News Release
December 14, 2020

Today, Mayor John Tory launched the Awakenings program – a virtual series of art projects by Black, Indigenous and artists of colour. Awakenings is a new program that will feature art projects that explore untold stories, awaken a new perspective and invite the public to join the conversation. The series is part of the City of Toronto’s efforts to address anti-Black racism and will be released over the next couple of years.

Mayor Tory was joined by Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson (Scarborough Centre), Chair of the City’s Economic and Community Development Committee, as well as Cheryl Blackman, Director of Museums and Heritage Services, renowned director Julien Christian Lutz pka Director X, and choreographer Esie Mensah.

In July, the City committed more than $1.2 million in cultural and economic investments to confront anti-Black racism. The City’s Confronting Anti-Black Racism Unit and Economic Development and Culture division have been developing opportunities such as Awakenings to increase support for Toronto’s Black creative communities.

Toronto History Museums recognized the need to reassess the way in which it develops, delivers and evaluates its programming. In accordance with the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions Calls to Action in the Museum sector, the Toronto History Museums sites are embracing partnerships that embody Indigenous voices, stories and knowledge into programs, collections management and sites. The Awakenings program begins to address the lack of representation in the stories of Toronto’s history. More than 80 per cent of creative people involved in Awakenings art projects are from the Black, Indigenous and people of colour communities.

This month, Awakenings launches with three online art projects and will also feature Awakenings Reflections: Behind the scenes discussions.

A Revolution of Love

A Revolution of Love is a digital short film that follows a young Black woman as she grapples with the histories of her ancestors and the present-day violence ravaging her community, and begins to imagine what her future looks like through dance. Conceived by an internationally-recognized Black creative team and featuring the words of Assata Shakur, this piece spotlights 15 women as they come together to re-frame revolution in the name of love. Esie Mensah choreographs, Weyni Mengesha co-directs, Lucius Dechausay co-directs and edits, and d’bi.young anitafrika composes in this digital short film. “A Revolution of Love” was filmed at Toronto History Museums’ Fort York National Historic Site, in partnership with Soulpepper Theatre.

Behind the Curtain

In conversation with award-winning hip-hop recording artist and broadcaster Shad and producer and multidisciplinary artist Byron Kent Wong, Food Network host, restaurateur, author and award-winning recording artist Roger Mooking reflects on the effects of racism on mental health and shares untold stories of his experiences growing up in the Canadian Prairies and working in the American South. The conversation explores how food, art and music formed his journey. Part one launches today and part two launches on January 12, 2021. Behind the Curtain was filmed at Toronto History Museums’ Montgomery’s Inn.

We Were Always Here 

World-renowned director Julien Christian Lutzpka pka Director X, mentors 10 emerging Toronto-based Black, Indigenous and people of colour filmmakers to present short films that aim to disrupt, discover and display colonial narratives. Each of the filmmakers focuses on one of the 10 Toronto History Museums to bring to light untold stories. Five of these films will launch this month.

Awakenings Task Force

The Awakenings Task Force was formed to develop art projects within Toronto History Museums, operating under the principles of anti-oppression, anti-colonialism, sustainability, advocacy and storytelling. The task force includes:

  • Ashley McKenzie-Barnes, Curator
  • Dr. Julie Nagam, Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Arts, Collaboration and Digital Media and advisor on Indigenous Arts, Curatorial and Museology for the City of Toronto
  • Julien Christian Lutz pka Director X
  • Mark V. Campbell, Creative & Scholar
  • Natasha Henry, President of the Ontario Black History Society
  • Roger Mooking, Food Network host, restaurateur, author and award-winning recording artist
  • Weyni Mengesha, Artistic Director at Soulpepper Theatre Company

The City recognizes the United Nations’ International Decade for People of African Descent (2015 to 2024) and has aligned the Awakenings program to meet the goals of the Decade, which are recognition, justice and development.

The City is proud to welcome 106.5 ELMNT FM Toronto as a media partner for the Awakenings program.

The Awakenings program information and lineup is available at  Additional Awakenings programming will be available in 2021.

Media can access the Awakenings program promotional video. High resolution images are available on Flickr.

In addition to the Awakenings program, Toronto History Museums has made its fine art and artifact collection available online and offers a new online retail shopping experience.

Fine Art and Artifact Collection

Toronto History Museums’ Fine Art and Artifact Collection is now available through an online virtual database, available at This collection consists of 150,000 artifacts, 1.1 million archaeological specimens and 3,000 works of art that reflect the 11,000-year span of human occupation of the Toronto area.

Toronto History Museums Shop

Residents can shop safely from home for the gift-giving season via a new online retail experience, the Museum Shop, available at, powered by Shopify and the City of Toronto’s Digital Mainstreet program created with the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA). The Museum Shop features unique items, inspired by the City’s artifact collection that support local and Indigenous artisans. Products include Indigenous crafts, artisan jewellery, clothing, accessories, home décor, gardening items, reproductions, stationery, toys, educational items and literature.


“As a city we have made it clear that we will work hard to address anti-Black racism and ensure that we support BIPOC residents in our city. This includes continued investments towards the arts and our talented artists. The Awakenings program at the Toronto History Museums helps to address the gaps identified in programming and representation. The time to invest and create change is now as we work towards confronting and eradicating anti-Black racism and all forms of racism within multiple facets of our city.”
– Mayor John Tory

“The new, community-driven Awakenings programming at Toronto History Museums will awaken the public to fresh perspectives through diversity-based art in many forms. The Museums are working with creative people from Black, Indigenous, people of colour, new Canadian and multi-generational immigrant communities to reshape cultural perspectives, encourage self-reflection and promote accountability.”
– Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson (Scarborough Centre), Chair of the City’s Economic and Community Development Committee

“Toronto History Museums are committed to the recommendations from the Task Force on Museums and First Peoples to effectively and respectfully co-develop new programs, exhibits, and stories within our 10 sites.”
– Cheryl Blackman, Director of Museums and Heritage Services

“We were always here… Black, Indigenous, multi-generational immigrants and people of colour were always here as were the heritage sites; this will be a true awakening to Toronto’s unseen history and our stories that need to be told.”

– Julien Christian Lutz pka Director X

“Our stories have been left out of the global narrative for centuries. We must move forward by healing and empowering our truths in order to obtain a true sense of equity and most of all unity.”

– Esie Mensah, Choreographer

About Toronto History Museums

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, or follow Toronto History Museums on Twitter, on Instagram, on 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