Friday, 31 January 2020

Educator Sworn In as a Member of the Toronto Police Services Board

By Neil Armstrong

Photo credit: Ainsworth Morgan       Ainsworth Morgan has been appointed by the Province of Ontario to the Toronto Police Services Board

 Ainsworth Morgan, who has been appointed by the Province of Ontario to the Toronto Police Services Board (TPSB), was sworn in as a member at its meeting at police headquarters on January 22. The veteran educator will serve for a term of three years.

Currently the principal of Pelmo Park Public School in the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), the dedicated educator, mentor and community organizer for 20 years is committed to the students and families he serves, both inside and outside the classroom.

As a member of the TPSB he will attend one meeting each month so he will only be missing one day each month from his school.

Morgan says he has always been involved in working with community agencies and the police so when he heard that there was an opening on the civilian body which provides oversight of the Toronto Police Service he decided to put in an application.

Morgan said he examined his professional and lived experience and saw this as an opportunity to bring a unique voice to the table.

“I think being in a seat at the table is something that I feel, given my skillsets and experience, I have something to offer that I think could be beneficial to bridging the gap between the community and police.”

Acknowledging that there is an incredible challenge ahead, Morgan said he has never been one to shy away from challenges and that he has a lot to learn and a willingness to do the work and listen.

Morgan, who grew up in Regent Park with his Jamaican mother and his brother, notes that he has been able to see policing from multiple angles.

“I’ve seen the good and bad, in terms of policing,” he says noting that as a father of three – two boys, ages 20 and 16, and a girl, 14 – doing his part to make sure that they are safe from anyone who wants to do them harm, civilian or police, within the city is very important.

“As a parent, as an educator I would not only want my children to be safe but everyone else’s children,” said Morgan who became a teacher at Park Public School (now Nelson Mandela Park Public School) in 2000, a school he attended as a student   and was subsequently appointed as its vice principal in 2013.

As a Black man who grew up in the city and who had positive and negative interactions with the police. Morgan says he will bring all of the lessons that he learned as a young person and as an adult to the table.

As a supporter of community policing, Morgan said when it is done right it works and his hope is to look at those areas where it is working and figure how it can be expanded.

He said there is a lot of learning that he has to do in the role at the TPSB and he is ready for it.

Morgan hopes that people will give him the opportunity to learn and that their expectations won’t be to see immediate results at his first board meeting.

He said as a member of the TPSB it is important to remember that he is a voice, not the voice and he looks forward to working collaboratively.

Following a career as a professional football player, including with the Toronto Argonauts, Morgan pursued a career in education, obtaining his Bachelor of Education and Masters of Education at the Ontario Institute for Students in Education at the University of Toronto. This was in addition to his Bachelor of Science in Criminology he received from the University of Toledo prior to entering the CFL.

Upon completing his B.Ed., Morgan returned to Regent Park, where he had spent his childhood, and began his education career as a teacher with the TDSB in September 2000.

Facilitating equitable access to education is at the core of Morgan’s approach to teaching. It was with that in mind that he accepted a secondment as the academic coordinator with the Pathways To Education Program-Regent Park — a charitable organization created to reduce poverty and increase access to post-secondary education among disadvantaged youth in Canada.

In 2012, Morgan co-founded the 100 Strong Foundation — a mentoring and advocacy group for Black boys between the ages of 11 to 14. 

He currently serves on the board of directors for White Ribbon Canada — an organization that engages men and boys in the prevention of gender-based violence by promoting equity and transforming social norms.

Morgan follows in the footsteps of other Jamaican Canadians who have served on the TPSB such as Hamlin Grange, Sylvia Hudson and Roy Williams.

[This story has been published in the North American Weekly Gleaner, January 30-February 5, 2020.

Thursday, 30 January 2020

Some 2020 Black History Month Events

Compiled by Neil Armstrong on January 30, 2020. Updated on February 23, 2020.

