Black history murals in Sandwich Towne find new home in Paterson Park
'It's incredibly important to see that representation,' community advocate Teajai Travis says
Some murals depicting Windsor's black history are back on public display — more than a year after they were saved from destruction in the city's west end.
The murals honouring prominent people in the city's black community were removed from the wall of a grocery store in Sandwich Towne after it closed two years ago.
Now, after lengthy consultations with the public, the murals have resurfaced at Paterson Park.
"It's incredibly important to see that representation," said Teajai Travis, a community advocate.
"When they disappeared from their previous location, there was quite a discourse into what might happen with the murals. The way that the community came together in a grassroots way to really advocate for that piece of history, it's amazing."
The 16 paintings depict historical black figures such as Alton C. Parker and Mary Ann Shadd.
According to Ward 2 Coun. Fabio Costante, after the grocery store closed, the city took possession of the murals at that time. Initially, two people had taken the murals down off the west wall of the Westside Foods grocery store building fearing the new owner of the building was not going to keep them.
Costante said that the two big takeaways that came out of the consultation process with the community was that residents wanted to see the murals remain in Sandwich Towne — and "featured prominently" in the neighbourhood.
He said that there was no better or more visible location than Paterson Park.
"As you go through the roundabout under the Sandwich Towne arch entrance, the first thing you'll see are the murals that are featured here," Costante said.
"It's a great way to tell our story, and for those who may not know Sandwich Towne's story and the people of Sandwich Towne and the history of Sandwich Towne, it gives them an obvious location to maybe pique their curiosity and say, 'Hey, what are these murals about? Who are these people?"
Costante added many of the individuals featured resided in the community of Sandwich Towne, one of the gateways of the Underground Railroad, and that many of their descendents still live in the area.
"They themselves were the ones that said, 'We should keep them in Sandwich,'" he said.
Travis said he's confident the community cares about the history and the people surrounding the murals will make sure they stay safe.
"The ancestors have been in these historic lands for so long, and to be able to drive by, celebrate, pay homage to the portraits of the people that are up there, it's extremely important to the community, and it really adds to the story of Sandwich Towne," he said.
Costante explained the idea is to keep the murals in their new location for as long as possible.
"We hope that this is the beginning of many other types of murals and public art that we could feature here at Paterson Park and all throughout Sandwich Towne," he said.
"As folks are walking through the community, there's murals all throughout the neighbourhood, and this could be kind of a starting point or an end point however you look at it, as part of the trail."
A community celebration for the murals is expected to happen sometime in February.
With files from Windsor Morning & Sanjay Maru