Black History Month

Amherstburg Freedom Museum features “Rarely Seen” temporary exhibit

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Amherstburg Freedom Museum is celebrating Black History Month with an exhibit of materials not usually seen as part of their regular tours.

“Recently Seen” features rare artifacts and recently acquired items and the stories behind them, noted museum curator Mary-Katherine Whelan. Whelan said like many museums, the Amherstburg Freedom Museum can display only a fraction of its collection.

“We’re inviting the public to view rarely seen artifacts from the collection,” she stated.

Amherstburg Freedom Museum curator Mary-Katherine Whelan stands with part of the “Rarely Seen” exhibit that is featured for Black History Month.

The temporary exhibit, located on the upper floor of the main museum building, displays paintings, photographs, scrapbooks and artifacts. A three-page petition from 1921 to Amherstburg town council regarding small pox and a Board of Health order advising a theatre to “exclude all coloured people”  is on exhibit as is an accompanying article from The Amherstburg Echo is also on hand. Manacles are also on exhibit, with those coming from the Canadian Museum of Human Rights.

There are also signs from the southern United States pointing African Americans the direction of the washrooms they must use with the signage coming from the Jim Crow era.

Photographs of museum co-founder Mac Simpson are also part of the “Rarely Seen” exhibit.

“I wanted to include a variety of things people don’t usually get to see. Hopefully people come and connect with it in some way,” said Whelan.

The museum is welcoming school tours and adults will come out to view the temporary and permanent exhibits.

“There are so many pieces we have in our collection,” said Whelan. “It’s fun to bring them out and show the material we have in the collection.”

A sample of what is displayed as part of the temporary “Rarely Seen” exhibit is photographed here.

Admission to the Amherstburg Freedom Museum is $7.50 for adults, $6.50 for seniors and students and $30 for a family of five. People can get $1 off admission this month if they can name the year the Nazrey AME Church was built (1848) and by whom (people escaping slavery in the U.S.).

The museum is located at 277 King St. and is open Tuesday-Friday from 12-5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 1-5 p.m.

Whelan also invited the public to check out Black History Month events on their website, www.amherstburgfreedom.org. There is a Black History Month events calendar there that Whelan said can be downloaded. The calendar is run in conjunction with the Essex County Black Historical Research Society.

For more information, call 519-736-5433 or 1-800-713-6336.

First Baptist Church teams with other parishes on Black History Month event

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The crowd that filled St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church Friday night got a chance to learn about black history and help another church at the same time.

First Baptist Church held the event in conjunction with St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, St. John the Baptist Church and Amherstburg Community Church with the evening starting with a tour of First Baptist Church before it headed to St. Andrew’s where the presentations and meal occurred.

“It’s amazing the reception we got from the community,” said Abiola Afolabi, director of outreach with First Baptist Church. “This is a great community.”

Irene Moore Davis was the guest speaker at a special Black History Month event Friday night.

Irene Moore Davis was the guest speaker at a special Black History Month event Friday night.

Afolabi, who was born in Nigeria, said she is very interested in black history and wanted to do something for Black History Month. She said it is not only about those of African-Canadian heritage, but those of other cultures who helped during the days of the Underground Railroad.

“It is your history, it is my history, it is everyone’s history that is part of this land,” she told the crowd.

Not only did she thank the churches that teamed together, she also thanked everyone who had a hand in presenting the event. She particularly thanked all of those who attended Friday night.

“It would not be what it is without you guys,” she told the crowd of nearly 100 people.

The evening’s guest speaker was Irene Moore Davis, who educated the crowd on the area’s black history. Among Davis’ many titles are her presidency of the Essex County Black History Society and she told the stories of courage of those who travelled the Underground Railroad and those who helped them along the way. She noted that there were laws in northern U.S. states in that era prohibiting people from helping slaves to escape.

“There were pretty serious legal consequences for people caught doing that,” said Davis.

There were eight readings from community members woven into Davis’ presentation to illustrate what was going on during the Underground Railroad period. Davis noted that slave catchers would cross into Canada to try and capture slaves and bring them back though many escaped slaves still chose to live near the Detroit River in places like Amherstburg.

It is said that 30,000 escaped slaves crossed into Canada, though Davis called that “a conservative estimate” as many didn’t want to let anyone know they were in Canada for fear of being caught.

With Canada celebrating its 150th birthday this year, Davis said there is no better time to reflect on lessons people can learn from the past.

“It is important to know the Canada we now have did not take place by accident,” she said, adding the decisions and actions taken years ago by people overcoming obstacles helped shape the country.

First Baptist Church director of outreach Abiola Afolabi, Pastor Olaniyi Afolabi, trustee Eric Buchholzer and Deacon Terry Simms are photographed after the Black History Month presentation and meal at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church Feb. 24. They also hosted an open house at First Baptist Church.

First Baptist Church director of outreach Abiola Afolabi, Pastor Olaniyi Afolabi, trustee Eric Buchholzer and Deacon Terry Simms are photographed after the Black History Month presentation and meal at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church Feb. 24. They also hosted an open house at First Baptist Church.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo also brought greetings and said the stories of African-Canadians have shaped Amherstburg as well.

