A cross-country guide to Black History Month events

An attempt to help you pack your calendar for the month of February and share some of the incredible things that are happening around the country as a result of the platform that is Black History Month.

Celebrating Canada's diversity from coast to coast

Jenny Salgado of Quebec hip-hop group Muzion appears on the Radio-Canada program Plus on est de fous, plus on lit! (Radio-Canada/Christian Côté)

I have a complicated relationship with Black History Month.

As a freelance artist, writer and host, this is the month when my talents and services are most sought out. I acknowledge these invitations with gratitude and seize these opportunities to creatively express, share, explore, discuss and teach.

As a lover of art, this is the month when my calendar explodes with things to do. I try to pack in as many exhibits, performances, fashion shows, installations, talks, film screenings and workshops as possible.  In part, it is an attempt to support numerous creative and brilliant friends, but mostly I do it from a desire to immerse myself in art created by bodies rarely found in these spaces before and after February.

In the midst of dashing from lecture to exhibit I frequently wonder why all that I witness in February cannot also easily find platforms throughout the rest of the year. I often think of something that legendary African Canadian playwright and director Djanet Sears wrote back in 1997: "I have a dream. A dream that one day in the city where I lie, at any given time of the year, I will be able to find at least one play that is filled with people who look like me, telling stories about me, my family, my friends, my community. For most people of European descent, this is a privilege they take for granted." Almost 20 years later, that day has not yet come for me in Toronto.

However in the month of February, for better or worse, it is possible. This post is an attempt to help you pack your calendar for the month of February and share some of the incredible things that are happening around the country as a result of the platform that is Black History Month.  This list is by no means comprehensive and there are many parts of the country where I failed (not for lack of trying) to find out what was going on. So I invite you to share more in the comments below.


An Evening Celebrating Black Women in Canada
Feb. 11
Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, 1055 Marginal Rd.

An evening of storytelling and music in celebration of the spirit of black women in Canada. Featuring El Jones, Wanda Robson, Sylvia Hamilton, Dr. Wanda Thomas Bernard, Shauntay Grant, Honourable Tony Ince

They Fought to Fight: Honouring the No. 2 Construction Batallion
Feb. 13
Halifax North Memorial Public Library, 2285 Gottingen

2016 is the 100th Anniversary of the formation of the No. 2 Construction Battalion, the first and only Black Battalion in Canadian military history. These trail blazers broke down colour barriers as they fought for freedom. This program will honour their achievements with film, song, and words. Featuring a performance by the Nova Scotia Mass Choir, a screening of the film Honor Before Glory, and a discussion with local historians

Lift Every Voice: African Heritage Month Showcase
Feb. 17
Halifax Central Library, 5440 Spring Garden Rd.

This gala performance proudly presents a line-up of stars from the African Nova Scotian music community. Come enjoy the sounds and styles of Owen Lee, Des Adams, Keonte Beals, NBM Praise Team, Chelsea Amber, and Reeny Smith

Nova Scotia-born actor and playwright Walter Borden. (Stratford Festival)

An Evening with Walter Borden
Feb. 24
Halifax North Memorial Public Library, 2285 Gottingen

We are delighted to welcome this honoured actor, poet, and playwright back to Halifax as a special guest for African Heritage Month. He will explore various topics in conversation with friends as well as share some of his own poetry. It is a special evening, not to be missed. Walter Borden is a native of New Glasgow who has performed with Neptune Theatre and in many other stage productions across Canada. In 2006, he became a member of the Order of Canada


Four Brown Girls present Blaxpo
Jan. 30-31
Elevation and Co., 1211 Bourassa

An interactive exhibition of black owned businesses, panel discussions and art installations

Fro Festival 2016
Feb. 4-6
Theatre Corona, 2490 Notre-Dame W.

Featuring community organizer, freelance journalist and hip-hop activist Rosa Clemente, the theatrical production of Flash Nude and a performance by Muzion​


Zun Lee: Fade Resistance
Feb. 1-28
Gladstone Hotel, 2nd Floor Gallery, 1214 Queen W.

