Today, Mayor John Tory unveiled a new public art sculpture to commemorate abolitionist figure Joshua Glover, entitled Step Forward Into History, by Quentin VerCetty, a Black artist, storyteller and educator who was born and raised in Rexdale.
The Mayor was joined by VerCetty, Joel Winter, past President of the Etobicoke Historical Society, the local group that initiated the idea to recognize a notable local Black resident, Liza Chalaidopoulos, Chair of the Heritage Toronto Board of Directors, Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson (Scarborough Centre), Chair of the Economic Development and Culture committee, and local Councillor and Deputy Mayor Stephen Holyday (Etobicoke Centre) at Joshua Glover Park.
Glover arrived in Canada in 1854 via the Underground Railroad after escaping slavery in the United States. After settling in Lambton Mills, Etobicoke, he was employed at Montgomery’s Inn, now a Toronto History Museum, and his story helped to propel the abolitionist movement.
The new Joshua Glover Park, where the sculpture is located, is a City park in the final stages of construction as part of the Kingsway by the River development. The Etobicoke Historical Society was instrumental in the naming of the park.
VerCetty’s sculpture draws on composite events of Glover’s life through the lens of Afrofuturism. He depicts Glover as a charismatic Victorian gentleman who gazes confidently into the future while throwing away the crushing chains of slavery with his mutilated cyborg arm. Glover clutches his freedom papers and books to his chest recognizing that knowledge will set him free and provide the power and spiritual endurance to overcome past indignities and sufferings.
Adjacent to the artwork, a Heritage Toronto plaque will provide rich, historical context about Glover’s journey to Canada and freedom, and a forthcoming plaque with a QR code will allow citizens to learn more about the artist and engage in an interactive augmented reality experience.
Through a competitive process, VerCetty’s winning proposal was selected unanimously by a panel comprised of David Chinyama, artist, Julie Crooks, Curator of Arts of Global Africa and the Diaspora at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Neil Park, Board member of the Etobicoke Historical Society, Gaëtane Verna, Director of the Power Plant, and Tim Whiten, artist and Professor Emeritus at York University.
VerCetty is an award-winning visual storyteller, art educator and graduate of Ontario College of Art and Design University. His work uses Afrofuturism to address issues of representation, immigration and decolonization and has been featured in countries such as Mexico, Haiti, Peru, Australia, United Arab Empire and Germany. Through his work he hopes to engage minds and inspire hearts to help to make the world a better place.
The creation of the Joshua Glover Park and Public Art Memorial aligns with the City’s Confronting Anti-Black Racism Action Plan and specifically the recommendation to increase the visibility of Black history in Toronto.
“I want to thank everyone who has worked together to commemorate abolitionist figure Joshua Glover here in Etobicoke. The City of Toronto is committed to making the cultural and economic investments necessary to address anti-Black racism and discrimination in all forms. The celebration of Black residents’ stories and positive impact on our communities, is just one action we are taking to build a more inclusive Toronto.”
– Mayor John Tory
“Joshua Glover’s courage and resolve are raised to legend in Quintin VerCetty’s impressive public art memorial. We hope that children playing in the new park bearing Joshua’s name will be inspired by a true hero, and know that they too have the capacity to make change.”
– Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson (Scarborough Centre), Chair of the Economic Development and Culture committee
“This commemoration of a compelling local figure in Etobicoke’s history and celebration of Toronto’s Black history was made possible thanks to the City’s partnership with the Etobicoke Historical Society and the creative force of local artist Quentin VerCetty – a true testament to the stories, creativity and perseverance of the Etobicoke community.”
– Deputy Mayor Stephen Holyday (Etobicoke-Centre)
“My scholarly work has focused on the lack of Canadian monuments celebrating people of African descent, so the creation of the Joshua Glover Public Art memorial was an incredible opportunity to personally contribute to beginning to rectify that absence. It was an even more significant experience as someone born and raised in Rexdale, Etobicoke to contribute to this change in my own community.”
– Quentin VerCetty, artist
“The Etobicoke Historical Society is proud to have initiated the Joshua Glover monument. Glover’s history as a runaway slave in the 1800’s is significant to the history of both Canada and the U.S. This is the first historical monument to be erected in Etobicoke’s history, and the first in Toronto for a Black historical figure. We are very grateful to the City for funding both the monument and the plaque, and look forward to working with them in the future to install more monuments and art pieces reflecting Etobicoke history.”
– Joel Winter, former President of the Etobicoke Historical Society
“The Black community has shaped Toronto and defined our shared history. The contributions of Black Torontonians span back to the founding of our City. The extraordinary life of Joshua Glover is one of these stories, which we are proud to feature in our newest plaque.”
– Liza Chalaidopoulos, Chair of the Heritage Toronto Board of Directors
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