“We are so rich in history and part of our history is our belief in human rights and that we are all treated equally,” said DiCarlo.

First Baptist Church also held a free will offering to try and fundraise for their church. The George St. church is over 180 years old and sustained water damage about eight years ago. There have been some repairs but church members continue to appeal for funds as they want to further upgrade their church.

Local church organizing Black History Month event

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A local church is organizing a Black History Month event and is involving three other local churches in the process.

First Baptist Church is organizing the event with the support of St. John the Baptist Church, Amherstburg Community Church and St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. It is scheduled for Feb. 24 with an open house at First Baptist Church followed by presentations at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church.

“We’ve had this idea for years,” said Abiola Afolabi, director of outreach for First Baptist Church. “It’s not only Black history, it’s Canadian history.”

Afolabi said the story of the Underground Railroad not only involves African Canadian people, but white people as well as they not only helped African Canadian come to Canada but helped them integrate into society as well.

“The presentations will focus on that,” said Afolabi.

Afolabi added that Irene Moore Davis will be conducting the presentations with the topic being “Working Together to Make a Difference: African Canadians and Allies throughout History.”

“We hope it’s going to be stimulating,” said Afolabi.

Pastor Olaniyi Afolabi and his wife Abiola show a flyer for a Black History Month event that First Baptist Church is hosting in conjunction with other local churches Feb. 24. Abiola is the director of outreach for First Baptist Church.

Pastor Olaniyi Afolabi and his wife Abiola show a flyer for a Black History Month event that First Baptist Church is hosting in conjunction with other local churches Feb. 24. Abiola is the director of outreach for First Baptist Church.

The use of multiple churches in the Black History Month event is “a display of unity,” Afolabi explained.

“What better community to do it in?” she asked. “It’s the most peaceful community in Canada.”

Afolabi, whose husband Olaniyi is the pastor at First Baptist Church, said people should love, enjoy and embrace being together, even if they are of different cultures and races.

“We have to get to the point where we are happy being different,” said Afolabi.

The open house runs from 4-5 p.m. at First Baptist Church, located at 232 George St. The presentations run from 5:30-7 p.m. at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, located at 129 Simcoe St. (at Bathurst St.). A Nigerian dinner will follow, catered by Eden’s Garden.

Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for seniors and $5 for children under 10. Afolabi said they are available at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, St. John the Baptist Church, the Amherstburg Food and Fellowship Mission and First Baptist Church, with the latter being open Thursday evenings and before and after Sunday services.

For more information, please call 519-736-4646 or 519-988-6725.

Black History Month sees attendance surge at Amherstburg Freedom Museum

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Black History Month at the Amherstburg Freedom Museum saw a rise in attendance at the Amherstburg Freedom Museum compared to other winter months.

This year’s Black History Month also drew more people to the museum as compared to previous years.

“Black History Month was a very successful month this year,” said curator/administrator Terran Fader. “We had over 200 people into the museum so far (as of Saturday). This is the most we’ve had in the last four years in February.”

The Amherstburg Freedom Museum, formerly known as the North American Black Historical Museum, focused on awareness of the museum and local black history, Fader said. She said the museum is very happy with this year’s attendance figures, and credits the surge not only to the better than average February weather, but a promotion that saw people get half off of their admission fee for mentioning the name of co-founder Mac Simpson.

Amherstburg Freedom Museum curator/administrator Terran Fader stands with the current exhibit, one that will be replaced by a new interactive exhibit later this year. Fader noted the museum had strong attendance during Black History Month.

Amherstburg Freedom Museum curator/administrator Terran Fader stands with the current exhibit, one that will be replaced by a new interactive exhibit later this year. Fader noted the museum had strong attendance during Black History Month.

Fader also noted they worked with several partners to promote Black History Month, including posting a list of other destinations around Essex County on their website.

Normal attendance during winter months is about 100 people, she pointed out, with summer months usually drawing 200 people per month or more.

“We’ve also been pretty active on social media,” said Fader, explaining the museum hired Rebecca Canty last September to manage the social media accounts and perform digitization duties.

The Amherstburg Freedom Museum is active on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

While still early, Fader is optimistic for the 2016 season.

“It’s looking good. We’re looking forward to our permanent exhibit that will open this year,” she said.

No date has been set for when the permanent exhibit will open but it promises to be more interactive, she added.

“It’s a much more multi-media focus,” she said.

The exhibit will focus on local stories and Underground Railroad stories. She said a number of people have been interviewed to share their stories, including 100-year-old Fred Johnson. Fader said they not only got his story but his grandfather’s story as well.

The Amherstburg Freedom Museum is also planning a number of events again this year, including the return of the popular “Ribs & Ragtime” event and the Emancipation Celebration.

The museum is located at 277 King St., by calling 519-736-5433 or by visiting www.amherstburgfreedommuseum.org.