From left to right, rap artist and actor Maestro Fresh Wes, filmmaker Nathan Burland, Naki Osutei, associate vice president, partnership and engagement, Global Corporate Citizenship at TD Bank, and Tonya Williams, founder, executive and artistic director of the Reelworld Film Festival speaking at the launch of the TD Black History Month Series in the Brigantine Room, Harbourfront Centre on January 27, 2020.


The Musical Stage Company and Obsidian Theatre present the multi-award winning musical, CAROLINE, OR CHANGE, featuring singers Jully Black and Measha Brueggergosman at the Winter Garden, 189 Yonge St., Toronto.


Kuumba, Toronto’s longest running celebration of Black History Month, marks its 25th anniversary. This year, Kuumba25 examines the past through cultural expression, ritual and memorabilia, while re-envisioning identities through art, culture and education. Curated by Ashley McKenzie-Barnes.


Cultural Expressions Art Gallery Inc. presents “History Starts Today: Meet the Builders”; 5:00-9:00pm, at J. Clarke Richardson Collegiate, 1355 Harwood Avenue North, Ajax, Ontario.
Free admission


The City of Brampton, in partnership with several local organizations, is celebrating Black History Month. 
Flag Raising at 2:00 p.m. at Ken Whillans Square, outside Brampton City Hall.
On Friday, February 28, there will be “The Beat of Black History Month” at City Hall. Marketplace: 12:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the Conservatory; Ceremony & Performances: 6:00 p.m. in the Atrium.

Photo credit: Andre Rose  Mayor John Tory and Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson at their Black History Month Reception at Toronto City Hall Rotunda on February 4, 2020


Black Futures AfroFuturism Dance Workshop with choreographer and artistic director of KasheDance, Kevin Ormsby; 6:00-8:00 p.m. at Hart House, University of Toronto, 7 Hart House Circle, Toronto.
U of T students: free. Registration required.
Non-students: $10 per class or $25 for all three workshops


143 (I Love You)
Celebrating Black History Month at Toronto's Union Station



Toronto, ON (Jan. 21st, 2020)  To commemorate Black History Month, the combination photography and illustration art exhibit 143 (I Love You) sponsored by TD launches inside Toronto's Union Station on Thursday February 6th at 7:00 pm and runs until March 28th. Curated by Wan Lucas, 143 (I Love You) is a group exhibit taking place in the West Wing of the Station that features original works by eight notable Toronto-based Black artists, including seven photographers (Yannick Anton, Ishmil Waterman, Nathalia Amillionminds Allen, Soteeoh, Wade Hudson,  Brianna Roye, Gillian Mapp) and one illustrator (Alexis Eke) who explore the various manifestations of love, from the familial to the romantic. In 143, Black love and unity is acknowledged, elevated and celebrated through images that are both testimony and inspiration. Here, the statement "I love you" is both proclamation and declaration, revealing strength through vulnerability. 143 (I Love You) highlights an underrepresented side of the community's day-to-day living. Black. Love. 

The title of the exhibition,143, was a numerical shorthand in common usage during the early 1990s when pagers were as ubiquitous as personal communication devices. Predating the emoji, 143 was pager shorthand for the phrase "I LOVE YOU" with each number corresponding to the number of letters in each word. The images represent meditations on what Black love means to Black people in their own multitudes. Likewise, 143 highlights a dizzying array of talented multi-disciplinary artists and unique personalities from within Toronto’s Black community.This profound multi-layered exhibit boasts images of a broad spectrum of the community and it's diverse representations of love; from children, youth, elderly, brotherly and sisterly love, to queer, special needs, and multi-generational love. 143 displays the breadth of Toronto's Black community, through the wide range of community subjects it documents. 
 143 (I Love You) also includes the presentation of the work of ingenious illustrator and designer Alexis Eke in the Oak Room. The installation titled "Root" is an original commission consisting of a profound and masterful Eke illustration based on a portrait of one of the photographer's (Ishmil Waterman) families. Eke also brings together four of her own separate works that aim to illustrate black community self love and familial love, using her compelling signature style inspired by renaissance portraits and traditional Japanese art.  
Union is a platform that opens us up to the possibility of connections among all of us. The fact that this significant Black History Month exhibit is being hosted at Toronto's Union Station is both timely and topical. The word ‘Union’ is defined as the act of joining, and every year millions of people use Toronto’s Union Station as a connection point to rejoin their loved ones, homes, and communities. As a hub and the gateway to the city, Union links us to familiar and unfamiliar people and places. Just as Union Station helps us make connections, this exhibit will help guide Torontonians of all cultural stripes to come make a connection with Toronto’s thriving Black multi-disciplinary arts community. Come experience the free admission launch event on Thursday February 6th, hosted by radio/TV personality Jemeni, featuring an engaging panel discussion with select artists, and music provided by DJ Agile.   
Time: 7pm - 9pm. Admission: Free

