Black History Month 2018: Your guide to arts events around Canada
From Vancouver to Halifax, this is your list of must-see arts and culture
What a way to begin Black History Month.
On Tuesday, the federal government held a press conference to announce its official recognition of the International Decade for People of African Descent. It's an initiative that was launched by the UN three years ago, and its goal is to combat racism and promote recognition, justice and development for people of African descent.
Following the announcement, Prime Minister Trudeau, alongside a number of Black MPs, the Federation of Black Canadians and the federal Black caucus took questions.
None of the questions he received from the reporters in attendance had anything to do with the initiative or the experiences of Black people in Canada. Rather, reporters asked Trudeau about the wave of sexual harassment allegations in Canadian politics and the legalization of marijuana.
As Vicky Mochama so aptly put it in her recent column for Metro News: "At the event about Black people, no one asked about Black people."
It was a moment that highlighted not only the lack of literal diversity in the press but also the unwillingness of many who dictate the headlines of our day to have a meaningful and critical engagement with the issues directly concerning Black communities — even when the experiences of Black Canadian communities was the very reason for their invitation.
With that in mind, this year's Black History Month holds an even greater significance as Black Canadians are reminded that while institutions in this country continue to ignore and disregard our presence, we must create and claim our space anyway.
Here is a roundup of some of the arts and culture events happening across the country this month. I encourage you to attend them and use them as an opportunity to do what Canadian press didn't do on Tuesday: meaningfully engage with the experiences of Black Canadian communities.
JR Smith Quartet Live
A free concert to kick off African Heritage Month featuring drummer, composer and multi-instrumentalist JR Smith.
A Legacy at Risk - The Struggle for Land Titles in North Preston
An afternoon of discussion, featuring a screening of short films from "Untitled: The Legacy of Land in North Preston," a student journalism project from the Nova Scotia Community College.
Righteously Political Poetry - Canticles vs. Slavery and vs. Imperialism with George Elliott Clarke
Former Parliamentary Poet Laureate George Elliott Clarke will read from select works including his ongoing project, Canticles.
Africville: Can't Stop Now - Film Screening and Discussion with Juanita Peters
Filmmaker Juanita Peters presents a screening of her documentary, Africville: Can't Stop Now.
Vernissage: Symbols of Resistance
An art exhibition exploring the nuances in Black identity and representation in Montreal. Featuring artists Kay Nau, Glowzi, Sika Valmé and more.
Black Future Month: Screening and Reception
See Brown Girl Begins, the first ever Canadian-Caribbean sci-fi feature film. The movie stars Mouna Traoré and Measha Brueggergosman.
Master Harold and the Boys
Ongoing to Feb. 11
Directed by Philip Akin, South African playwright Athol Fugard's acclaimed drama follows a 17-year-old schoolboy and two servants who explore the collision between the personal and the political.
Evensong with JustJamaal ThePoet
Ottawa's Poet Laureate Jamaal Jackson Rogers (a.k.a. JustJamaal ThePoet) collaborates with the musical quintet EvenSong to perform a night of music and poetry using the rhythms of jazz, gospel and folk.
The Gift of Jazz / From Africa to New Orleans to The True North Strong and Free
A musical history celebrating the struggles and determination of early jazz artists. Featuring Deborah Davis and Segue to Jazz, Michael C. Hanna and Darin Kyle.
Retrograde: The Ethnic Heritage Ensemble
Straight from Chicago, The Ethnic Heritage Ensemble performs live on stage.
Underground Comedy Railroad
Now in its seventh year, the popular comedy tour returns to Ottawa. Hosted by B Black, the lineup includes Dawn Xanklin, Keesha Brownie, Rodney Ramsey and Daniel Woodrow.
A Concert with Jully Black
The Canadian R&B legend (and upcoming Canada Reads panellist) brings an R&B dance party to the NAC's Azrieli Studio.
Here We Are Here: Black Canadian Contemporary Art
Ongoing to April 22
See Canada through the eyes of nine Black Canadian artists as they tackle themes of belonging and "Black Canadian presence and history." Featuring work by Sandra Brewster, Michèle Pearson Clarke, Sylvia D. Hamilton and more.
Emeka Ogbo - The Song of the Germans
Ongoing to May 13
The Power Plant presents Nigerian-born artist Emeka Ogboh's 10-channel sound installation The Song of the Germans.
Kader Attia - The Field of Emotion
Ongoing to May 13
While you're at the Power Plant, make sure to also see this French artist's first solo exhibition in Canada. The show includes a new film work that explores Canada's history with colonization and slavery.
Michael Chambers: Shadows to Silver - A Retrospective
Ongoing to March 18
Look back on work from the Toronto-based artist's long photography career, covering material from the '90s to today.
AGO First Thursday - Shake It
Honouring the season and history of Carnival, the February edition of the AGO's monthly art party features music by Juliana Huxtable, a performative tableau by Jasmyn Fyffe and work by Rhoma Spencer.
You Done Taken My Blues and Gone
Inspired by a line from a Langston Hughes poem, this art show aims to explore the various ways that Black art is frequently appropriated and co-opted. Featuring work from Sydne Barnes Wright, Kevrine, Timothy Yanick-Hunter, Oreka James, Aaron Jones, Ekow Stone and Destiny Grimm.
Long Table Series featuring B. Denham Jolly
Enjoy a gourmet meal, then listen to the Canadian civil rights icon discuss his award-winning 2017 memoir.
WATAH Theatre Double Bill: I Cannot Lose My Mind and Once Upon a Black Boy
A back-to-back feature of two plays. I Cannot Lose My Mind by Najla Nubyanluv tells the story of one young woman's experiences with depression and her attempt to overcome. Once Upon a Black Boy is a coming-of-age story about a young boy grappling with his mother's cancer diagnosis.
