Black History Month 2017: Your cross-country guide to arts and culture
What's happening in your community? Amanda Parris shares her picks
I have frequently debated the pros and cons of Black History Month — but this year, certain events have made me realize how necessary it is to put a focused spotlight on often-forgotten communities.
Earlier this week, U.S. President Donald Trump made remarks about abolitionist Frederick Douglass that made many wonder if he even knew who the national hero was.
Here in Canada, where we've recognized Black History Month since 1995, this is the first year that it has been officially acknowledged by Alberta — even though the province has the third-largest black population in the country. And the recent tragedy of the terrorist attack in Quebec has rudely awakened many from the dream of Canada's diverse utopia, revealing the racism and Islamophobia that exists here.
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With that said, I wanted to share a roundup of arts events happening across the country for Black History Month. They're celebrating rarely-heard stories, creating a platform for brilliant artists and providing an opportunity for the public to recognize what many of us already know: these moments should extend beyond the shortest month of the year.
This list is not comprehensive, so please feel free to add more events that I've missed in the comments below.
Feb. 4 at Cole Harbour Public Library
North Dartmouth poet Guyleigh Johnson will be presenting a reading of her new collection of spoken word poetry inspired by the lives of inner city youth.
Feb. 5 at Halifax Central Library
The 2015 documentary Ninth Floor tells the story of the most explosive student uprising in Canadian history: the infamous Sir George Williams Riot, which was a watershed moment in Canadian race relations.
Feb. 25 at Concordia University Theatre
Fresh from the Sundance Film Festival, this new documentary film by Stanley Nelson traces the 150-year history of historically black colleges and universities.
Feb. 3 at Carleton University
Juno winner Eddie Bullen and his son Quincy are both jazz musicians, and this show celebrates the relationship between an immigrant father and his young son as he passes on family — and musical — traditions.
Feb. 17 at St. Brigid's Centre for the Arts
A group exhibition featuring work by Kalkidan Assefa, Komi Olaf, Quentin VerCetty and more. Stick around, because the artists will be speaking in a panel discussion called "Afrofuturism and the NeoGriot."
Feb. 25 at Hintonburg Community Center
Learn Afro-Salsa dancing, or join an Afro-Caribbean drum circle. This event boasts workshops for all dance levels and ages, plus an Afrocentric marketplace.
To Feb. 5 at The Opera House
Starring Jahlen Barnes and Divine Brown, this Tony Award-winning musical is a coming-of-age story set in the '70s — one that fuses punk rock, R&B and soul.
Through archival and contemporary photographs, Power to the People takes a look at the ongoing struggle between people of colour and police. In addition to programming at the Ryerson Image Centre, the Gladstone Hotel hosts "No Justice, No Peace: From Ferguson to Toronto" — a collection of photos from the frontlines of recent protests.
To Feb. 11 at Crow's Theatre
Singer-songwriter Khari Wendell McClelland stars in this "documentary theatre piece" based on the story of his great-great-grandmother's escape from slavery. The show, which also features Tanika Charles and Noah Walker, will be touring to Regina, Calgary and Winnipeg later this year.
Feb. 3 at Royal Ontario Museum
The ROM's monthly Friday night party celebrates Black History Month. Femi Lawson hosts this edition, which features plenty of live music, including a live performance by Juno-winning reggae act Exco Levi & High Priest. While you're there, check out the museum's current featured exhibit, Art, Honour and Ridicule: Asafo Flags from Southern Ghana.
Feb. 3-4, 10-11 at Harbourfront Centre
The long-running festival (20+ years) spans over two weekends packed with events. Among the highlights: a celebration of calypso music, stand-up comedy with Trixx and performances from Raz Fresco and Shi Wisdom at the hip-hop and soul showcase.
Feb. 6 at Toronto Reference Library
Explore Toronto's hip-hop history with the pioneering artists themselves. CBC Music's Del Cowie moderates a discussion of classic rap albums with the likes of The Dream Warriors, John Bronski, K-Cut and DJ Agile.
