Amherstburg Freedom Museum

Ribs & Ragtime rocks Amherstburg Freedom Museum

 

By Jonathan Martin

 

The Amherstburg Freedom Museum’s (AFM) ninth annual Ribs and Ragtime garden party got more than 170 people out to enjoy history, food and tunes.

The evening featured a performance by Detroit jazz group Straight Ahead, a rib and chicken dinner and tearful birthday song for the mother of AFM board chairman Monty Logan.

The event spilled out into a blocked-off King St., where passersby paused to listen to Straight Ahead’s syncopated rhythms.

Jazz vocalist Kymberli Wright blasts out a high note at the Amherstburg Freedom Museum’s 2018 edition of its annual Ribs and Ragtime garden party.

AFM curator and administrator Mary-Katherine Whelan described Amherstburg’s role in the development of the music the group was playing.

“Jazz music’s commercial beginnings, with a greater Canadian relevance, took place in approximately 1917 with Amherstburg’s own Shelton Brooks,” she said.

Brooks, who was born in Amherstburg in 1886, wrote the massively popular “Darktown Strutters’ Ball,” which would go on to be recorded by the Original Dixieland Jass Band in 1917.  The band is credited with making the first ever jazz recordings only a few months prior to taking on Brooks’ work.

Yancyy, a member of Detroit-based jazz band Straight Ahead, puts some soul into his music at the Amherstburg Freedom Museum’s annual Ribs and Ragtime garden party. The event was held last Saturday at the museum.

“Brooks moved into Detroit as a teen, where many of history’s greatest jazz hits were developed and where Straight Ahead is from,” Whelan said.

Straight Ahead received a warm reception, according to AFM board president Monty Logan, which bodes well for AFM’s upcoming programming.

“Events like this make up almost 80 per cent of our fund raising,” he said in a speech given just prior to Straight Ahead’s performance.  “Events like this allow us to continue to tell the stories of (the African-Canadian) legacy.”

Logan went on to take a “liberty” with his speech.  He wished his mother, sitting at a table just in front of the stage, a happy 70th birthday.  Event volunteers brought out a birthday cake while Straight Ahead played a “ragtimey rendition” of ‘Happy Birthday’ and the woman covered her eyes to hide her tearful smile.

According to Logan, 2018 was another successful year for the garden party and he looks forward to doing it again next year.

 

Amherstburg Freedom Museum and Artists of Colour unveil “Journeys” exhibit

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A new art exhibit is on display at the Amherstburg Freedom Museum with the official opening last Friday night.

“Journeys” debuted with Windsor-Essex County artists contributing work towards the exhibit’s first phase, entitled “New Canaan Journey in Pursuit of Freedom.” The exhibit is described as showing how the Underground Railroad gave birth to the first racially integrated, religiously inspired movement for social change within the United States. The exhibit is further described as one that “speaks of the courage and determination of a people who refused to accept the degradation of slavery. Both black and white stood up against the injustice and demoralization of slavery, risking their lives and livelihood opposing the injustice inflicted upon their brothers and sisters.”

Dennis K. Smith, one of the artists that comprise the Artists of Colour, said the exhibit shows where they came from and what it took to find freedom. He said they hope it travels around as a teaching tool.

Lana Talbot shows one of her paintings that are featured as part of the “Journeys” exhibit at the Amherstburg Freedom Museum through April 1.

Accompanied by musicians Jim Walls and Karzell Dew and conductor Milo Johnston, there was a presentation describing the stories behind the 14 paintings in the Nazrey AME Church before the public went to the second floor of the museum building to view the works themselves.

“We tell our story through art,” explained Smith. “As we tell it, we learn a little more about ourselves.”

Mary-Katherine Whelan, curator at the Amherstburg Freedom Museum, stated the exhibit is about “the journey to freedom.” It is another way to provide an educational tool to those who may not know the history.

“It’s important to tell the story of a generation who refused to accept the degradation of slavery,” said Whelan.

The exhibit will not only run through February, which is Black History Month, but right up until April 1.

Connie Lee-Turner stands with one of her paintings that is part of the “Journeys” exhibit. The art can be viewed on the second floor of the Amherstburg Freedom Museum.

The Artists of Colour also plan an exhibit at Mackenzie Hall in Windsor May 11-20 entitled “Mosaic.”

