awakenings toronto

Here's why a portrait of a Black woman just appeared on the side of a Toronto building

A Toronto building now serves as the canvas for a jaw-dropping portrait of one of Canada's most influential Black women.

A portrait of Mary Ann Shadd created by Adeyemi Adegbesan (also known as Yung Yemi) now graces the exterior of Mackenzie House Museum at 82 Bond Street.

Shadd was the first Black woman in North America to publish a newspaper, called The Provincial Freeman. It fought for the abolition of slavery and women's rights, and helped people escaping slavery adjust to Ontario life.

"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," says Adegbesan.

"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."

Though the portrait will be on view until Oct. 30, it's part of a program called Awakenings created for Emancipation Month this August and is only one of several displays.

There's also an AR art installation by Afrofuturist Quentin VerCetty called Ancestral Uprising, a short film called Superbloom: An Emancipation Story that launches Aug. 18, and even a song produced and performed by Kardinal Offishall.

A collab with the Raptors, the song is a "Raptorized" version of Freedom Heights (A Song for Joshua Glover) which debuted in Black History Month of this year (February 2021) as part of a series called Kitchen Concerts at the Inn.

Performed by Jully Black, Susan Carol, Savannah Ré, Emanuel and Kardinal Offishall, it's available on digital streaming platforms with proceeds donated to NIA Centre for the Arts, Canada's first multi-disciplinary professional Black arts centre.

The Awakenings content was launched by Toronto History Museums, a group of 10 museums operated by the City of Toronto that includes Mackenzie House as well as Fort York National Historic Site, Todmorden Hills, and Montgomery's Inn where Joshua Glover was employed after escapng slavery.

Lead photo by

Andrew Williamson

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