An archival project that seeks to restore the narrative impact of thousands of found African American vernacular Polaroid photographs. Opening reception and Launch party on Feb 5th featuring Cadence Weapon. Panel discussion Feb 7th  featuring Zun Lee, Maikoiyo Alley-Barnes, Julie Crooks, Sophie Hackett, Liz Ikiriko and Kenneth Montague

Pixelation Art Exhibit
Feb. 1-Mar. 1
OCAD University, 100 McCaul

An exhibit interrogating the ways in which a contemporary art and design perpetuate or challenge anti-blackness at OCADU. Opening ceremony Feb. 3 featuring DJ Lido Pimienta. Panel Feb. 24 featuring Syrus Marcus Ware, Theresa Hopkins and Jordan Veira

An Evening Celebrating Black Women in Canada
Feb. 2
Toronto Reference Library, Bram and Bluma Appel Salon, 789 Yonge

An evening of storytelling and music in celebration of the spirit of Black women in Canada. Featuring Jully Black, Cameron Bailey, Kandyse McClure, Trey Anthony, d'bi young anitafrika, Cauchy Muamba and Tiffany Ford

Black Future Month 3016
Feb. 3-20

A professional curated platform dedicated to showing work of artists who identify as being of African descent to explore the infinite expressions of Afrofuturism, black speculative fiction, Afro-Surrealism and more. Black Future Month consists of a series of events and exhibits:

Opening Reception and Exhibit
Feb. 3, OCAD Student Union, 205 Richmond

Black Fractals Call and Response Conference
Feb. 7, Ada Slaight Gallery, Room 190, 100 McCaul
A conference on how art can be used as a tool for activism, liberation and decolonization

Black Men in Theatre
Feb. 19-20
A theatre festival showcasing 6 contemporary play creators and actors performing works-in-progress. Featuring Jordan Laffrenier, Dennis Langley, Luke Reece and Richard Stuwart.

Friday Night Live at the ROM Encore: One Love
Feb. 5
Royal Ontario Museum, 100 Queens Park

A tribute to Bob Marley featuring GUMBO Afrofusion dance class, "Water Carry Me Go" fashion-art installation and DJ Jason Palma. There is also a GUMBO after-party happening at Tattoo.

Film Screening: RasTa: A Soul's Journey
Feb. 5
Royal Ontario Museum, Signy and Cléophée Eaton Theatre, 100 Queens Park

This film tells the story of the journey of Rita and Bob Marley's granddaughter Donisha Prendergast takes to eight countries to explore the roots, evolution and impact of Rastafari

Harbourfront's Kuumba Festival 
Feb. 5-7
Harbourfront Centre, 235 Queens Quay W.

Description: Explores the theme of "Black Like We" through music, discussion, comedy, dance and family activities. Featuring Jalal Nurrudin, Women in Hip Hop Showcase, Black wRites Matter poetry performances, Soul on Ice documentary screening, Black Like She women in comedy showcase and more.

Monomyths: Stage 5/Thoroughbred by Jefferson Pinder
Feb. 7
Theatre Centre, 1115 Queen W.

An exploration of black captivity and the subjugation of black bodies through performance art and treadmills

Before the 6ix
Feb. 10
Toronto Reference Library, Atrium, 789 Yonge

A panel discussion explores the pre-Drake Toronto music scene and the artists that helped to shape it. Featuring CBC Music's Del Cowie, DJ Agile, DJX, DJ Melboogie and Saukrates​

Toronto Black Film Festival
Feb. 10-14
Isabel Bader Theatre, 93 Charles W., and Carlton Cinema, 20 Carlton

A showcase of powerful black films while creating a space to debate major cultural, social and socioeconomic issues. Featuring a tribute to Alfre Woodard and the films Thina Sobabili and The Black Panthers: The Vanguard of the Revolution as well as master classes with Trey Anthony and Clement Virgo.

Activist Love Letters at the AGYU
Feb. 11
Art Gallery of York University (AGYU), York University, 8 Accolade East Building, 4700 Keele

A participatory performance by Syrus Marcus Ware encouraging us to think about our role in sustaining movements and supporting communities. Featuring spoken word poetry from Zeinab Aidid, Nasim Asgari and Kareem Bennett

I Love Being Black by Najla Nubyanluv Children's Book Launch
Feb. 13
Watah, 9 Trinity St., #317, Artscape Distillery Studios, Toronto Distillery Historic District

Launch for a colourful clay illustrated story by Najla Nubyanluv, following two sisters as they share the joy of what they love about being black

Venus' Daughter by Meghan Swaby​
Feb. 14-28​
Obsidian Theatre, Theatre Centre, 1115 Queen W.