Feb. 8 at Royal Conservatory of Music
An evening of storytelling with Dwayne Morgan, Measha Brueggergosman, Dr. Afua Cooper, JoJo Chintoh and more.
Feb. 10-11 at Fleck Dance Theatre, Harbourfront Centre
ACE Dance and Music, a black-led company from the UK, brings TEN to Toronto for its Canadian premiere. The production tells 10 stories linked by a universal theme: the desire to understand our heritage.
Feb. 15 - 19 at various locations
Featuring 40 films from 20 different countries — plus workshops, conferences and master classes — this year's special guests include Louis Gossett Jr., Sudz Sutherland and Jennifer Holness.
Feb. 16 at The Centre for Social Innovation - Regent Park
Can art set you free? The topic of liberation is up for discussion, as artists Dainty Smith, Ekow Nimako, Samson Brown and Rania El Mugammar talk about how that theme comes up in their own work.
Feb. 24 and 25 at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre
A theatre project that's already hit the U.S. and U.K., Black Lives, Black Words gets local playwrights (in this case, artists from Toronto!) to create new 10-minute works addressing the same important question: "Do Black Lives Matter Today?"
Feb. 23 at The Robert McLaughlin Gallery
In this talk about the link between art and activism, members of Black Lives Matter Toronto and the Durham Black Artists Collective share their thoughts.
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Feb. 4 at Lincoln Alexander Centre
Leslie McCurdy stars in this one-woman play, based on the life of Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman.
Feb. 21 at Conexus Arts Centre
The soprano performs music from her new album, Songs of Freedom, at a concert that also features local artists Sharon-Ann Brown, Matt Rapley and Camille Munro.
Feb. 18 at Citadel Theatre
This concert explores the evolution of black music, incorporating soul, R&B, jazz, gospel, reggae, country, folk and classical styles.
Feb. 24 and 25 at The Sutton Place Hotel
African culture and fashion — in all its diversity — will be on the runway.
Feb. 7-10 at SAMRU Council Chambers (Wyckham House)
The Students' Association of Mount Royal University (SAMRU) has put together a group exhibition featuring artists from Calgary's black community, just one item on their Black History Month events calendar — which also features guest speakers and film screenings.
Feb. 9 at Commonwealth Bar and Stage
The local hip-hop showcase is throwing a multi-genre night for Black History Month. There'll be artists playing R&B/soul (Rondel Roberts and Rome), Afrobeat (DJ Deemaks), dancehall (C Plus) and more.
Feb. 15 at Festival Hall
Hosted by comic Adora Nwofor, this concert features performances from Tanika Charles, Munya Mataruse and Khari Wendell McClelland.
Jan. 21-April 1 at Legacy Art Gallery Downtown
Grafton Tyler Brown was one of the first professional landscape artists in B.C. — but many of his contemporaries did not know that he was black. This exhibit explores his life and legacy.
Feb. 2 at Metro Theatre
Written by Tayo Aluko, this play tells the story of the first black judge in the U.K., Tunji Sowande.
Feb. 27 at The Belfry and Intrepid Theatre
A concert featuring the talents of Victoria's 2016 youth poet laureate Ann-Bernice Thomas and award-winning jazz singer Maureen Washington.
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Feb. 18 at Another Space
Join people of all ages and create an original work of art. At this event, organized by Black Lives Matter Vancouver, you'll share skills — and maybe pick up some new ones — as folks come together and heal through creativity.
Feb. 2 at Antoinette's Restaurant
The Hidden Histories Society Yukon recruited poet Jillian Christmas to create an original piece inspired by the region. In this special event, also featuring local musicians Becky Law and Michael Oliphant, the Vancouver-based artist premieres her new work.
What arts events are happening in your community for Black History Month? Share your picks in the comments.