Emancipation Gala presented by Amherstburg Freedom Museum

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

It was a busy weekend for the Amherstburg Freedom Museum and it got underway with the Emancipation Gala Friday night.

According to museum curator Mary-Katherine Whelan, upwards of 185 people attended the event at the Caboto Club in Windsor. David Van Dyke, vice president of the museum’s board of directors, said he recalled relatives talking about Emancipation Day celebrations and now that tradition is continuing.

Van Dyke pointed out on Aug. 1, 1833, the Slavery Abolition Act was signed by the British government and enacted the following year.

Amherstburg Freedom Museum board members Philip Alexander and Tom Hurst join Windsor-Tecumseh MP Cheryl Hardcastle and Windsor-Tecumseh MPP Percy Hatfield in presenting a Mac Simpson Award to Justice Elliott (centre).

Amherstburg Freedom Museum board members Philip Alexander and Tom Hurst join Windsor-Tecumseh MP Cheryl Hardcastle and Windsor-Tecumseh MPP Percy Hatfield in presenting a Mac Simpson Award to Justice Elliott (centre).

“Essentially, what it did was spark interest in the south,” he added. “In the south, slavery was still the law of the land.”

From there, slaves became escaping to what is now Canada from the United States via the Underground Railroad. Communities such as Dresden, Buxton, Amherstburg, Puce and Windsor were formed with the aid of Black people, he added.

“Emancipation evokes happiness. Emancipation evokes freedom. Emancipation evokes the feeling of doing what we want to do,” said Van Dyke.

Van Dyke noted the Amherstburg Freedom Museum houses over 40,000 documents and work is being done to digitize them. He said the museum is a place of learning but a place to have fun as well.

Another Mac Simpson Award was presented to Shaniece Peters (centre). With her is WIndsor-Tecumseh MPP Percy Hatfield, Tom Hurst, Windsor-Essex MP Cheryl Hardcastle and Philip Alexander.

Another Mac Simpson Award was presented to Shaniece Peters (centre). With her is WIndsor-Tecumseh MPP Percy Hatfield, Tom Hurst, Windsor-Essex MP Cheryl Hardcastle and Philip Alexander.

Eric Griggs, district vice president with TD Canada Trust, said the bank is a proud sponsor of the Emancipation Gala and touted TD Canada Trust’s efforts in not only supporting the Black community, but also developing the TD Black Employee Network in order to assist Black employees in advancing.

There were two Mac Simpson Awards handed out, with high school students in the region eligible to write a poem, essay or make a presentation. Justice Elliott and Shaniece Peters were this year’s recipients.

Guest speaker Kenn Stanton, a former curator with the museum, outlined several of his choices for local heroes. He cited several civil rights activists, along with newspaper publishers, teachers, politicians and more including Mary (Miles) Bibb, Mary Ann (Shadd) Cary, James L. Dunn, Alvin McCurdy, George McCurdy, Dr. Henry D. Taylor, Alton Parker, James Watson, Mac and Betty Simpson and Oshiomogho Atogwe.

“There are many others,” Stanton told the audience, “but time doesn’t permit.”

The Amherstburg Freedom Museum also presented the Walter Perry Golf Classic Saturday afternoon at Fox Glen Golf Club in McGregor.

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