North Is Freedom opens in Brampton


By Stephen Weir

Yuri Dojc and Dorothy Abbott she is also in photo to the left.

North Is Freedom, a photography exhibition about the legacy of the Underground Railroad, opened on Sunday at the Peel Art Gallery, Museum and Archives (PAMA) in Brampton.

The exhibition tells the story of the descendants of African Americans who escaped slavery by fleeing to Canada in the early 1800s.  An estimated  30,000 fugitive slaves made it to freedom via the Underground Railroad. A century and half later, Toronto photographer Yuri Dojc, has, with strong support from the Ontario Black History Society, created a 24-portrait exhibition that pictures the grandchildren, great grandchildren, and  even the great great grandchildren of those once-enslaved African Americans.

It has taken North is Freedom three-years to finally make it to Brampton.  The show was commissioned by the Canadian Embassy in Washington DC in 2016 in support of the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The US Government then  gave support to bring the exhibition to Ottawa to mark the country’s 150th birthday.

Since then it has hung in galleries in Ottawa (second exhibition). Halifax, Owen Sound and Chatham.  This weekend’s opening is the first time that people living in the GTA have an opportunity to see North is Freedom.

“Thanks to all the people who come to help us open the North is Freedom Exhibition,” said photographer Yuri Dojc. “It was one of the best opening performance we have ever had. It was remarkable day.”

The afternoon event kicked off with a powerful performance by the Heritage Singers who sang both Caribbean and African American Songs in PAMAs 150 year old courthouse. Brampton’s own Liberty Silver came by the exhibition to sing, acapella, Oscar Peterson’s Hymn to Freedom.

North is Freedom: The Legacy of the Underground Railroad is on display inside PAMA’s museum.  The photography show, sponsored by the TD Bank, will hang in the building’s gallery until June 30, 2019. PAMA is located at 9 Wellington St. East in downtown Brampton