The Corner, along with the multi-cultural neighbourhood of St. James Town, celebrated Black History Month on 28 February 2020 to honour the valuable contributions of Black historical figures and the Black Canadians who are continuing to be instrumental to Canada’s culture and legacy. The event welcomed people with live music and a soothing song in Lingala, a language spoken in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Performed by Matuzolele, all joined in to sing the irresistible chorus ‘Oh ho yoyo, aha yaya’ that reverberated across the room and called many to get up and dance.
A former employee of The Corner, Christina, set up a traditional Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony for all participants. She explained the process and significance of the custom whilst pouring freshly brewed, homemade cinnamon-flavored coffee into small cups, serving it with freshly baked bread.
Shamso, a St. James Town community member and placement student at The Corner,gave an informative presentation on the history of Black people in Canada and various Black Canadians who have played a significant role in Canada’s development. This was followed by a touching and thought-provoking speech given by the guest speaker, Sureya Ibrahim. Sureya is a native of Ethiopia, residing in Canada for the last 22 years and is currently working as the Supervisor of Community Connections at the Toronto Centre for Community Learning & Development. Her speech shed light on the grief and struggles of Black immigrant families whose children are involved in gun violence, urging empathy and caring for one another in the community.
The ambience then perked up with Congolese dancer, Gems, performing a breathtaking Sorsonet dance, a high-energy African dance backed by drumbeats. The audience cheered the performer, clapping and hooting along joyfully with the dance. At the attendees’ request, Gems agreed to teach a few dance moves, leading many to join him on the dance floor.
A delicious feast was served to conclude the event. Many community members generously provided home cooked food, with Obha, Lewis and his family bringing various African dishes including injera bread, tibs (beef stew), alicha (yellow split peas with turmeric), misirwat (spiced lentils), vegetable rice, dry fish curry, matembele (sweet potato leaves), and cassava leaves. The local Mr. Jerk also graciously donated six pounds of jerk pork and 40 small beef patties.
Overall, the Black History Month celebration at The Corner had old and young and people from all backgrounds, all under one roof to celebrate culture, diversity and unity through music, dance, food and history.