnership in selecting the artists.
TTC CEO Rick Leary underscored the importance of celebrating diversity and excellence in Toronto, emphasizing the transit system’s role in connecting communities. He encouraged everyone to experience the inspiring art installations and learn more about the significant contributions of Black Canadians to the city’s fabric.
The selected artists, in collaboration with Astrosankofa Arts Initiatives, have adorned buses, streetcars, stations, and shelters with their artwork. The installations serve as reminders of the rich tapestry of Black history and culture woven into Toronto’s urban landscape.
Internally, the TTC is observing Black History Month by highlighting the contributions of Black employees and offering educational initiatives such as bus tours and digital content.
Additionally, a comprehensive guide titled “Ride & Find” has been published, directing curious commuters to the various artworks and station murals celebrating Black excellence in Toronto. The guide features profiles of key Black individuals and their creators, inviting the public to delve deeper into their stories.
The TTC stated that it was proud to honor and celebrate the legacies of 11 Black Torontonians, including former employees, whose contributions have helped shape the wonderful city that Toronto is today.