Voices of Freedom Festival Symposium

September 28, 2017 - 1-4pm

Niagara Historical Museum, Niagara-on-the-Lake

Join us for a symposium highlighting the "voices" featured in the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake's Voices of Freedom Park  scheduled to be completed in 2018.

Call the Niagara Historical Museum at 905-468-3912 to register. Free admission.

Natasha Henry

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Certified Free: Black Loyalists in Colonial Canada

The first freed Blacks in the colonies that would come to make up Canada, gained their freedom for their service to the British Crown during the American Revolution. Natasha Henry will discuss the migration and settlement of approximately 3, 000 Black Loyalists in early Canada to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Ontario, most of whom were recorded in the Book of Negroes. The Loyalist migration wave resulted in a sharp increase of Blacks held in bondage, creating contradicting social statuses between the enslaved and the recently freed. Ten years later, the Chloe Cooley incident ignited Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe to push for abolition, culminating in the passage of the 1793 Act to Limit Slavery, the first anti-slavery legislation in the British empire. Certified Free traces the pathways of slavery and freedom for the enslaved and Black Loyalists in early Canada.

Natasha Henry is an educator, historian, and award-winning author and curriculum developer. She has written several books including Firsts, which was awarded the 2014 Gold Medal Moonbeam Children's Book Award for Multicultural Non-Fiction as part of the Sankofa Black Heritage Collection, as well as Emancipation Day: Celebrating Freedom in Canada. Natasha has written a number of entries for the Canadian Encyclopedia on African Canadian history. She has developed the educational resources for several exhibits and web-based projects on the Black experience in Canada, including the CBC miniseries The Book of Negroes. Natasha is pursuing her PhD studies in History at York University, focusing in Black enslavement in early Ontario.

Nerene Virgin & Alan Smith

Was Canada saved by a race riot? 

Nerene Virgin and Alan Smith ask this question as they usher you through an era rattled by protest, rebellions and ethnic discord, Together, they pose questions and invite dialogue as they share a “Coloured” history of Upper Canada.

In the early 1800’s two young men fled north to escaped from slavery each believing that once on Canadian soil, he would be free. However, on arrival freedom showed itself to be elusive, misconceived and complex. The fugitives soon learned that safety from the miseries of bondage was, in fact, only the beginning of a broader fight for liberty.

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Nerene Virgin is a television personality recognised internationally for her work as a host, news anchor and actress. Nerene hosted “Eye On Toronto” at CTV and spent a decade as news anchor for both CBC National and International newscasts. She’s probably best known for her role as “Jodie” on TV Ontario’s internationally award-winning series “Today’s Special”. She has also played principal roles in several Canadian television series, commercials and in feature films alongside Billie D. Williams, Oscar Peterson and Sarah Polley, to name a few.

As a keynote speaker, Nerene shares her family and her own exceptional story. She is an author, educator and instructional designer. After decades spent in television and film, Nerene is now a consultant, working with teachers developing and implement strategies for embedding the history, culture and accomplishments of Black Canadians in the day to day curricula of elementary and secondary students. She began her career as a teacher and is certified in Special Education (the intellectually gifted) and as a teacher of English as a Second Language she taught in Inner Mongolia.

Nerene writes biographies of Black North Americans for Historica Canada’s online Canadian Encyclopedia. She serves as a Public Appointee on the Executive of the Council of Ontario’s College of Early Childhood Educators and on Hamilton’s Committee Against Racism. Nerene is the recipient of the both the John C. Holland and Illuminescence Awards for her professional achievements and community service. 

In 2016, Nerene Virgin was named one of 100 Accomplished Canadian Black Women.

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Alan Smith is an educator and researcher who spent more than 30 years with the Toronto and Hamilton Wentworth School Boards.

During his teaching career in Toronto, Alan served as an Educational Officer with TV Ontario. A McMaster University alumni, Alan earned three degrees specialising in Education and Physiology. He spent decades teaching physical education, science and mathematics. Alan is also certified as a teacher of English as a Second Language and taught in Inner Mongolia.

Alan is an instructional designer developing educational programmes and training teachers to craft and implement strategies for embedding the history, culture and accomplishments of Black Canadians in the day to day curricula of elementary and secondary students.

 As a historical researcher, Alan unearths the stories of African North Americans whose lives and achievements have been overlooked, understated, or misrepresented. The results of his research are displayed in museums in Canada and the United States.

Alan works collaboratively with college professors, historians and librarians across Canada and the U.S. Alan is presently working with the online Canadian Encyclopedia researching biographies of remarkable Canadians of African descent.

Donna Ford

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Donna Ford is the President of Central Ontario Network for Black History. The network was established in 2002 and is a partnership of individuals and Black Historic local sites and Museums. The network is dedicated to raising awareness of African Canadian History. We also partner with other organizations in Ontario who share the same mission. Donna also does research on early Black Settlers who as Runaway Slaves arrived during the Underground Railroad era, and settled in St. Catharines and Niagara region.

Donna Ford will speak about Richard Pierpoint. The story of Richard Pierpoint encompasses his life as a child slave brought from Senegal in West Africa across the Atlantic Ocean to the United States. He became a soldier in the Revolutionary War in the United States and fought in the War of 1812 in Canada. In the latter stages of his life, he was a leader in the community.