News Release
August 10, 2021

Today, Toronto History Museums launched new content for the City of Toronto Awakenings program to celebrate Emancipation Month. This new content includes a special video featuring the Toronto Raptors, a reimagined contemporary portrait of Mary Ann Shadd, the first Black woman in North America to publish a newspaper, and new Reflections videos which take viewers behind the scenes and in conversation with the artists to learn more about the story and evolution of these projects, in addition to the augmented reality (AR) art installation launched July 30.

Ancestral Uprising
Ancestral Uprising is an AR art installation by one of the world’s leading Afrofuturists, Quentin VerCetty. The work recognizes the current Black Lives Matter movement while serving as a call to look beyond the past and present, to envision the value of Black futures. Each element in the piece has meaning. The inclusion of gold references the value of Black Lives. Ancient scripts and designs from the Ndebele people of Southern Africa speak of resilience and determination. Residents are encouraged to post their photos of the monument on social media and tag #Awakenings #AncestralUprising.

Luminary: Mary Ann Shadd
Toronto History Museums presents Luminary: Mary Ann Shadd on the exterior of Mackenzie House Museum. This is a reimagined portrait of the first Black woman in North America to publish a newspaper, in a contemporary light by Toronto-based multi-disciplinary artist, Adeyemi Adegbesan.

Mary Ann Shadd published The Provincial Freeman newspaper. Her newspaper fought for the abolition of slavery and the rights of women and helped people escaping enslavement adjust to life in Ontario. This project is accessible for all to view until October 30.

Superbloom: An Emancipation Story
On August 18, Awakenings will launch Superbloom: An Emancipation Story,” a short film set in the haunted sites of Toronto’s slave-owning past. A young boy meets a Moko Jumbie ancestor who guides him in a dream-like journey inspired by Carnival rituals. He finds crystalline seeds that grow into potent visions of Black pride, love, and anguish. The film was directed by Hyghly Alleyne and produced by Eric Black, including a collaboration with acclaimed artist’s designer Michael Lee Poy and sculptor-architect Philip Beesley and narrated by Lillian Allen. The seminal book Emancipation Day – Celebrating Freedom in Canada by Natasha L. Henry was a source of inspiration.

Kitchen Concerts at the Inn
The City is excited to announce the first collaboration with the Toronto Raptors as part of the community partnership with the team for Awakenings. This current collaboration is a “Raptorized” version of the lyric video for the song “Freedom Heights (A Song for Joshua Glover),” which first debuted February 2021 for Black History Month as part of the Kitchen Concerts at the Inn series. The team is committed to amplifying the voices and stories of the Awakenings artists. The updated lyric video can be viewed at Toronto History Museums.

This song is produced by Kardinal Offishall, with additional instrumentation by Joel Chambers and Mylez McLymont. It is performed by Jully Black, Susan Carol, Savannah Ré, Emanuel and Kardinal Offishall. “Freedom Heights (A Song for Joshua Glover)” is available on digital streaming platforms, with proceeds donated to NIA Centre for the Arts, Canada’s first professional multi-disciplinary Black arts centre. The City of Toronto is supporting the building expansion of Nia Centre for the Arts.

Awakenings Reflections: Behind-the-Scenes Discussions

To expand on the Awakenings experience, behind-the-scene discussions accompany the new content to give viewers insight into the artists’ inspiration, process and artistry for the making of Awakenings content.

For Ancestral Uprising, Quentin VerCetty sits down with Dr. Mark Campbell to discuss his work with Elders that inspire his designs, his vision for valuing Black futures and his intervention of “counter monuments.”

Artist Adeyemi Adegbesan reflects on the impact of erasure, the layered symbolism and the process of making the Mary Ann Shadd portrait; one of his most challenging and thought provoking yet.

Viewers can go behind the scenes of the making of the film Superbloom: An Emancipation Story” and learn about the powerful intention and the personal meaning involved.

For Kitchen Concerts at the Inn, Weyni Mengesha, Artistic Director, and Luke Reece, Associate Artistic Director from Soulpepper Theatre, are joined by acclaimed artists, Jully Black, Kardinal Offishall, Emanuel, Savannah Ré and Susan Carol to discuss their recent collaboration for the Awakenings program on the song “Freedom Heights (A song for Joshua Glover).”

