The best Black History Month 2019 events in Toronto

NOW editors pick the best stage, comedy, film, music, art and literary events showcasing the breadth of the African diaspora


STAGE

It’s About Time: Dancing Black In Canada

Seika Boye’s groundbreaking exhibit of artifacts and images helps kick off Progress, the international performance and ideas festival. See preview.

To February 15, noon-7:30 pm (except Sundays). Theatre Centre, Upstairs Gallery. Free. progressfestival.org

Kuumba Festival

The month-long Black History Month celebration at Harbourfront Centre features lectures, panel discussions, workshops, comedy, theatre, art exhibitions, the Journey To Black Liberation symposium and more.

Feb 1-28, various prices, some events free. harbourfrontcentre.com/kuumba

salt.

UK writer/performer Selina Thompson’s poetic and personal solo show is a must-see for Black History Month or any other time. See review.

February 1-2, Fri-Sat 7:30 pm, at Theatre Centre. $25. progressfestival.org. And February 7-10, Thu-Sat 8 pm, Sun 2 pm, at Toronto Centre for the Arts. $25. tocentre.com

Perfect 10’s Black History Month Comedy Special

Jean Paul, Chris Robinson, Keesha Brownie, Chris Sandiford, Daniel Woodrow and Hoodo Hersi perform in a stand-up show presented by Perfect 10 and Underground Comedy Railroad.

February 2, 10:30 pm. Comedy Bar. $10-$15. comedybar.ca

QAPD Comedy – Black History Month

Queer and Present Danger presents a stand-up show curated by queer Black comics Velvet Duke, Aba Amuquadoh and Clif Knight. Comedian and one of NOW’s breakthrough Toronto stage artists of 2018 Brandon Ash-Mohammed is the headliner.

February 4, 8 pm. Pegasus on Church. Pwyc. facebook.com/qapdproductions

Okwui Okpokwasili’s Poor People’s TV Room SOLO

New York City dance scene fixture (and costar of Jay-Z’s 4:44 video) performs her durational protest installation about an uprising of women in Nigeria known as the Woman’s War of 1929 as part of Progress Festival.

February 5-6, The Theatre Centre. 7:30 pm. $25. progressfestival.org.

OH NO! I’m Becoming My Mother And Other Fears Of Black Women

Playwright Trey Anthony’s interactive night of discussion goes deep into motherhood and Black women’s relationships with their moms.

February 15, 8 pm. Harbourfront Centre Theatre. $35-$40. harbourfrontcentre.com/kuumba

Black Opera

International opera star Jessye Norman, author/academic Naomi Andre and and Harlem Opera Theatre artistic director Gregory Hopkins discuss Black contributions to the world of opera. Part of a full day of events.

February 16, 9 am-5 pm. Toronto Reference Library. Free. tpl.ca/blackhistory

Portia White: Canada’s Original Superstar

Sheila White talks about the life and career of her late aunt,  the first Black Candian concert singer to break out internationally.

February 20, 7:30 pm. North York Central Library. Free. tpl.ca/blackhistory

The Ethnic Rainbow: Anniversary

This showcase for LGBTQ+ comedians of colour turns one. Brandon Ash-Mohammed hosts the show featuring Monica Garrido, Clif Knight, Daphney Jo, Aba Amuquandoh, Selena Vyle and more.

February 23, 7 pm. Comedy Bar. $12-$15. comedybar.ca

MUSIC

Black Liberation Ball

The second edition of one of the city’s biggest house ballroom events  moves to a new venue and welcomes New York City vogue legend Renaldo Tisci. DJs Blackcat and Karim Olen Ash are on the decks. See Black Futures Month cover feature for an interview with organizer Twysted Miyake-Mugler.

February 2, 9:30 pm. Longboat Hall. $15, adv $10. bit.ly/BlackLiberationBall

AGO First Thursday

After six years, the Art Gallery of Ontario wraps up its monthly late-night party with a headlining set by local R&B singer/songwriter TiKA and special guests James Baley and TIAYL.

February 7, doors 7 pm. Art Gallery of Ontario. $13-$16. ago.ca

Zaki Ibrahim

The Canadian/South African futuristic soul musician, who released a stellar second album last year, is back to perform alongside a lineup stacked with locals Bambii and Myst Milano.

February 21, doors 8 pm. The Great Hall. $15.50. ticketfly.com, rotate.com, soundscapesmusic.com

Dominique Jackson Pose.jpg

JoJo Whilden/FX

Pose star Dominique Jackson talks about her life and career at Harbourfront Centre on February 2.

