Tuesday 25 July 2023

Emancipation On Bloor / Underground Toronto Train Ride

 1,000 will ride the midnight subway train

Tenth Year For the Underground Toronto Train Ride

There is a serious annual spiritual event during this Carnival season in Toronto, and it is coming down the track straight at you. The Emancipation Day "Underground Freedom Train" Ride begins on July 31st and ends early on August 1st, with over 1,000 people on board.

This year marks the tenth time that the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) has partnered with the Blackhurst Cultural Centre (formerly A Different Booklist Cultural Centre) to provide an actual underground experience via its subway system, representing the underground railroad journey. This is a very emotional song filled train ride, probably Canada's largest of its kind, and open to all Canadians, for the price of token.

"The Emancipation Day 'Underground Freedom Train' Ride is symbolic of the role of the Underground Railroad within Canada's history," explained Itah Sadu, one of the founders of the event. "This train ride is a recognition of the historic date of Emancipation Day on August 1st when slavery was abolished in the British Empire. It is also a celebration of the power and potential of the peoples of African descent."

Formerly enslaved people undertook an incredible and dangerous journey in their migration to Canada, and this symbolic train ride helps keep history alive by connecting the past to the present and ultimately linking to the future.

The journey begins and ends at Union Station in downtown Toronto. It all starts at 10.30 p.m. inside Union Station with choirs, drumming, brass music, and greetings from the TTC and city officials. The train will be boarded at 11:40 p.m. The route travels along the TTC subway line to Downsview Station, where there will be music, readings, and special guests just outside of the station. The train will then return everyone back to Union Station by 12:45 a.m.

This year's conductor is Barbara Thomas, Nursing Admin Coordinator at the Toronto Western Hospital for 55 years. She is a former Board Director of the Jamaican Canadian Association, and her record of volunteerism spans over 50 years.

Also attending will be Kathy Grant, the recipient of the 2023 Emancipation Award for preserving, documenting, and curating local Black history in the city. She is the founder of Legacy Voices, an organization dedicated to the histories of Black Canadian war veterans.

The theme for the 10th anniversary is "Planting Seeds of Emancipation." Over the past years, the Emancipation Ride has planted seeds of hope and inspiration through its symbolism. This is evidenced in the attendance of all Canadians to the Ride, its innovation, and the positive relationship shared with the TTC and community organizations as event collaborators.

"During this 2023 season of Emancipation," said Sadu, "it is important to give thanks to Mother Earth for nurturing us, to thank the ancestors who came before and prepared fertile ground. Finally, to ask the question, what new seeds will Canadians plant going forward, and how soon can they break soil and cultivate?"

Passengers aboard the Emancipation Train, will be given a package of organic corn seeds to take home and plant.

Emancipation On Bloor 

Following the Underground Freedom Train ride, which ends in the early hours of August 1st, Emancipation celebrations continue with the Emancipation On Bloorwalk. That starts at 12:30pm. The walk will proceed along Bloor St form Bathurst to Christie Pits.  The public is invited to join the walk in recognition of the National Emancipation Day. The gathering place is outside the Randolph Theatre, located at 736 Bathurst Street. Participants are asked to wear white and come with wrapped heads.

Joining this year’s Emancipation on Bloor is BMO, which will make a joint announcement with the Blackhurst Cultural Centre at Blackhurst Cultural Centrelocation. The 12.00 pm announcement will precede the Emancipation Walk. 

Emancipation on Bloor is an animation of Bloor Street. The animation takes place at key intersections on Bloor from Avenue Rd, to Christie Pits with a number of artistic expressions and music.  The event commemorates an important milestone for descendants of enslaved Africans. It marks the abolition of slavery and honours the many contributions and resilience of African peoples throughout the Diaspora. 

No comments: