On August 1, Emancipation Day is marked in countries around the world, recognizing the date the British Parliament abolished slavery throughout the British Empire in 1834.
Here in Kingston, the City has been working with local residents and community partners to “offer Emancipation Day programming in coming weeks that highlights Black history and celebrates Black people and cultures,” the City said in a press release on Wednesday, Jul. 20, 2022.
First recognized by the Government of Canada in 2021, this is the first time the City of Kingston has formally marked Emancipation Day, as Kingston City Council requested that it be recognized this year and moving forward “as a reminder of Canada’s history of enslaving people of African descent as well as Indigenous People,” according to the City. The City of Kingston also noted that Emancipation Day and the relevant programming here in Kingston is “an opportunity to celebrate the resilience and accomplishments of Black people in Kingston and beyond.
Dr. Aba Mortley, owner of Cher-Mère Day Spa here in Kingston and one of the community organizers behind Emancipation Day event and programming locally, said Emancipation holds many meanings for her as a Black immigrant woman in Canada.
“I am grateful to all the community members who have given of their time and energy, and to the City who has supported with care this first iteration of Emancipation Day events in Kingston,” she said in a statement.
“It is a culmination of education and celebration in a thoughtful series of activities that reflect, renew, acknowledge and celebrate the many layers that Emancipation may bring for people of colour.”
The programming for Kingston’s first formal acknowledgement of Emancipation Day has been developed “by the community, for the community, with the support of various partners,” the City of Kingston said. Programming will include live music, art exhibits, workshops, reading lists, and community gatherings. These are intended to “educate, celebrate, and reflect on Emancipation Day around themes of remembrance and resilience.
“The City is working with community partners to support Black Kingston residents to build community and foster an increased sense of belonging,” the City of Kingston stated in the release.
As such, City Hall will be illuminated on Monday, Aug, 1, 2022, in red, green, and gold – the pan-African colours.
“Recognizing Emancipation Day is about acknowledging our history of enslavement and segregation, and anti-Black racism and discrimination that continues today,” said Mayor Bryan Paterson. “Working with community partners to promote learning and to celebrate Black cultures is one important step we can take towards creating a more inclusive Kingston.”
More details on the programming and events that will be offered on Emancipation Day and the weeks that follow – including a Black Community Gathering in Lake Ontario Park on Sunday, Jul. 31, 2022, from 12 to 5 p.m. with games, music, storytelling, and more – visit the City of Kingston Emancipation Day webpage.