Hamilton Black History Council and other Black-led organizations have partnered with the city to launch Black History Month and honour more than a dozen key figures in Hamilton’s Black history.
It’s the first time the city is partnering with local Black-led organizations on a Black History Month initiative.
Terri Bedminster, executive director for Refuge Newcomer Health, said that theproject started while Fred Eisenberger was the city’s mayor and “moved along really quickly” under the leadership of Mayor Andrea Horwath.
Under the theme, We Are Hamilton — Black History Remembered, the 2023 Black History Month initiative honours the legacies of 16 Black Hamiltonians.
Banners highlighting the 16 Black have been placed at 15 locations across the city — with all 16 found at each spot.
Bedminster said the original list of candidates was very long, but described the first 16 as a great start in identifying key figures in Hamilton’s Black history. She said the process “feels really good.”
The 16 honourees are: Ray Johnson; Julia Washington Berry; Ethilda (Tillie) Johnson; Cynthia Taylor; Jackie Washington; Robert Foster; Denise Brooks; Wilma Morrison; Vince Hall; John Christie Holland; Eleanor Rodney; Neville Nunes; Sophia Burthen Pooley; Anita Isaac; Norman Pinky Lewis, and Fluerette Osborne.
Judith Morgan attended the launch with her sister Leslie Knapp and her extended family to celebrate their father, Rev. Robert Foster, who co-founded the Afro Canadian Caribbean Association (ACCA) and served as a pastor at one of Hamilton’s earliest Black churches, Stewart Memorial.
“He did so much, he was a great person,” Morgan said. “He was the first president of the ACCA, he coached basketball at Stewart Memorial church … he was always giving, giving, giving.”
Morgan, who was also accompanied by her son Robert Morgan and his wife Aubrey, was excited to see her father’s poster.
“You’ve got three generations here celebrating both [my grandfather] Robert Foster and our great-great grandmother Julia Berry,” said Robert Morgan. He said the event was a fantastic opportunity to recognize Hamilton’s Black ancestry.
Paize Usiosefe, president of the Hamilton Black Film Festival, was also in attendance. Usiosefe, who immigrated from Nigeria, has lived in Hamilton for 30 years.
He says he appreciates the work that has been done to improve the lives of Hamilton’s Black community.
“I’m here to celebrate what our ancestors went through and today we talk about freedoms because of the freedom they fought for. We are here today because of their efforts,” he said.
He said he has grown to love the city and wants to see more unity and inclusiveness in Hamilton to create a special environment for everyone to live in.
According to the city, 12 Hamilton Street Railway buses have been redecorated to feature the theme for the initiative: We Are Hamilton — Black History Remembered.