Big things happening in Toronto for Black History Month
By Stephen Weir
At a Harbourfront media event on Monday, a few audience members remarked that Black History Month (BHM) should be moved from February to March this year. Why? BHM could use the extra two days – there is just too much happening to see it all in just 29 days.
The presser was billed as the TD Black History Month Series Launch and there was a stream of big names on and off the stage. Hip-hop veteran Maestro Fresh Wes was the ringleader and introduced appearances from top Canadian talent including Jully Black, Tonya Williams and Exco Levi.
The launch was part promotional for the city’s February events and the other half was discussion on living the Black experience in Canada. TD Bank was front and centre on Monday because of their ten-year involvement in funding BHM events including the presser.
There are BHM events, shows and festival every day of the month in every city in Canada. Many different groups are putting them on but TD Bank is the largest supporter, bar none.
Some of the big events the bank is helping to sponsor this month include the Toronto Black Film Festival, the Caroline, or Change musical, Harbourfront’s Kuumba 25 Festival and Toronto Library events including the Steelpan Drum Interactive Workshop.
“Through the TD Ready Commitment, we are delighted to be co-presenting the Toronto Black Film Festival, for the 5th year, as part of our 2020 Black History Month series,” said Naki Osutei, Associate Vice President, Social Impact, TD Bank Group. “TD is committed to investing $1 Billion between now and 2030 (in all Diversity programmes and projects).”
In February the Toronto Black Film Festival is presenting Spike Lee, Cannes Film Festival’s first Black Jury President, with the Toronto Black Film Festival’s 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award. It happens at a gala where festivalgoers can watch a restored version of his film Bamboozled and hear the Academy Award winning director discuss his journey as a filmmaker.
During the month the Film Festival will show in Toronto theatres over 75 films from 20 countries, including Jamaica, Germany, Brazil, South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Canada, USA, Kenya, UK, Trinidad & Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Canada, USA, Kenya, UK, Trinidad & Tobago, France, Namibia, and Italy.
The Film Festival bills itself as Canada’s largest celebration of Black History Month through films and movies.
Singer Jully Black was the biggest surprise of the presser. Scarborough’s award winning performer, shed her dreads and her reggae moves. She appeared on stage in short dirty blond haired wig and a tight grey 60s style cocktail outfit.
Lit only by a spotlight she sang, torch style, a song about “being 39 and still a maid.” Shocker? Yes, but she got wild applause from a media audience that usual prides itself in not clapping.
Black is making her musical theatre debut as the star of Caroline, or Change, a Broadway style musical about a housemaid in Louisiana at the height of the civil rights movement. Black sees herself in the story as well as her Jamaican Canadian mother, a former domestic worker, who recently passed away from cancer.
Black is starring with internationally renowned Canadian soprano Measha Brueggergosman, Caroline, or Change, opens this evening at the Yonge Street Winter Garden Theatre, January 30 – February 15, 2020.
Harbourfront hosted the BHM launch and showcased some of the things it has happening in February. Dance. Theatre. Music. It is all there.
The big question on Monday was: Is Colin Kaepernick showing up for the opening of Know Your Rights Camp? This public art installation features freedom fighters who are the living embodiment of the organization’s beliefs and pillars. From athletes to activists to lawyers, scholars and actors these are people who have collectively transformed their cultural power into a demand for Black liberation.
People wanting to check out BHM happenings will have to do a lot of research. There was little mainstream media coverage of the launch and there isn’t a single online site listing everything, regardless of who is sponsoring it.
TD Bank has an exhaustive list on line with info on its events from coast-to-coast. Harbourfront has an extensive Kuumba 25. Toronto.com and BlogTO have good coverage of city events but less so for Hamilton, Brampton, Mississauga and other GTA communities. ByBlack.com has a good list and is adding to it daily. And of course, don’t forget to consult the Caribbean Camera, both online and in print.