Wedge Curatorial Projects presents: Of Ourselves
Of Ourselves explores the various layers of Black Canadian experience and identity through the work of Toronto-based photographers Yannick Anton, Curtiss Randolph, Nathalia Allen and Neva Wireko.
This annual festival features the Black Diamond Ball, a night of theatre with Trey Anthony, a panel discussion with authors Rinaldo Walcott, Whitney French and Simone Dalton, a photography and video exhibit by Ajamu and Khalil West and more.
Obsidian Theatre Presents hang by debbie tucker green
Philip Akin and Kimberley Rampersad direct the Canadian premiere of hang by U.K. playwright debbie tucker green. The play explores how one woman confronts a fundamentally life-altering decision.
24 HRS of Blackness
Presented by OCAD U's BLXCK Association, this art installation aims to give audiences an interactive and inside look into Black life in the Canadian landscape.
Hot Docs Game Changers Film Series - BHM Edition
The Game Changers film programme takes a Black History Month focus. Screenings include I Am Not Your Negro, Journey to Justice, Sisters in Struggle and Jean Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child.
Before the 6ix: Northern Touch
"Northern Touch" by Rascalz turns 20 this year, so join producers Mr. Attick and Nick Holder, along with rapper Thrust and radio host Motion as they discuss the song's place in Toronto hip-hop history.
The 6th Annual Toronto Black Film Festival
The annual festival features more than 60 films from 20 countries, plus panels, workshops and parties. Films include The Rape of Recy Taylor and KALUSHI: The Story of Solomon Mahlangu.
Black Men in Theatre
Presented by the Piece of Mine Festival, Black Men in Theatre is a platform for new plays, dance, music and visual arts by Black men. This edition will see work by Troy Crossfield, Kobèna Aquaa-Harrison, Peter Bailey and more.
Brown Girl Begins: Screening and Reception
Director Sharon Lewis, along with author Nalo Hopkinson and star Measha Brueggergosman, will be in attendance. Join them for the gala premiere of this Afrofuturist adventure. Stick around after the film — music and a Q&A will follow.
Feb. 28 - March 11
The story of three men grappling with their Black and queer identities, the acclaimed play returns to Toronto after touring select cities around the country.
Back to the Future! The 11th Annual Durham Black History Month Celebration
A community celebration hosted by comedian Jay Martin with performances by Sandra Whiting and AFIWI Groove.
2018 Reverend John C Holland Awards
Now in its 22nd year, this annual awards ceremony recognizes Black Canadians' contributions to the city of Hamilton.
Journey from Tollgate to Parkway: African Canadians in Hamilton
Learn about Hamilton's history as author Adrienne Shadd shares some of her original research about the first Black families in the area.
A Tribute to the Legends of Reggae
Before playing Toronto (Feb. 17) and Brampton, Ont. (Feb. 20), this reggae revue pays tribute to Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Burning Spear, Marcia Griffiths and Jacob Miller in Waterloo. Hosted by Master T, Juno winner Exco Levi and Andrew Tosh are among the performers.
Black History Month Mini-Talks
Beginning with a talk about Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, this three-part series traces the history of racism against Black Canadians.
Afro Prairie Film Festival
It's the first Black-centric film festival in all of Western Canada, and it happens in Winnipeg. The 2018 edition will welcome special guests including Amandine Gay, Charles Officer and Charles Burnett.
Black History Month Film Screenings
All February, Metro's programme is marking Black History Month. Look for screenings of The Brother from Another Planet, Unarmed Verses and Charles Bradley: Soul of America.
What (Black) Life Requires
Part of Mile Zero Dance's Dirt Buffet Cabaret, the show explores Black life through poetry, live music and all sorts of dance — modern, contemporary, ballet, Afrobeat and hip hop.
One Night in Harlem - 5 Artists 1 Love
Every year, local musicians come together to trace the evolution of Black music in North America, but 2018's special focus is the Harlem Renaissance. Hear tunes from 1922 through the 2000s.
Kapwani Kiwanga: A Wall is Just a Wall (and Nothing More At All)
Feb. 3 - May 6
In this exhibition, Hamilton-born artist Kapwani Kiwanga takes her inspiration from the poem "Affirmation" by Black Power freedom fighter Assata Shakur to explore how environments impact the behaviour of individuals and communities.
Unganisha Dance Theatre Showcase
Tap, jazz, hip hop, samba, capoeira and step dancing: they all have roots in the African diaspora. This event will show you their origins, while introducing you to local dance talent.
Black History Month Exhibition
Feb. 17 - March 2
An exhibition of photography, illustration and paintings by Black artists living in the lower mainland of B.C.
In this original installation, local artist Nanyamka Lewis puts the spotlight on mental health issues in Black communities.
Set in during war time in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lynn Nottage's Pulitzer Prize-winning play centres on a bar caught in the middle of the strife.
Freedom Singer Album Release
Freedom Singer, the debut solo album by Khari Wendell McClelland, is inspired by the freedom songs he believes his great-great-great grandmother may have heard when she arrived in Canada through the Underground Railroad. For this album release show, the gospel singer is joined by The Sojourners, Tonye Aganaba, Desiree Dawson and more.
African Fashion and Arts Movement
A fashion show for emerging African designers from around the country.
Ongoing to Feb. 11
A Pulitzer Prize-winning drama about rival brothers (and card sharps), the play is on now in Vancouver.
The Jazz Epistles
Abdullah Ibrahim was one of the original members of the legendary South African jazz band The Jazz Epistles and at this tribute concert, Ibrahim performs their music with special guest, New Orleans trumpeter Terence Blanchard.
Black History Month Film Screenings at VIFF
This year's BHM screening series includes Whose Streets, Félicité, Black Cop, Brown Girl Begins and more.