Voices of Freedom Festival
Bravo Niagara!'s Voices of Freedom Festival was born out of a desire to give voice to underrepresented histories and peoples.
Since 2015, the Voices of Freedom Festival has commemorated and celebrated the cultural contributions of people of African descent. In recognition of the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024), the Festival highlights Niagara's significant Black history, fosters intercultural dialogue, and highlights the ongoing journey to freedom through the arts. The annual Festival includes inspiring musical performances, educational symposia, lectures, and interactive programming for youth. Past Voices of Freedom Festival artists include Richard Bona, Measha Brueggergosman, Wycliffe Gordon, Diana Braithwaite, Harrison Kennedy, and more.
The 2019 Voices of Freedom Festival programming will be announced in August - stay tuned!
History of the Voices of Freedom Festival
In 2015, the inaugural Voices of Freedom Festival received endorsement from the UNESCO Slave Route Project for highlighting the cultural interactions born out of slavery and the slave trade. Further in connection to the festival, Lieutenant Governor Dowdeswell presented Bravo Niagara!'s Executive Director Alexis Spieldenner with the Lincoln M. Alexander Award at Queen's Park in 2017. This award is presented to youth who have demonstrated strong leadership in eliminating racial discrimination and promoting positive social change.
I wish to congratulate you for your initiative which will showcase the musical interactions generated by the slave trade and slavery. This festival will pay tribute to the resistance and resilience of Enslaved People and highlight their contribution to modern societies. Your project is in line with the UNESCO Slave Route project's objectives and will contribute to the International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024).
-Ali Moussa-Iye, Chief, History and Memory for Dialogue Section, UNESCO
“It is my distinct pleasure to join Ontarians in celebrating these remarkable recipients of the Lincoln M. Alexander Award. These young leaders have demonstrated commitment, creativity, and dedication to social justice as they lead the way towards an ever more inclusive society that is accepting of diversity. In this special year for Canada, I encourage everyone to look to their example as we continue working hard to break down barriers.”
-The Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell
Lieutenant Governor of Ontario
Voices of Freedom Award
The Voices of Freedom Award was established by Bravo Niagara! in 2018 to recognize and honour Canadians who have given voice to underrepresented histories and peoples and who have supported inclusivity and cultural diversity. The selected recipients are long-time champions of civil rights and have promoted social change across our nation, raising global awareness in the name of civil harmony. The 2018 recipients are Dr. Wilma Morrison, O Ont and Dr. Oliver Jones, OC, OQ.
CANADIAN CITIZENSHIP CEREMONY
As part of the 2018 Voices of Freedom Festival, Bravo Niagara! co-hosted a Canadian citizenship ceremony with Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) in partnership with the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre. Judge Rochelle Ivri presided over the ceremony and welcomed 20 new Canadian citizens from 16 different countries.
Voices of Freedom Park
Since 2016, Bravo Niagara! has also been involved with the development of the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Voices of Freedom Park. Voices of Freedom Park gives expression to the silenced and forgotten stories of people of African descent, enslaved, freed, and free, whose sacrifices, labour, skills, and talents contributed to the development of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Voices of Freedom permanently inscribes these Black men and women on the historical and cultural landscape of the town. The Voices of Freedom Park was unveiled during the 2018 Voices of Freedom Festival, and the educational walking tour app was launched in summer 2019.