1st Fridays Toronto 'Black History Month' Edition; 6:30-11pm at The BBPA - Centre for Excellence, 180 Elm St., Toronto.

Presentation of the Jackie Robinson Award
Black Diamond Ball Founder, Shawn Cuffie
The 2020 Toronto Black Film Festival
Legacy Poster Founder & Creator Robert Small
Willie A. Price - This Week in Black History
Complimentary drinks, hors d’oeuvres & more...

Admission is $20 in advance, $25 at the door / $10 for students with valid ID (at the door).

To order tickets in advance, visit
or send email money transfers to  and
text your name, email address and security answer to 416-882-9863.


The Walnut Foundation presents ‘Alzheimer’s, Dementia and Caregiving Symposium’; 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. at Bramalea Baptist Church Hall, 9050 Dixie Rd., Brampton.
Doors open at 9:30 a.m.


Tribute to the Legends of Reggae

Celebrating five years and counting, JAMBANA’s annual Black History Month Reggae Jam ‘Tribute to the Legends of Reggae’ is set to tour through Brampton and Montreal on Saturday, February 8 and Sunday, February 9.

Reggae and dancehall fans can anticipate a stunning headline performance from genre pioneer and icon Judy Mowatt who, in addition to being a critically acclaimed solo artist — and the first female nominated for a GRAMMY Award in the reggae category for 1985’s Working Wonders — was also a member of ‘I Three’, the backing vocalists for Bob Marley.

The rest of the international line up includes two pioneers in their own right, credited as part of the Jamaican styles that influenced New York City’s DJ and rap/hip hop movements throughout the 70s and 80s.

Known for forging the path to combine comedy, social commentary and music, Jamaican toaster Professor Nuts will also be on hand, as well as legendary ‘speed rapper’ General Trees, and five-piece reggae-dancehall masters, Warrior Love Band.

With a homegrown hat tip, five-time JUNO Award-winning Exco Levi & High Priest, and soulful reggae-jazz fusionist Kaisha Lee will round out the sound.

Produced by Jones & Jones Productions, powered by Kuumba Cultural Association of Toronto and presented by TD, the JAMBANA™ Black History Month Reggae Jam will be hosted by evening mainstay Master T, and feature Toronto-area DJ Joshua Lucas between sets.

“This time of year provides us a great opportunity to pay tribute to artists who have contributed significantly to the global growth of reggae music,” says Denise Jones, CEO of Jones & Jones Productions. “We get to acknowledge those who are still with us while also remembering those who’ve left far too soon.

“There’s a big nostalgia factor at play during this show and we love bringing those warm, positive memories to the surface.”

A Tribute to the Legends of Reggae is at The Rose in Brampton, Ontario on Saturday, February 8th, and Le Belmont in Montreal on Sunday, February 9th.

Doors open at 7pm, and the shows start at 8pm; tickets start at $25, and are available via <>  


Jamaican Canadian Association Boonoonoonos Brunch 2020 honouring Jamaica’s first national hero, Marcus Garvey; 1:00-5:00 p.m. at the JCA Centre, 995 Arrow Rd., Toronto.
Tickets: $55
Call 416-746-5772 ext. 249.