The Amherstburg Freedom Museum is open Tuesday-Friday 12-5 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday 1-5 p.m. Admission is $7.50 for adults and $6.50 for students and seniors with Whelan adding that people will get $1 off admission during Black History Month if they can answer when the Nazrey AME Church was built and by whom.

For more information, call 519-736-5433 or visit www.amherstburgfreedom.org. There is also a list posted on the website of other Black History Month events happening, with Whelan noting the list was compiled by the Essex County Black Historical Research Society.

Amherstburg Freedom Museum hosting Artists of Colour’s “Journeys” exhibit

 

 

The Amherstburg Freedom Museum, in partnership with the Artists of Colour, will host the exhibit opening for “Journeys,” with the exhibit opening being Feb. 2.

“Journeys” features 14 works of art from a group of local Black artists who form the committee of the Artists of Colour. Museum officials state the event will feature live entertainment, providing a musical accompaniment to the exhibit.

The art works chosen are part of the first stage of the “Journeys” project which the Artists of Colour have begun to construct, will be an art exhibit that will celebrate and relay the story of Black enslavement and the long journey back to freedom. The museum states “this exhibit will tell the story to all generations of the courage and determination of a people who refused to accept the degradation of slavery. White and Black stood up against the injustice and demoralization of slavery, risking their lives and livelihood opposing the injustice inflicted upon their brothers and sisters. They unselfishly dedicated their lives to the cause of liberty.”

This exhibit is the first stage of the “Journeys Project” and shows how the Underground Railroad gave birth to the first racially integrated, religiously inspired movement for social change within the United States and Canada. Between 1840 and 1860, before the American Civil War, once-enslaved Africans followed the North Star on the Underground Railroad to find freedom in Canada. That journey to freedom was long, dangerous and life-changing.

The opening reception of “Journeys” at the Amherstburg Freedom Museum runs from 7-9 p.m., and will feature light refreshments and live entertainment. There is no charge to attend the official opening, but donations are being accepted.

The exhibit runs until April 1, with regular admission rates applying after the Feb 2. opening.

The Amherstburg Freedom Museum is located at 277 King St. in Amherstburg and their phone number is 519-736-5433. The museum’s website is www.amherstburgfreedom.org. Their Facebook page can be found at www.facebook.com/AmherstburgFreedom and their Twitter page can be found by searching @AburgFreedom.

Amherstburg well represented among MP’s Canada 150 medal recipients

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Essex MP Tracey Ramsey recently awarded approximately 40 Canada 150 medals and Canada Sesquicentennial Pins to people from around the riding and Amherstburg was no exception.

Ramsey said the medals were to “incredible people of Essex (County) who have really inspired me. I knew they should be recognized for their efforts.”

Ramsey said that being the area’s Member of Parliament since 2015 has opened her eyes to all of the work taking place in the area.

Eleven-year-old Gabby Wilkinson of Amherstburg (left) was one of about 40 recipients of Canada 150 medals presented by Essex MP Tracey Ramsey.

“You can live here your whole life and not realize the work being done around us,” said Ramsey. “In the past two years I was able to meet and connect with incredible individuals who have inspired me. I have the wonderful opportunity to work with people in our communities who dedicate themselves every day by showing how much they care about their neighbours, making life better for all those around them.  I am honoured to be able to recognize them for their outstanding efforts to make our community a better place with these special symbols of Canada 150. I want to thank every recipient for their continued generosity of spirit that makes our riding of Essex and Canada the best place in the world to live.”

Essex MP Tracey Ramsey (left) presents a Canada 150 medal to ACS executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo.

Among the recipients was Gabby Wilkinson, a student at Amherstburg Public School. Wilkinson was six-years-old when she had problems in math class with patterns. She received help in making patterns and that led to her making bracelets.

From there, Wilkinson started selling the bracelets at an Alzheimer fundraiser in Windsor and raised $68. “Gabby’s Gifts” evolved out of that and the local youth continues to volunteer and sell treats, crafts as well as her bracelets for numerous local charities and causes, including helping the homeless.

Essex MP Tracey Ramsey (left) presents a Canada 150 medal to Amherstburg Freedom Museum board president Monty Logan.

“I was nervous and excited,” Wilkinson said about getting the award. “It was a nice surprise.”

Wilkinson is now 11-years-old and in her fifth year of helping others.

Amherstburg Food and Fellowship Mission Tim McAllister was another local recipient. Born in Barbados, McAllister came to Canada and attended St. Clair College and became a welder. The married father of four worked in that field for several years before an auto accident involving a drunk driver cut his career short.