FILM & TV

I Am Woman: A conversation with Dominique Jackson

The actor and model who plays Elektra Abundance on the acclaimed American TV series Pose talks about her life and career.

February 2, 2:30 pm. Harbourfront Centre Theatre. Free (pre-registration required). harbourfrontcentre.com/kuumba

In Conversation With… Jessye Norman

In Toronto to receive the prestigious Glenn Gould Prize, the renowned opera singer and activist takes part in various events this month, including a conversation about her film work at TIFF Bell Lightbox.

February 12, 6:30 pm. $23.75. tiff.net

Toronto Black Film Festival

Activist and #MeToo Movement founder Tarana Burke speaks at seventh annual event, which will screen over 70 films from 26 countries. South African director Daryne Joshua’s Ellen: The Ellen Pakkies Story is the opening night film.

February 13-18. Isabel Bader Theatre. $12-$25, some free events. torontoblackfilm.com

Mr. Jane And Finch

Following a screening at the Toronto Black Film Festival on February 17, director Ngardy Conteh George’s documentary about 80-year-old Toronto activist Winston LaRose has its world broadcast premiere.

February 22. Airs on CBC at 9 pm. mrjaneandfinch.com

Hero

CaribbeanTales screens Frances-Anne Solomon’s film inspired about Trinidadian war hero Ulric Cross.

February 28, 7 pm. TIFF Bell Lightbox. $15-$30. eventbrite.ca

Black Orpheus

Indie screening series’ Black Gold and Ladies Of Burlesque join forces to screen Marcel Camus’s 1959 Brazil-shot art-house classic in 35mm.

February 20, 8 pm. Royal Cinema. $13. theroyal.to

ART

Us. Here. Now.

Photography and digital art show about local Black artists featuring work by SoTeeOh, Gillian Mapp and Brianna Roye goes on display at Union Station. Past NOW cover stars Charles Officer, Michelle Pearson Clarke and Witch Prophet are among the subjects.

February 5-28. Free. torontounion.ca.

Black And Indigenous Futures

Toronto Biennal of Art senior curator Candice Hopkins leads a discussion on the intersection of Black and Indigenous futurisms in art. The panel includes Tairone Bastien, Syrus Marcus Ware and Dolleen Tisawii’ashii Manning.

February 9, 2 pm. Small Arms Inspection Building (Mississauga). Free. facebook.com

Token | Contemporary Ongoing by Sandra Brewster

Rising multidisciplinary Toronto artist’s solo show explores memory and migration through objects transported from the Caribbean.

To March 9. A Space Gallery. Free. facebook.com

Femmes Noires by Mickalene Thomas

The Brooklyn-based artist’s solo show is a game-changer for visibility and representation.

To March 24. Art Gallery of Ontario. $11-$19.50. ago.ca

Cecil Foster.jpg

Author Cecil Foster launches a book on the history of Black train porters in Canada on February 7.

BOOKS

Toronto Lit Up: Cecil Foster

The Toronto International Festival of Authors hosts a book launch for Cecil Foster’s They Call Me George: The Untold History Of Black Train Porters And The Making Of Modern Canada.

February 7, 7 pm. A Different Booklist. Free. festivalofauthors.ca

As Black As Resistance

Profs Rinaldo Walcott and Christina Sharpe co-present a book launch for William C. Anderson and Zoe Samudzi’s anarchistic manifesto for Black American liberation.

February 11, 7 pm. OISE (Nexus Lounge, 12th floor).Free. anotherstory.ca

How To Love A Jamaican: A Conversation with Alexia Arthurs

The author of How To Love A Jamaican, an acclaimed short story collection set in Jamaica and the Jamaican diaspora that came out last year, chats with Bashy Magazine’s Sharine Taylor.

February 13, Gladstone Hotel. 7 pm.  Free. gladstonehotel.com

Black Writers Matter

An anthology of creative non-fiction by African-Canadian writers launches at Harbourfront Centre. Editor Whitney French talks with contributors Scott Fraser, Simone Dalton, Angela Wright and Phillip Dwight Morgan.

February 20, 7:30 pm. Lakeside Terrace. Free. festivalofauthors.ca

André Alexis

Giller Prize-winning author launches his latest novel, Days By Moonlight.

February 21. Toronto Reference Library. 7 pm. Free. torontopubliclibrary.ca

Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give author comes to town to discuss her second YA novel, the hip-hop-focused On The Come Up, with Donna Bailey Nurse.

February 24, 2 pm. Art Gallery of Ontario. $10-$15 ($26-$31 with book). ago.ca

See NOW’s listings for more Black History Month events.

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