‘From Harriet Tubman to Black Panther: Afrofuturism and Prophetic Imagination’; 2:00-4:00 p.m. at St. Margaret, New Toronto, 156 Sixth St., Toronto.
Guest speakers: Carol Duncan, Department of Religion and Culture, Wilfrid Laurier University, and Gideon Strauss, Academic Dean, Associate Professor of Worldview Studies, Institute for Christian Studies
Donated welcomed, childcare provided.


The 8th annual Toronto Black Film Festival

Word, Sound, Power: Black Artistic Expression
Wednesday, February 12, 2020
7:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Tribute Communities Recital Hall Accolade East Building, York University
Pre-Event Reception at 5:30 p.m. (Martin Family Lounge, Accolade East Building)
The Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community and Diaspora in the Faculty of Education at York University, and Unifor are pleased to present their annual Black History Month Celebration.
Word, Sound, Power: Black Artistic Expression will be an evening of spectacular performances showcasing Black artistic expression here at York University! Featuring musical performances including the R&B Ensemble under the direction of Mike Cado and the York University Gospel Choir under the direction of Karen Burke, as well as Spoken Word artists from Griots to Emcees.
The evening also features a presentation by Wendy "Motion" Brathwaite on the legacy of Black oral & aural culture.
5:30 - 6:45 p.m. RECEPTION (Martin Family Lounge - 2nd Floor Accolade East)
7:00 - 9:30 p.m. PERFORMANCES (Tribute Communities Recital Hall Accolade East Building)
Click here for full event details
This is a free event. All are welcome to attend.
This event is co-presented by the Department of Humanities and the Department of Music.


Peel United Cultural Partners 19th annual Black History Month Concert; 5:00-8:30 p.m. at Century Gardens Recreation Centre, 340 Vodden St. E., Brampton.
Tickets: $10 (children 2 and under free), $15 at the door
Guest speaker: Dr. Carl James, Jean Augustine Chair of Education, Community and Diaspora at York University
Call 905-789-1551 or 416-577-7787


Jamaica Ex-Soldiers 15th annual Black History Month event “Challenging the Stigma of Mental Health”; exposition, 4-5pm; formal programme, 5:15-7pm; at Revivaltime Tabernacle, 4340 Dufferin St., Toronto.
Call 905-450-9987


Ears, Eyes, Voice
Black Canadian Photojournalists
1970s – 1990s
Jules Elder • Eddie Grant • Diane Liverpool • Al Peabody • James Russell

Photo Credit: Miss Black Ontario winner Miss Rexdale Rhonda Broadbent, 1981 by Jim Russell

(TORONTO, January 13, 2020) TO Live presents Ears, Eyes, Voice, a ground-breaking photography exhibition featuring 41 important visual works by renowned Black Canadian photojournalists Jules Elder, Eddie Grant, Diane Liverpool, Al Peabody and Jim Russell
 Eyes, Ears, Voice will be on view at the Lower Gallery at the Meridian Art Centre, 5040 Yonge Street, from February 15 – March 8, 2020.
 The combined archive of these five revolutionary photographers reveals a comprehensive and rare record that visually documents over three decades of stories that tell the important history of Toronto’s diverse Black communities.
 Training their lens on politicians, community members, activists, and protesters, as well as entertainers and athletes, the images range from backstage with Peter Tosh and Tina Turner and early Caribana images to documenting farm workers, capturing images of political  protests against the Toronto police and local anti-apartheid protests, to local Ebony fashion shows and the crowning of Miss Black Ontario. 
 The Lower Gallery at the Meridian Arts Centre will be open to the public Thursday – Sunday 1PM – 6PM.  The exhibition can also be accessed while attending other shows at Meridian Arts Centre. 
 Admission to Ears, Eyes, Voice is free.
 Ears, Eyes, Voice is organized and circulated by Black Artists’ Networks in Dialogue (BAND) and curated by Dr. Julie Crooks.

