History Museums Launch New Program to Address Lack of Representation in Toronto Stories


Toronto’s 10 History Museums have launched a new program that aims to address the lack of representation in stories about the city.

The program, called Awakenings, is a virtual series of art projects by Black, Indigenous and Color artists. The projects will be published in stages over the next two years.

This month, the city will be posting three art projects online, along with behind-the-scenes discussions called Awakenings Reflections.

In a press release on Monday, the city said the Toronto History Museums Program, a group of 10 city-owned and operated museums that aim to bring Toronto’s history to life, is among its attempts to combat anti-black racism.

Art projects will explore stories that haven’t been told, attempt to awaken new perspectives in viewers, and invite audience members to discuss what they see and feel in response to the artwork, the city says. .

Toronto Mayor John Tory said in the statement that the city is committed to investing in BIPOC artists not only to show support for their work, but also to deepen awareness of untold stories and to create the change.

“The Toronto History Museums’ Awakenings program helps fill identified gaps in programming and performance,” said Tory.

“Now is the time to invest and create change as we strive to confront and eradicate anti-black racism and all forms of racism in the many facets of our city.”

The city said in the statement that Toronto’s history museums have recognized the need to reassess the way they develop, deliver and evaluate their programming.

“In line with calls to action from Truth and Reconciliation Commissions in the museum sector, Toronto history museum sites are embracing partnerships that embody Indigenous voices, stories and knowledge in programming, collections and sites, ”the city said.

“The Awakenings program is starting to fill the void of representation in the stories of Toronto’s history.”

According to the city, more than 80% of those involved in Awakenings’ art projects are from black and indigenous communities as well as people of color.

“The film industry is still a very white place,” director says

Julien Christian Lutz, better known as Director X, said Awakenings will present a more authentic version of Toronto history.

“We’ve always been here… Black, Indigenous, multigenerational immigrants and people of color were always there, as were heritage sites; it will be a real wake-up call to Toronto’s invisible history and our stories that need to be told, ”he said.

A scene from Reverence by Teaunna Gray. The city says, “While digging deep into the city’s past, Gray’s Reverence questions the finds that are held in veneration. For three days in September 1851, St. Lawrence Hall in Toronto was the site of the largest anti-slavery convention in history. In the wake of the abolition of slavery in the United States and 20 years after its end in Canada, black leaders and educators came together to discuss a question: “What is the future of black people in North America?” North? “ (Submitted by the City of Toronto)

He added that there is talent in Toronto that needs to be cultivated and black youth don’t get the opportunities they should because the doors are often closed.

“The film industry is still a very white place,” he said.

“Some of the whitest theaters I’ve ever been in are on Canadian sets, Canadian ad agencies, Canadian TV shows. It’s frankly shameful how much they’ve excluded people of color. . “

Lutz says the situation is different in the music industry. Young people of color put Toronto on the map, he says, citing Drake and The Weeknd as examples.

“You walk into these conference rooms, and none of it is there. None of the diversity you see on the streets is in the conference room. The Canadian creative industry should be ashamed of the whiteness of these spaces in a city like this. We have to do the work to change that. “

Esie Mensah, a choreographer, agreed, “Our stories have been left out of the global narrative for centuries. We have to move forward in healing and strengthening our truths in order to achieve a true sense of fairness and most importantly unit. “

The launch of Awakenings is a “great day” for the city, according to Cheryl Blackman, director of museums and heritage services for the city.

“It means to me and to my colleagues and our partners that Awakenings has come to life for Toronto and that we can begin a journey and a dialogue to include the voices of all community members in our spaces,” she said. declared.

Toronto Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson, who represents Scarborough Center, said Awakenings will bring new perspectives through what he called “diversity-based” art forms.

“Museums work with creative people from Black, Indigenous, Colored, New Canadians and multigenerational immigrant communities to reshape cultural perspectives, encourage self-reflection and promote accountability,” said Thompson.

A scene from Un portrait en rouge. Town Says: “Reflecting on the history and geography of Todmorden Mills, this experimental short by Alex Lazarowich explores the relocation of the Don Valley River and the impact of land extraction on the Indigenous peoples of Tkaronto and Kanata. “ (Submitted by the City of Toronto)

The three online art projects released this month are: A revolution of love, Behind the curtain and We were still there.

“A revolution of love”

The city says A revolution of love is “a digital short film that follows a young black woman as she grapples with the story of her ancestors and the current violence ravaging her community, and begins to imagine what her future looks like through dance.”

It was filmed at Fort York National Historic Site.

‘Behind the curtain’

Behind the curtain is a conversation with Roger Mooking, Food Network host, award-winning restaurateur, author and recording artist.

The city says, “Mooking reflects on the effects of racism on mental health and shares his experiences growing up on the Canadian Prairies and working in the southern United States.” He talks to hip-hop artist and broadcaster Shad and multidisciplinary producer and artist Byron Kent Wong.

The first part will launch on Monday and the second part on January 12, 2021. It was filmed at Montgomery’s Inn.

“We were always there”

We were still there sees director Lutz mentor 10 emerging Toronto filmmakers from BlPOC to present short films that aim to “disrupt, uncover and display colonial narratives,” according to the city.

Each filmmaker focuses on a Toronto history museum to highlight untold stories. Five of those films will launch this month.

Toronto’s history museums include Colborne Lodge, Fort York National Historic Site, Gibson House Museum, Mackenzie House, Market Gallery, Montgomery Inn, Scarborough Museum, Spadina Museum, Todmorden Mills and the Zion school.

In July, the city allocated more than $ 1.2 million in cultural and economic funds to fight anti-black racism.

The city said its anti-black racism unit and its economic development and culture division had developed opportunities, including programs such as Awakenings, to increase support for black creative communities in Toronto.

For more stories about the experiences of black Canadians – from anti-black racism to success stories within the black community – check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.



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