City of Kingston marks Emancipation Day 2023 with community-led events

Photo illustration by Kingstonist.

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.

The City of Kingston is inviting everyone to recognize Emancipation Day this week with a number of community-led events taking place between July 27 and August 1. This year’s theme, Thriving in Colour, honours the resiliency of Kingston’s Black community in the face of ongoing anti-Black racism and discrimination, according to a release from the City.

First recognized by Canada’s federal government in 2021, this is the second year the City has formally marked Emancipation Day, after Kingston City Council asked that it be continued in 2022 and beyond as “a reminder of Canada’s history of enslaving people of African descent as well as Indigenous Peoples,” according to the release. The City of Kingston also noted that Emancipation Day and the relevant programming here in Kingston are “an opportunity to celebrate the resilience and accomplishments of Black people in Kingston and beyond.”

“The recognition of Emancipation Day in the city is a step toward dismantling anti-Black racism that is etched in the fabric of our communities,” said Vanessa Mensah, Acting Manager of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion for the City of Kingston. “It also allows each of us to pause, reflect and challenge dominant ideas that inform assumptions and stereotypes about the Black community. It causes us to rethink what we know and how we have been conditioned to see our history. With each step toward reconciliation, we celebrate the visibility, richness and inclusivity of Blackness in our communities.”

According to the City, this year’s programming has been developed by the community, for the community, with the support of various partners and sponsors. The programming and resources include live music, art, children’s programming, a Black block party, Black youth basketball drop-in, and more, and are intended to educate, celebrate, and reflect on Emancipation Day, centred around the theme of Thriving in Colour. Stories in the Square, Movies in the Square, and Rockin’ the Square will all offer relevant programming, and City Hall will be illuminated in red, green and gold, the pan-African colours, on Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2023, to mark Emancipation Day.

“Since starting the Black-owned business list on in 2020 during the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, I’ve been reflecting on ways to engage the community even further to support these incredible businesses and celebrate Black culture in Kingston,” said Tianna Edwards, community organizer and blogger. “I am so grateful to the many partners and sponsors who have been in full support of this big idea and have brought it to life. I am looking forward to seeing people who have been supporting the Black-owned business list virtually, show up in person at Confederation Park for the Black block party on July 29!”

Event details, community programming and resources can be found on the City’s website

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