Tuesday marked the start of Black History Month and the City of Toronto says it will celebrate virtually this year due to pandemic restrictions.
Toronto Mayor John Tory kicked off the campaign online to recognize Black history, heritage and contributions.
“Toronto became the first Canadian municipality to proclaim Black History Month in 1979, and since then, each February we use this opportunity to learn more about the history of Black Canadians and celebrate their many contributions to our city and our country,” Tory said in a news release on Monday.
“By being informed and recognizing the contributions and achievements of Toronto’s Black community we can continue to make our city more inclusive and equitable.”
The Toronto sign was lit red, black and green on Tuesday to mark the first day of Black History Month.
Colleen Russell-Rawlins, director of education for the Toronto District School Board, said the month is extremely important.
“Here at the TDSB, we have more than 30,000 students in our classrooms that identify as Black. African Heritage Month is a chance to ensure that their identities are represented, respected and understood,” she said.
Quentin VerCetty, an artist and educator with the Art Gallery of Ontario, said it’s important to celebrate Black achievement in art. The AGO is running a virtual program for students across the Greater Toronto Area on Thursday.
“It gives you a better understanding of why the artist may have created what they created and what went into the artwork and how to really read the work itself,” he said.
Several city agencies and organizations have organized activities and programs.
- Educators from Toronto History Museums will be speaking at the Art Gallery of Ontario’s Virtual School Programs, a series of live 30-minute virtual field trips on Feb. 3, 17 and 24 exploring moments in history inspired by Black Torontonians, including Joshua Glover and Mary Ann Shadd, and feature a discussion of an artwork from the AGO Collection and a mini-art-making activity.
- Toronto History Museums invites Torontonians to Awakenings, its Black History Month YouTube Playlist, which features short films and conversations with Black, Indigenous and artists of colour, operating under the principles of anti-oppression, anti-colonialism, and anti-racism.
- Toronto History Museums also pays tribute to some of the women who have made or are continuing to make important contributions to Toronto’s history in HerStory.
- The Toronto Archives’ Black History in Toronto webpage highlights the history of Black communities, activists and leaders, service organizations and much more.
- Parks, Forestry and Recreation is displaying, as of Tuesday, the “Did you know?” poster series at city facilities. The posters, painted by local youth artists, feature illustrations of notable Black figures and their contributions.
- Toronto Public Library celebrates Black History with year-round events and programs that honour Black heritage and consider the historical significance and contemporary contributions of Black activists and artists from around the world.
A listing of all Black History Month events and how to access them is available here.