A play by Meghan Swaby about the intersection of myths, fables and the realities of how women and their bodies are viewed. Inspired by the life Sara Baartman (Hottentot Venus), Venus' Daughter peels back the layers of pop culture obsession with the Black female form and the silence around the infamous figure, uncovering her connection to a young woman almost 200 years after her death

Marlon James, the first Jamaican winner of the prestigious Man Booker Prize for fiction. (Alastair Grant/Associated Press)

Marlon James talk at Toronto Public Library
Feb. 18
Toronto Reference Library, Bram and Bluma Appel Salon, 789 Yonge

The celebrated Jamaican novelist and 2015 Man Booker Prize winner talks with Toronto International Film Festival artistic director Cameron Bailey.

Anti-Black Racism Network Conference
Feb. 18-20
Ryerson University, 350 Victoria St. (Pod 250)

A conference on the theme of Criminalization, Community and Resistance. Starting with the Inaugural Akua Benjamin Lecture honouring the late black leaders Marlene Green, Charles Roach, Dudley Laws, Gwen and Lenny Johnston and Rosie Douglas.

The Music Gallery presents Val-Inc + Witch Prophet + The New Black: Challenging Musical Tropes
Feb. 20
The Music Gallery, 197 John St.

Show and panel discussion with black artists who create stereotype-challenging art. Featuring Val-Inc, Witch Prophet, Garvia Bailey and Amanda Parris

KANDAKE – of Sword and Pen: Black Womxn's Art and Resistance
Feb. 20
Daniels Spectrum, 585 Dundas E.

A celebration of the visual and performance art works of black womxn [sic]

Queering Black History Month
Feb. 20
Ryerson Student Centre, 55 Gould

An event that aspires to re-insert the lives, experiences and achievements of queer and trans African, Black and Caribbean people

The Watah Theatre's Audre Lorde Works-in-Progress Festival
Feb. 22-28
Watah, 9 Trinity St., #317, Artscape Distillery Studios, Toronto Distillery Historic District

Featuring theatrical works-in-progress from Bakari I. Lindsay, Raven Dauda,

Black Diamond Ball
Feb. 26
Design Exchange, 234 Bay

Celebrating art, music and fashion of African and Caribbean cultures. Featuring Jully Black, Maestro Fresh Wes, Ray Robinson, Gary Beals and Carlos Morgan


Ekow Nimako appears at the Art Gallery of Mississauga's Intergalactic Noise. (CBC Arts)

Intergalactic Noise at the Art Gallery of Mississauga
Feb. 26
Art Gallery of Mississauga, 300 City Centre Dr.

A reception and panel to explore the concept of Afrofuturism and imagine utopic Black realities beyond the assigned month. Featuring Amanda ParrisCamille Turner, Ekow Nimako and Quentin Vercetty


Century Song by Neema Bickersteth
Feb. 2-6
PuSH International Performing Arts Festival, The Cultch, 1895 Venables

A show about 100 years of black female experience in Canada through opera and dance


Alexander Family and other Early Vancouver Island Pioneers
Feb. 11

Victoria Public Library - Uptown Branch, 101-3521 Blanshard

Descendant Karen Hoshal of the Alexander pioneer family shares stories and information on her personal ancestors and other British Columbia black pioneers

B.C. Black History and Heritage Day
Feb. 13
​Wingate Studio in the Baumann Centre, 925 Balmoral

University of British Columbia professor Handel Wright presents "Did you say 'Black' British Columbia? The Politics of Absent Presence between the Black Pioneers and Present Day African Refugees, plus displays, information and artifacts

Ross Bay Cemetery Tour
Feb. 21
Ross Bay Cemetery – Meet in front of Oregano's in Fairfield, 1516 Fairfield

A guided tour of the graves of the black pioneers who are buried there

Victoria African and Caribbean Cultural Society present Black History Month Community Awards Ceremony and Gala
Feb. 27
Cedar Hill Recreation Center, auditorium, 3220 Cedar Hill Rd.

A gala night of entertainment, light dining, awards ceremony and dancing to celebrate community accomplishments

Blues, Jazz Concert and Tribute to Miffle Gibbs
Feb. 29
Belfry Theatre, 1291 Gladstone Av.

Featuring performances from Maureen Washington and Justin Carter

Did we miss an event you're looking forward to? Let us know on Twitter @CBCArts or in the comments below!


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?