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Guelph Black Heritage Society celebrates Emancipation Day (12 photos)

Event in Exhibition Park features dancing, drumming food and spoken word

The Guelph Black Heritage Society was joined by roughly 150 supporters Saturday at their Emancipation Day Jamboree at Exhibition Park.

The two-hour event featured tribal drumming, Soca dancing, spoken word performances and speeches.

"We celebrate Emancipation Day to commemorate the continued struggle for freedom of Black people in Canada and throughout the African diaspora," said event emcee Alexis Charles in opening the event.

"When Canadians talk about slavery we often point with pride at the role our country played as a safe haven for enslaved people escaping captivity via the underground railroad. Too often we see racism and prejudice as an American problem and boast of Canada's ethical superiority.

"We continue to erase Black Canadian and Indigenous narratives from our collective consciousness. The history books did not teach us about the enduring legacies of Indigenous genocide and African enslavement in Canada.

"They did not teach us about Africville, a Black community in Halifax that was systematically destroyed, forcing residents out of the neighbourhood that they came to know and love.

"They don't tell us about Viola Desmond, an African-Canadian businesswoman who refused to give up her seat at a whites-only section of a Nova Scotian movie theatre.

"They don't tell us about the sleeping car porters, Black men who worked for the Canadian Railway Company in the 1940s who started a union to combat the racism they experienced from the white passengers and coworkers.

"They don't tell us that Guelph in particular was home to many Black refugees that fled from enslavement. And that the church that the GBHS is based out of served as a safe place for Canadians seeking refuge and community in Guelph."

Charles finished her opening with a call for people to support the call for an apology from the federal government for Canada's role in slavery and to make Emancipation Day recognized federally, not just provincially.