By Alexandra Few
February is Black History Month and is a time to honour the legacy of African American individuals, both past and present, as well as recognize the social injustices that continue to occur in society today. One way to acknowledge Black History Month is to stay informed, educated, and aware, and a great way to do this is through movies. Below are the top FIVE movie screenings in Toronto that you can attend during Black History Month.
1. Black Gold/Black Donnellys- Movie Double Feature with Q&A
This double feature screening of the movies Black Gold and Black Donnellys will be premiering February 23rd at the Royal Cinema in Toronto, from 7pm-9pm and tickets are $15. The writer and director, Aaron Hugget, describes how Black Gold is about “a former slave who came through the Underground Railroad, ending at Uncle Tom’s Cabin…he then made his way to the early oil fields where he faced significant racism.”
Black Donnellys, on the other hand, is about the history of the 1800s feud between the Donnelly family and the people who live in the town of Lucan, Ontario because of a land dispute that went sour. When asked why these movies are important to show during Black History Month, Aaron says: “It’s critical that we preserve the history through film, and shed a light on this difficulty early black settlers had to deal with. Canadians too, often think we were a haven for those formerly slaved, but the reality was very different.”
Aaron also believes it’s important to tell this story because the conversation about “the real conditions that early black settlers faced really isn’t happening in a meaningful way in Canada”. He says: “We seem to think we took the high road because we’re taught in school that we didn’t have legal slavery. Many Canadians believe that former slaves came here to Canada and lived happily ever after. The reality is that they faced extreme prejudice, poor working conditions, lower wages, and violent racism including a race riot in the oil fields as early as 1862. We hope to shed light on these struggles through the story of Ira Jackson who ‘worked as hard as any man’ and earned half the rate of pay as the white man next to him. Ira’s story is compelling, it’s courageous, and it must be told. Josiah Henson is an absolute icon of early Canada. He did so much to help former slaves find meaningful work, a home and community. His life and legacy should be celebrated.”
For more information about the event and how to get tickets, click here.
2. Queen of Katwe
Presented by the Toronto Public Library’s Riverdale location, on 370 Broadview Avenue in Toronto, the movie Queen of Katwe will be played on February 5th from 2:00pm-4:00pm. This free drop-in event is a part of the Black History Month series that the library organizes. For more information, check out their website
Rachelle Gooden- Senior Services Specialist at the Toronto Public Library, describes how “the library is proud to celebrate the many successes and achievements of Black Canadians while also remembering and recognizing the sacrifices that have been made by countless members of our Black community. We're thrilled to celebrate the city's diversity and invite Torontonians of all cultural backgrounds to learn more about the rich history and participate in events and programs at our 100 branches.”
3. 42, The Jackie Robinson Story
The Toronto Public Library is also screening the movie 42 at their Riverdale location on February 26th from 2:00pm-4:00pm. This movie highlights the first African American major league baseball player to be signed to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, but faced considerable racism in the process. This movie is also a free drop-in event and you can check out more information by clicking here.
4. Ninth Floor
At the Dufferin & St. Clair branch of the Toronto Public Library, the movie Ninth Floor is being screened on February 28th from 6:30pm-8:00pm. This movie highlights the Sir George Williams Riot, where a group of Caribbean students suspected their professor was exhibiting racism. It discusses Canadian race relations and the nation’s history. This is also a free, drop-in event. For more information click here.
5. Toronto Black Film Festival
From February 13th - 18th 2019 the Toronto Black Film Festival will be taking place, which highlights a variety of different films that have been independently submitted. The Toronto Black Film Festival, “showcases new voices in cinema and encourages audiences to see the world in new ways. In connecting black films with diverse audiences, we recognize the differences that make us unique while celebrating the shared values that bring us together.”
There are many great ways to honour Black History Month and staying informed on the issues that are relevant, is extremely important. Watching movies with a historical background is a great way to learn about the issues the Black community in Canada faced and is a way to support those involved.