Emancipation Day St. Catharines began today in front of the city hall with the raising of the Pan-African Flag. The ceremony is one of the weekend activities to mark the event.
Emancipation Day is August 1. Voted unanimously by the House of Commons, It was the actual day in 1834 that the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 came into effect across the British Empire.
Chris Bittle, MP St. Catharines said, “It is fundamentally important for us to say slavery also happened in Canada. Even when emancipation happened, the impact of slavery did no stop there and it continued to this day.”
“Commemoration is important but it is also fundamental for us to acknowledge systemic racism, anti-black racism that exist in Canada, and to take action.
“As we have municipal elections coming up, we should ask our candidates, ‘what are you going to do about it?’”
Erika Smith acknowledges the injustices meted to the Indigenous community across Canada and the need for fulfillment of all recommendations towards reconciliation. “The trauma our indigenous peoples have endured as a result of colonization and residential school system has had everlasting effects on their communities,” she noted.
Walter Sendzik, Mayor of St. Catharines, said two years ago was a catalytic moment for communities to come together on reawakening of Emancipation Day.
He was referencing the death of Black American – George Floyd who died when a police officer kneeled on his neck during arrest.
The large protests in St. Catharines over the tragic death of George Floyd led to discussions on how the communities can create space and come together to commemorate Black heritage in the area.
Mayor Sendzik is not seeking reelection in the next municipal election in October.
Emancipation Day 2021 was virtual because of the restriction on mass congregation due to COVID-19 pandemic.
Erika Smith, Natasha Bell and Jaida Steenhuis, were hosting virtual and hybrid celebrations during the two years of pandemic.
Activities for the weekend include; outdoor vendor market, performance by SHAD – Canadian rapper and Summer of Soul Film Screening.
Other events marking 2022Emancipation Day weekend are; Open House SalemChapel – BME Church, Tour Talk with Tubman Tours facilitated by Rochelle Bush, music and picnic at Lakeside Park, drumming performance by Alpha Rhythm Roots, DJ Rennie, Poet- Dwayne Morgan and Niagara’s funk and soul band LMT Connection.
The celebration is courtesy of Matter of Black, Black Owned 905, FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre , and the City of St. Catharines.