Originally home to MOCCA (Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art), the Gallery at the Meridian Arts Centre consists of over 3,850 sq. ft. of exhibition space over two floors that are linked by the upper and lower levels of the lobby. 

Black Canadian Photojournalists 1970s – 1990s
February 15 – March 8, 2020
Meridian Arts Centre, 5040 Yonge Street (TTC: North York Centre subway)
Exhibition hours: Thursday – Sunday 1PM – 6PM
Schedule is subject to change.

TO Live is one of Canada’s largest multi-arts organizations, operating three iconic venues: Meridian Hall (formerly the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts), the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts and Meridian Arts Centre (formerly the Toronto Centre for the Arts). In addition, TO Live presents a full range of performing arts, theatrical and concert events at these venues in both downtown and uptown Toronto. With these two hubs of creativity and content creation, TO Live has a unique place and perspective to activate creative spaces by inspiring local and international artists, connect audiences and to be the nexus for new ideas, elevate artistic potential, and be the catalyst for creative expression that is reflective of Toronto’s diversity.


Nia Centre for the Arts presents "Between Two Worlds" with award-winning New York-based author Nicole Dennis-Benn and literary journalist Donna Bailey Nurse, 7:00 p.m. at A Different Booklist Cultural Centre, 777 Bathurst Street, Toronto.
Tickets: $5

Dennis-Benn's award-winning novel, Here Comes the Sun, was named a "Best Book of the year" by the New York Times and others.



TD's Black Diamond Ball by ArtXperiential Projects; 7:00 p.m.-1:00 a.m. at the Fairmont Royal York hotel, 100 Front St. W., Toronto. 
Tickets: $105-$250 

The media launch for this event was held on January 21, 2020 in Toronto.

TD Black History Month Series - 90 events in cities throughout Canada during Black History Month. The TD Black History Month Series Launch took place on January 27 in the Brigantine Room at the Harboufront Centre in Toronto. Produced by Jones & Jones Productions, the event featured artists Maestro Fresh Wes, Jully Black, Exco Levi, Nathan Burland and Ashley McKenzie-Barnes. Naki Osutei, associate vice president, partnership and engagement, Global Corporate Citizenship, TD Bank and Marah Braye, chief executive officer of the Harbourfront Centre made opening remarks. Some highlights below.

Check out for a list of the events happening throughout the country.

Did you know that you can find Black History at the Toronto Archives?

We’ve highlighted a few key people, places and historic events to help you get started on your journey discovering Black History at the Archives

The Archives celebrates Black History Month with a special corner display in our Atrium provided by the Ontario Black History Society that features William P Hubbard, Toronto’s first Black Politician (1842-1935). Learn more about William P. Hubbard and other important moments in Toronto’s Black History through our social media posts and by visiting the Archives

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Philanthropist Supports Bringing to Life One of the World’s First Black Operas

By Neil Armstrong

Photo contributed           Kamala-Jean Gopie, philanthropist and ardent supporter of the Arts

A Jamaican philanthropist is urging the African Canadian community to support the crowdfunding of Scott Joplin’s “Treemonisha,” one of the world’s first Black operas.

Kamala-Jean Gopie, a patron of the arts, has pledged $5,000 to the fundraising campaign for the production and has joined its Impact Team.

As someone who took on the Canadian Opera Company a few years at one of its annual general meetings about what it was doing to reflect the diversity of the community and to increase their audience, she was intrigued when she heard about “Treemonisha.”

In 1911, Joplin, a famed African American ragtime composer, wrote Treemonisha, the first opera about life post-slavery written by a Black person.

The fact that it was about the US Black experience and about women appealed to Gopie who said it filled a vacuum. “Treemonjisha” is a Black-women-led reimagining of Joplin’s work.

She said the opera has a universal appeal and this is an opportunity for people, including Jamaican Canadians, to look at their commonality and support the production “because it enriches all of us.”

