The best Black History Month 2020 events in Toronto

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


Art

Kuumba 25

Toronto’s longest-running Black History Month festival turns 25. Highlights include Toronto artist Ekow Nimako, who will premiere eight new artworks using 50,000 pieces of LEGO, and sneaker design workshops led by D’Wayne Edwards. Check out our interview with festival curator Ashley McKenzie-Barnes here.

February 1-29. Harbourfront Centre. Ticketed events start at $15. harbourfrontcentre.com/kuumba

Documenting Black Families

This exhibition features images by English, West African, Caribbean and Canadian photographers that document the everyday lives of Black families who migrated across southern Ontario. Curated in collaboration with Vintage Black Canada, the show offers a counter-narrative to stereotypical depictions in the mainstream media.

Runs to March 20. BAND Gallery. Free. See listing

Tau Lewis

The Toronto-based artist with a focus on telling stories about Black identity presents a solo show featuring installations sculpted from found textiles and other materials.

Runs to March 22. Oakville Galleries. Free. oakvillegalleries.com

143 (I Love You)

Eight Toronto-based Black artists – including photographers Yannick Anton, Ishmil Waterman, Nathalia Amillionminds Allen, Soteeoh and Brianna Roye – explore the various manifestations of love, from the familial to the romantic.

February 6-March 28, opening 7-9 pm Feb 6. In the in the West Wing of Union Station. Free. torontounion.ca

Books

Futures: Desmond Cole

The Toronto-based journalist and activist discusses his debut book, The Skin We’re In, which chronicles 12 months in the struggle for Black liberation. Read our interview with Cole about the book here.

February 5 at 7 pm. Art Gallery of Ontario. Free. Pre-register for advance tickets. ago.ca

Douglas Gary Freeman: Exile Blues

The Toronto author talks about his novel exploring exile and race relations in the U.S. with U of T prof Akwasi Owusu-Bempah.

February 6 at 7 pm. Toronto Reference Library. Free. tpl.ca

What Can We Do With Blackface And Other Racist Materials In Canadian Archives?

What should contemporary archivists do when they find historical images of Blackface? Ryerson PhD student Emilie Jabouin and assistant professor Cheryl Thompson ponder this question as they discuss how to reckon with such images in modern times. Read an interview with Thompson on the subject of Blackface here.

February 20 at 7 pm. Toronto Reference Library. Free. See listing

Until We Are Free: Reflections On Black Lives Matter In Canada launch

Celebrate the launch of this new book edited by Black Lives Matter-Toronto members Rodney Diverlus, Sandy Hudson and Syrus Marcus Ware. The anthology includes prose, poetry and photo essays from activists, scholars and cultural commentators.

February 9, noon-3 pm. Lula Lounge. Free. See listing

Film

Toronto Black Film Festival

Max Carlson’s Princess Of The Row opens the annual festival and filmmaker Spike Lee attends a tribute and discussion. Plus: live music and spoken word performances, kids’ workshops and more.

February 12-17, at Carlton Cinemas, Isabel Bader Theatre, AGO Jackman Hall and Upper Deck by Fran’s. $12-$25, Spike Lee event $59-$99, kids’ workshops free. torontoblackfilm.com

In Conversation With… Kelvin Harrison Jr.

The rising American actor generated buzz for his turn in last year’s Waves. He’ll be in town to talk up his latest film, The Photograph, as part of TIFF’s Next Wave Film Festival.

February 13 at 7 pm. TIFF Bell Lightbox. $23.75. tiff.net

Losing Ground

A restored version of Kathleen Collins’s semi-autobiographical 1982 debut screens at the Paradise Theatre. Kenneth Montague will introduce the film and critic and programmer Sarah-Tai Black will lead the post-screening discussion.

February 19 at 6:30 pm. Paradise Theatre. Free. paradiseonbloor.com

Rafiki

CaribbeanTales International Film Festival hosts a screening of Kenyan filmmaker Wanuri Kahiu’s film about two women from rival political families who fall in love.

February 19 at 7 pm. Royal Cinema. $15-$20. eventbrite.ca

Drylongso

Cauleen Smith’s 1988 debut – a “Black feminist murder mystery-buddy movie-romance” – plays the Royal Cinema’s Black Gold series. Smith will do a Skype Q&A following the screening.

February 29 at 5 pm. Royal Cinema. $13.20. universe.com

Rapsody

The North Caroline MC Rapsody’s A Black Woman Created This Tour hits Toronto on February 13.

Music

King Alpha’s Song In A Strange Land: The Roots And Routes Of Canadian Reggae

Carl Harvey, JuLion King, Rupert “Ojiji” Harvey and more perform at the launch for Jason Wilson’s book on Canadian reggae history.

February 6 at 7:30 pm. Papermill Theatre at Todmorden Mills. $10. eventbrite.ca

Rapsody

Grammy-nominated, North Carolina-raised rapper Rapsody is coming to Toronto as part of her A Black Woman Created This tour. It’s not officially a Black History Month event, but she’s said she looks forward to “saluting the magic of Black women on stage each night of this tour.”

February 13, doors at 8 pm. Toybox. $25. See listing.

Baaba Maal: Duniya Salaam

The Senegalese singer, guitarist and percussionist – recently heard on the Black Panther soundtrack – plays two shows as part of a residency at the North York museum.

February 21-22. Aga Khan Museum. $45-$60. agakhanmuseum.org

Stage

Dat Gyal Funny!

Da Kink In My Hair’s creator Trey Anthony returns to town for a hilarious night of laughs by women of colour including stand-up/SNL writer Sam Jay, Rhoma Spencer, Taryn Della, Alison Mullings and others.

February 8 at 9 pm. Fleck Dance Theatre. $35-$45. harbourfrontcentre.com/kuumba

Caroline, Or Change

Tony Kushner (Angels In America) and Jeanine Tesori’s (Fun Home) musical about a Black maid working for a Jewish family in 1963 Louisiana is a must-see – during Black History Month or any other time.

Runs to February 15. Winter Garden Theatre. $39-$129. carolinetoronto.com

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