McAllister started volunteering with the mission with founders Andy and Pat Gervais and would eventually become president, a position he has held for the last 17 years. He is also a board member at Matthew House in Windsor. He has also won other numerous awards for his efforts.

Essex MP Tracey Ramsey (left) presents a Canada 150 medal to Amherstburg Food and Fellowship Mission president Tim McAllister.

“As president of the Amherstburg Food and Fellowship Mission, I have found great pleasure in our motto ‘People Helping People’,” said McAllister. “I didn’t volunteer to receive this award but on behalf of my board of directors and volunteers, I do it with a humble and thankful heart. For all of those who volunteer and support the mission, I thank you.”

Kathy DiBartolomeo, executive director at Amherstburg Community Services (ACS), was another of the medal recipients. DiBartolomeo started volunteering with ACS in 2007 as a way to give back and to support the community. She worked her way up the ladder and by 2009, she had shown the skills and passion to become the executive director.

With DiBartolomeo at the helm, ACS is in the Amherstburg, McGregor, Harrow and LaSalle communities and assists thousands of people who are vulnerable, elderly or in need. She is also willing to volunteer her time to assist other organizations who need a helping hand.

“I am very honoured and humbled by this Canada 150 medal,” DiBartolomeo stated. “To be recognized for what you love to do is rewarding and gives me and my staff the encouragement to continue serving  our community.

Team Ontario – a group of Essex-Windsor EMS members who won back-to-back gold medals at the Ralleye Rejviz international paramedic competition – were honoured by Essex MP Tracey Ramsey (centre) with Canada 150 medals. Amherstburg native Lance Huver is second from left.

Monty Logan was also recognized with a Canada 150 medal and pin. Logan, president of the Amherstburg Freedom Museum’s board of directors, was elected to that position in 2012, after joining the board the previous year.

Logan has helped guide the museum through key strategic, infrastructure, programming and fundraising initiatives as well as a transformation from the former identity as the North American Black Historical Museum to the Amherstburg Freedom Museum. Two elements of the transformation are complete – the curated archive on the Underground Railroad and the Amherstburg Freedom Summit. The final component is the Amherstburg Freedom Institute, which will focus on promoting solutions to address social and economic challenges facing young people today.

“It’s awesome to be honoured for the work we do at the museum,” said Logan. “More importantly, it’s getting our name out there. It’s an honour to be recognized for the work we do.”

Several police officers were among the medal recipients, including Amherstburg police chief Tim Berthiaume. Berthiaume, who has spent his entire career in Amherstburg, was contacted by the RTT and he said he was happy to be recognized.

“I am honoured and humbled to be recipient of the Canada 150 Medal,” said Berthiaume.

Team Ontario, the group of Essex-Windsor EMS paramedics that won gold at the Rallye Rejviz international competition, was also honoured. EMS Team Ontario members Chris Kirwin, Shawn May, Lance Huver and Mike Filiault made up the 2017 team with Huver being an Amherstburg native.

Amherstburg Freedom Museum welcomed holiday season with “joyous sounds”

 

By Jolene Perron

 

“We want to welcome the season with joyous sounds and welcome the community to celebrate the sounds of the season and bring everyone together one last time before the end of the year.”

Curator and administrator at the Amherstburg Freedom Museum, Mary-Katherine Whelan, said their annual Christmas event, which has been happening at the museum for a number of years, is a way to celebrate the holidays and cap off the year with “one last hurrah.”

Renée King-Jackson sang Christmas tunes and jazz numbers at Amherstburg’s Freedom Museum Dec. 20, during their fundraising event, which their curator explained is held every year as a final “hurrah” heading into the holiday season.

“I think in the history of Amherstburg, the history of the Underground Railroad is sort of overlooked and I think it’s definitely important to recall that history and share that history with everyone so they are aware of how important and integral it was to this area and Amherstburg,” said Whelan. “It’s important for people to realize that it wasn’t something that was specifically just in the states, or somewhere else, it did specifically happen in Amherstburg.”

The Dec. 20 event featured soprano vocalist Renée King-Jackson singing with her ensemble of jazz musicians. King-Jackson has performed at the museum previously throughout its history.

“I love this event,” said Whelan. “It’s a breezy, fun kind of event where you can enjoy music and socialize with people that you may not have seen for a little big and just relax and enjoy things before the wrap up of the year.”