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Toronto History Museums launches new virtual Awakenings art projects for Black History Month

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Today, Mayor John Tory announced new online content for the Awakenings program at the Toronto History Museums for Black History Month, which includes music, film discussions on the effects of racism on physical and mental health and a new artist mentorship program.

Mayor Tory was joined by Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson (Scarborough Centre), Chair of the City’s Economic and Community Development Committee, as well as Weyni Mengesha, Artistic Director at Soulpepper Theatre Company, Kardinal Offishall, renowned Canadian rapper, record producer and record executive, Roger Mooking, Food Network and Cooking Channel host, chef and recording artist, and John Wiggins, Vice President, Organizational Culture and Inclusion for the Toronto Raptors.

Launched in December 2020, Awakenings is a series of art projects by Black, Indigenous and artists of colour, operating under the principles of anti-oppression, anti-colonialism and anti-racism. The series is part of the City’s efforts to address anti-Black racism.

“This year’s Black History Month celebrations, including new programming for Awakenings, are more important than ever as we acknowledge Black History Month and the commitment we have to addressing anti-Black racism in the city,” said Mayor John Tory. “Awakenings is our way of building a more inclusive and equitable arts and culture sector, while giving artists the opportunity to showcase their talent. I encourage residents to participate in Awakenings to learn more and to better understand the history of our country and the role Black Canadians have played in it and continue to play today,” said Mayor Tory.

In July 2020, the City committed more than $1.2 million in cultural and economic investments to confront anti-Black racism. The City’s Confronting Anti-Black Racism unit and Economic Development and Culture division have developed opportunities such as Awakenings to increase support for Toronto’s Black creative communities.

“We are in a revolutionary place of change, where culture can be created with a more equitable, honest and racially inclusive lens. Music is one of the most important forms of storytelling, and Freedom Heights (A Song for Joshua Glover) could reach audiences that don’t know the story of this man, and by extension our country. For them, it could truly be an awakening.”

Freedom Heights (A Song for Joshua Glover), 2021. Rendering of Jully Black by AVA Animation

Kitchen Concerts at the Inn
Kitchen Concerts at the Inn is a music series celebrating life and honouring the story of Joshua Glover, a freedom seeker who escaped enslavement in the United States and then lived and worked at Montgomery’s Inn. Kitchen Concerts at the Inn is co-curated by Soulpepper Theatre Artistic Director Weyni Mengesha, with the participation of DJ, scholar and curator Mark V. Campbell.

Kitchen Concerts at the Inn Chapter I launches with a powerful lyric video for “Freedom Heights (A song for Joshua Glover), ” which reflects on Joshua Glover’s fight for freedom. Performed by Jully Black, Susan Carol, Savannah Ré, Emanuel, and Kardinal Offishall, this song of revolution, empowerment and resistance brings an awakening during current times of social and racial injustice.

The message of “Freedom Heights (A song for Joshua Glover)” will be amplified with the Toronto Raptors as a new song that champions Joshua Glover’s story of inspiration, resilience and strength. Proceeds from “Freedom Heights (A song for Joshua Glover)” on all digital platforms will be donated to NIA Centre for the Arts. NIA Centre is building Canada’s first professional multi-disciplinary Black arts centre.

“We are in a revolutionary place of change, where culture can be created with a more equitable, honest and racially inclusive lens. Music is one of the most important forms of storytelling, and Freedom Heights (A Song for Joshua Glover) could reach audiences that don’t know the story of this man, and by extension our country. For them, it could truly be an awakening,” said John Wiggins, Vice President of Organizational Culture and Inclusion, Toronto Raptors.

We Were Always Here
World-renowned director Julien Christian Lutz pka Director X, mentors 10 emerging Toronto-based Black, Indigenous and people of colour filmmakers to present short films that aim to disrupt, discover and display colonial narratives. Each of the filmmakers focuses on one of the 10 Toronto History Museums to bring to light untold stories. Five films were released in December 2020. Four new films will be released in February including: Lanes (filmed at Mackenzie House); Fuyuzakura (researched and partly filmed at Gibson House); Mission Sankofa Awakening (filmed at Montgomery’s Inn); EMPIRE (Scarborough Museum) launch this month.

Behind the Curtain

Awakenings Reflections: Behind the Scenes Discussions
Roger Mooking collaborates with award-winning producer Byron Wong on a series of eye-opening interviews with mental health experts, social justice advocates, cultural leaders and culinary peers. New videos include: Feel Good with Dr. Kamala Uzzell and Julien Christian Lutz pka Director X, and Live from the Barbecue with pitmasters Rodney Scott and Matt Horn.

Behind the Curtain
For the first time, Roger Mooking is sharing his personal truth in “Behind the Curtain”. In conversation with award-winning alternative hip-hop recording artist and broadcaster Shad, and a prominent producer and multidisciplinary artist Byron Kent Wong, Roger reflects on the effects of racism on mental health and shares untold stories of his experiences growing up in the Prairies and working in the American South.

Awakenings Artist Mentorship Program Open Call
In partnership with Soulpepper Theatre Company , the Awakenings Artist Mentorship program is accepting applications. The mentorship will include five artists from Soulpepper 2021 Academy and five artists that are to be chosen through this open call selection process. The artists will create site specific work for each of the 10 Toronto History Museums. Soulpepper’s Artistic Director Weyni Mengesha , dub poet and decolonial scholar d’bi.young anitafrika and choreographer Esie Mensah will mentor 10 performance artists. Artists working in theatre, performance, dance and interdisciplinary practices, with strong interest in site-specific work, are invited to apply online . The application deadline is February 25 at 11:59 p.m.

About Toronto History Museums
Toronto History Museums are a group of 10 museums owned and operated by the City of Toronto that bring Toronto’s history to life for residents and visitors. They include Colborne Lodge, Fort York National Historic Site, Gibson House Museum, Mackenzie House, Market Gallery, Montgomery’s Inn, Scarborough Museum, Spadina Museum, Todmorden Mills and Zion Schoolhouse. More information is available at toronto.ca/museums, or follow Toronto History Museums on Twitter at twitter.com/TOHistory , on Instagram at instagram.com/TOHistoryMuseums , on Facebook at facebook.com/TOHistoryMuseums and on YouTube at youtube.com/TOHistoryMuseums .

lead photo Freedom Heights (A Song for Joshua Glover), 2021. Rendering of Kardinal Offishall by AVA Animation City of Toronto

SOURCE City of Toronto

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