TACCA members visit Amherstburg Freedom Museum

 

By Jonathan Martin

 

Around 50 Thornhill African Caribbean Canadian Association (TACCA) members came through town on a large bus with the words “York Regional Police” emblazoned on its side.

The group made the lengthy journey from Thornhill, along the northern border of Toronto, to visit the Amherstburg Freedom Museum.

York Regional Police (YRP) provided the group with transportation as part of its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Bureau programming.  When the police bus arrived at the site, the Amherstburg Police Service was there to greet its brother and sisters in blue.

Amherstburg mayor Aldo DiCarlo speaks with TACCA president Vernon Hendrickson at the Amherstburg Freedom Museum.

“York region is a microcosm of the world,” said YRP Superintendent #545 Ricky Veerappan.  “A lot of the work we do as a bureau is outreach and learning about how best to serve a very multicultural community.”

According to official 2016 figures, 49 per cent of the population of York Region were visible minorities.  In 2016, Amherstburg’s visible minorities made up 3.5 per cent of the population.

Vernon Hendrickson is one of York Region’s minorities.  He’s also the president of TACCA.

He said he believes Canada can be made better by focusing on shared experiences and developing mutual understandings.

“That’s why we decided not just to read about what happened here, but to see it for ourselves,” he said.

Amherstburg Freedom Museum assistant curator Lorene Bridgen-Lennie said that she believes Hendrickson is on the right track.

“There were different stories for different groups in different regions,” she said.  “The experiences (of African Canadians) in Toronto may have been different than those here in Amherstburg.”

Hendrickson said he was especially impressed by the Nazrey African Methodist Episcopal Church.

“It is so striking that slaves found their ways to freedom and the first thing they do is build such a breathtaking church,” he said.

Const. Nick D’Amore of the Amherstburg Police Service poses for a photo beside Const. Nina Rahravan of the York Regional Police. The two police services met up when the York Regional Police escorted the Thornhill African Caribbean Canadian Association (TACCA) to the Amherstburg Freedom Museum earlier this month.

The Nazrey AME Church was built in 1848 by a mix of former slaves and free blacks.  The congregation, however, was founded a couple decades earlier by African American refugees.

The church was used as a sanctuary space on the underground railroad, where escaping slaves could rest and regroup on the long road to freedom.

“I think it’s important to touch on what happened after the underground railroad, too,” Bridgen-Lennie said.  “The history doesn’t just stop once people reached Canada.  There was this amazing life people build in places like Amherstburg – and Toronto – so it’s important to learn about that too.”

“We have such a proud history in Amherstburg,” said Amherstburg mayor Aldo DiCarlo, who greeted the group personally and presented them with an official letter of welcome on behalf of the town. “I think sometimes it’s good to see our history through the eyes of a visitor and be reminded just how spectacular it really is.”

 

 

 

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