On board the Emancipation Day Underground Freedom Train 

By Stephen Weir

Jean Augustine at the Emancipation Day Underground Freedom Train

The Honourable Jean Augustine probably didn’t have to say anything except All-A-Board, but a 1,000 people waiting to board the TTC Freedom Train wanted to hear what the first Black Canadian woman to serve as a federal Minister of the Crown and Member of Parliament had to say.  Standing on steps inside Union Station she told the crowd that things are better now than during the days of Canadian slavery, but warned them there is still a long road ahead.

The former politician and now community activist was the honorary conductor of last Sunday night’s  Emancipation Day Underground Freedom Train Ride. The ride is back on track and in-person this year after being derailed for two years by COVID. The annual train ride aboard a special TTC train took some 1,000 people on a non-stop ride from Union Station to the Sheppard Station to have a midnight “happening” to mark Emancipation Day.

It was a nonstop ride that started in silence and then broke into song as the train rattled its way north to Sheppard.  From Bob Marley’s Redemptoin Song, to Gospel Song favourite Swing Low Sweet Chariot, the ride was loud and joyous.  At Sheppard Station, shortly after midnight the riders left the train and followed drummers upstairs to the wide open Sheppard Station where Canada’s newly proclaimed Emancipation Day was formally marked.

Everyone was welcome to get on board this annual ride as the people of this city recognise the challenges and opportunities provided by Canada’s proclaimed Emancipation Day. This was the second August 1st for the marking of the official Emancipation Day, but it was the first time, because of COVID, that train riders got to sing about it in person

Emancipation Day Underground Freedom Train
Emancipation Day Underground Freedom Train

It was almost 1am when the speeches, singing and the drumming ended. Everyone boarded the next train heading back south to Union Station.