Sunday, 9 February 2020

A Roster of Activities to Celebrate Black History Month Launched

By Neil Armstrong

Photo credit: Jerimi Jones/Jones & Jones Productions Ltd.         Artists Jully Black and Exco Levi at the TD Black History Month Series Launch at the Harboufront Centre

As Canada celebrates February as Black History Month, sixteen cities across the country will hold events that are part of the TD Bank series in recognition of the month.

Naki Osutei, associate vice president, partnerships and engagement, Global Corporate Citizenship, said the bank has invested more than $1.5M in 90 programs across the country and supports organizations throughout the year.

 “Our history is in our bodies, it’s in our faces, it’s in pain, it’s in our success; it’s in our struggles. It’s in everything that we experience but we understand so little of it. How can we then understand the world we are living in today, how can we build the equitable inclusive societies and futures that we say we want to see,” asked Osutei at the launch of the Black History Month Series held at the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto.

She said irrespective of the time there has always been a fight for equity and equality and while much progress has been made there is still a very long way to go.

Osutei noted that people can look at the stories of Black Canadian trailblazers, such as William Peyton Hubbard, Viola Desmond, Elijah McCoy and contemporary figures, to see their own stories.

“Celebrating Black History Month reminds us of our past. It helps us find a way to understand our present and maybe, just maybe, it will help us correct our future,” said Osutei, underscoring that this is the reason the bank has supported Black History Month for more than a decade.

Also highlighted at the event was “Royal,” a short film by Nathan Burland made possible by The Remix Project which helps youth who are trying to enter into the creative industries or further their formal education.

Burland said the community helped him with this project that celebrates culture.

Photo credit: Jerimi Jones/Jones & Jones Productions Ltd.    Naki Osutei, Associate Vice President, Partnership and Engagement, Corporate Global Citizenship, TD Bank

Actor Tonya Williams, who is also the founder, executive and artistic director of the Reelworld Film Festival, said it is important to recognize the past but also to realize that actions in the present will be the history of fifty years from now.

Williams said she started the film festival because she was distressed with what she was seeing in Canada.

The actor, who was born in England and grew up in Jamaica and Canada, had started her career in Canada in the late 1970s but moved to the United States – and was there for 20 years -- because there was such little opportunity here.

She said after finding success in the US she would come back to Canada and speak at different events and “all the young people I met, not just Black people but all people of colour, all they ever wanted to talk to me about was how they could get to the US and that was distressing for me.

“Why did they all have to leave this country – this amazing country – to go to another country to find the success that they should rightfully have here and Reelworld was really born out of that anger and determination that I had for that, that people can leave the country if they want to but they shouldn’t have to. There should be enough opportunities here.”

Photo credit: Jerimi Jones/Jones & Jones Productions Ltd.  Tonya Williams, Executive and Artistic Director, Reelworld Film Festival

Also in attendance was the JUNO Award-winning singer, songwriter, producer and actor Jully Black who is making her musical theatre debut in the lead role as
Caroline at this year’s run of “Caroline, Or Change.”

She joins internationally renowned Canadian soprano Measha Brueggergosman, who plays The Moon, at the Winter Garden Theatre in Toronto in the production which opened on January 30 and ends on February 15.

JUNO Award-winning reggae virtuoso Jamaica-born Exco Levi, who will perform at the fifth annual Tribute to the Legends of Reggae tour, organized by Jones and Jones Productions for February 8 and 9 in Brampton and Montreal respectively, gave a preview of his performance.

The launch was hosted by Maestro Fresh Wes who recently became the first rap artist to ever have a song inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.

He encouraged artists at the event to create history instead of aiming to achieve records.

[This story has been published in the North American Weekly Gleaner, February 6-12, 2020.]

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