Volcano, a Toronto-based live performance creation company producing the opera, says the budget for Treemonisha is $1.3 million and its goal for Toronto is to raise $150 thousand “to help plug the hole.”

“Fusing classical, folk, and gospel, it bore ragtime’s syncopations. Thematically, it was ahead of its time. But nobody would risk producing a Black composer’s work. Six years later Joplin was buried in a pauper’s grave and the work was thrown away. Now, reimagined with new libretto and orchestrations, Treemonisha lives again, “ says Ross Manson, artistic director of Volcano.

Volcano said this opera has the potential to change perceptions about many things, such as “intersectional realities, leadership, what progress looks like - even opera itself as a form that isn’t just for Europeans.”

 “For a great many people in this New World, and for me as a Black woman, this is a resonant story. And this particular story being resurrected now, at this particular point in history, is no small thing..,” said Weyni Mengesha, the show’s director.

Described as epic, the project brings together an international team of talented Black artists to honour the work of the ragtime giant. 

Photo contributed   Leah-Simone Bowen, co-librettist of Scott Joplin's "Treemonisha" which will be presented at Stanford Live in Palo Alto, California from April 23 to 26, and at Cal Performances in Berkeley, California from May 2 to 3.

Leah-Simone Bowen, who adapted the story and is the co-librettist, said when she found out that Joplin had written an all-Black opera with a Black woman as the lead character in the early 1900s, she was impressed.

“The story is essentially about an educated woman who leads her community and she’s a young woman,” says Bowen who was surprised because in his early days Joplin was a hit pop music maker. 

She said when Joplin wrote this opera he had to know that it was going to be a challenge to get it sold. 

“This was not the traditional way of hearing Black people sing at the time and so it’s such a revolutionary piece. That’s the reason it didn’t really get made while he was alive,” she said.

Bowen said the main conflict of the piece is essentially the educated versus the uneducated and the uneducated African Americans in this piece are connected to magic.

She said this is seen throughout history in the African diaspora – African American, people from the Caribbean – whether it is obeah, hoodoo or voodoo, those traditional practices were seen as evil “or seen as backwards or seen as something to let go so that you could appear more educated and more a part of the dominant white culture.”

This is what she considered when she was adapting the book to see “how can we look at this with 2019 eyes and ask the question of what colonialism and slavery did to traditional African practice.

“In the new version the people that do magic and practice traditional medicines aren’t seen as evil. That is the difference between the Joplin and the today and it’s very understandable why Joplin had the ideas that he had in that time period. In 2020, we can look at it a bit differently.”
Bowen said “Treemonisha” is about the remnants of memory and trauma, love and joy, but most of all it is about Black women and their extraordinary ability to survive. 

Not only did Joplin make Treemonisha the central character, he also included another major character, her mother, Monisha, who was her adoptive mother. 

She said the women in Joplin’s life were the figures that allowed him to be a musician. His mother was a former enslaved woman and while she was a domestic worker during Reconstruction saved some of her money to pay for his music lessons with a white German piano teacher.

Treemonisha has a lot of the same points of origin story as Joplin, said Bowen. 

“To me it’s a story of the women and the community wanting change, even though in the original actually the men have more songs than the women do, it really stood out to me.”

Volcano approached Bowen with this commission in 2012 so it has felt like a big part of her life “and it has just blossomed and grown.”

The opera was produced in a Texas opera house in the 1970s but since then there hasn’t been a major adaptation or a major revival of it.

“It’s been quite a journey and I think we’re all really excited that it’s going to be produced this year,” says Bowen, noting that it will be presented in Toronto as well but a date has not been scheduled yet. 

Treemonisha, which has a global cast of performers and creators from Canada, the United States, the UK and elsewhere, will be presented at Stanford Live in Palo Alto, California from April 23 to 26, and at Cal Performances in Berkeley, California from May 2 to 3.

[An edited version of this story has been published in the North American Weekly Gleaner, January 16-22, 2020.]