Awakenings program details and content are available at Additional Awakenings programming will be available throughout 2021.

The City is grateful to welcome new technology sponsor Panasonic and community partner the Toronto Raptors to support the Awakenings program. The City is proud to have 106.5 ELMNT FM Toronto continuing as a media partner.

High Resolution images are available on Flickr at Toronto History Museums | Flickr.

Launched in December 2020, Awakenings is a series of art projects by Black, Indigenous and artists of colour, operating under the principles of anti-oppression, anti-colonialism and anti-racism. The series is part of the City’s efforts to address anti-Black racism.


“This year’s Emancipation Month celebrations, including new programming for Awakenings, are more important than ever as we affirm our commitment to addressing anti-Black racism in this city. Awakenings is our way of building a more inclusive and equitable arts and culture sector. I encourage residents to participate in Awakenings to learn more and to better understand the history of our city and the role Black Canadians have played in it and continue to play today.”
– Mayor John Tory

“Awakenings art projects enrich Toronto’s Emancipation Month celebrations by turning the spotlight on forgotten, neglected and untold stories. Since more than 80 per cent of the creators involved in these projects are from the Black, Indigenous and people-of-colour communities, the program provides an authentic remedy to the lack of such stories in Toronto’s historical narrative. Be part of the Awakenings community this Emancipation Month.”
– Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson (Scarborough Centre), Chair of the City’s Economic and Community Development Committee

“Emancipation Month is about celebrating the legacy of African, Caribbean, and Indigenous ancestral uprisings – it is an acknowledgement of the resilience, resistance, respect and for some reparation against colonization {and white supremacy}.”
– Quentin VerCetty, award-winning multi-disciplinary storyteller, educator and one of the world’s leading Afrofuturists

“Working on this project really allowed me to awaken into the history and the legacy of a person who played a very important role in this country’s history and for black people across North America. I feel like Mary Ann Shadd’s story is often overlooked but I am hopeful that her contributions will one day get the recognition they deserve.”
– Adeyemi Adegbesan, Toronto- based multi-disciplinary artist

“‘Superbloom: An Emancipation Story’ is an opportunity to awaken to the past, present and future of Black history and our role within it. We’ve created a story for everyone, where a young boy moves from dream-like beginnings into love, anguish and pride.”
– Filmmakers Michael Lee Poy, Hyghly Alleyne, Eric Black and Philip Beesley

“For the Raptors, collaborating with the City of Toronto and contributing to the Awakening project is a way for us to lift the voices of Black and Indigenous creators.  Art and Culture provide new platforms for our communities and fans to be educated, as well as engage with each other in conversations that will ultimately lead towards a more equitable society. We all consume information in different ways, and we see tremendous value in the usage of thought-provoking, inspiring, and emotion-driven activations that help to provide perspective that we can all grow from. Many of the artists that the Awakenings project supports have already been committed to the fight against racism and inequality, and as we transition from a reckoning to a renaissance era, the Toronto Raptors are excited to contribute to the awakening of minds and the amplification of powerful voices”
– John Wiggins, Vice President of Organizational Culture and Inclusion, Toronto Raptors

Toronto History Museums are a group of 10 museums owned and operated by the City of Toronto that bring Toronto’s history to life for residents and visitors. They include Colborne Lodge, Fort York National Historic Site, Gibson House Museum, Mackenzie House, Market Gallery, Montgomery’s Inn, Scarborough Museum, Spadina Museum, Todmorden Mills and Zion Schoolhouse. More information is available at Toronto History Musuems, or follow Toronto History Museums on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and on YouTube.

Toronto is home to more than 2.9 million people whose diversity and experiences make this great city Canada’s leading economic engine and one of the world’s most diverse and livable cities. As the fourth largest city in North America, Toronto is a global leader in technology, finance, film, music, culture and innovation, and consistently places at the top of international rankings due to investments championed by its government, residents and businesses. For more information visit the City’s website or follow us on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

Media Relations