Montréal celebrates Black History Month 2021

Richard Burnett

Richard “Bugs” Burnett is a Canadian freelance writer, editor, journalist, blogger and columnist for alt-weeklies, mainstream and LGBTQ publications. Bugs also knows Montréal like a drag queen knows a cosmetics counter.

February 2021 marks the 30th anniversary of Black History Month in Montréal, and this year’s edition features a pandemic-friendly slate of virtual film screenings, art exhibitions, theatre, concerts and other special events. This year’s theme is “Celebrating 30 Years of Success” (Célébrons 30 Ans de Succès).

Here are some choice events during and beyond BHM 2021:

Honouring Black Artists and Trailblazers

Québec’s Black community will be celebrated at the fifth annual Gala Dynastie which will be streamed on March 6. With the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, this year’s edition will highlight social involvement and the empowerment of Black communities during these times of profound societal changes. 

Black LGBTQ Film Festival

Filmgoers will enjoy the 13th annual edition of the LGBTQ Massimadi Montréal Afro-Caribbean Film and Art Festival which streams online from February 12 to March 4. Watch more than 30 films (documentaries, fiction and experimental) from Brazil to Namibia, from the comfort of your armchair at home. For festival programming, visit massimadi.ca.

What Our Archives Tell us

The Massmadi Montréal Afro-Caribbean Film and Art Festival presents the online exhibition Data Thieves: What Our Archives Tell Us showcasing artists Yannis Davy Guibinga and Syrus Marcus Ware and the strong connections between identity, gender fluidity and futurism. For more info, visit massimadi.ca.

Fade to Black

The 10th annual Fade to Black Festival (Festival Fondu au Noir) focuses on the place of Black communities in the arts, entrepreneurship and the professional world. This year’s free online program presents numerous speakers, panelists and performers – including Lilian Thuram, Boucar Diouf, Rhodnie Désir, Sarahmée, Montréal RnB queen Dawn Tyler Watson, Senaya, Rebecca Jean, and legendary Montréal world music diva Lorraine Klaasen – from February 17 to 21. For more info, visit fonduaunoir.ca

Webster Webinar

Montreal in Action presents Quebec hip-hop star Webster who with Black Montréal history tour guide Rito Joseph will talk about African heritage as well as Black and indigenous slavery in Québec dating back to the era of New France. February 9 at 6 pm. Free but registration required.

The King of Reggae

The world’s foremost Bob Marley historian, Roger Steffens, nicknamed “Ras Rojah” by Bob himself, and author of the definitive Marley biography So Much Things to Say: The Oral History of Bob Marley, will be the guest of legendary broadcaster Howard “Stretch” Carr on West Indian Rhythms, Montréal’s first and longest running Caribbean culture radio program, on CKUT 90.3 FM, on February 6 beginning at 4 pm, to mark the 40th anniversary of Marley’s death on May 11, 1981. February 6 would also have been Bob’s 76th birthday.

Self-care Sundays

Black Conversations: The Wellness Reunion is an experience-based series of free online gatherings highlighting well-being, family bonding, emotional healing and community empowerment. Inspired by the Black Panthers’ concept of self-care in the 1970s, these gatherings are meant to uplift mind, body and soul. February 7-14-21-28. For more info, visit conversationsnoires.com.

Poetry Jam!

Canada’s oldest professional Black theatre company, Montréal’s Black Theatre Workshop, presents their BTW Poetry Jam live on Facebook and YouTube on February 12 beginning at 7 pm. This event will bring together some of Montréal’s most talented spoken wordsmiths in a showcase where each artist will perform work based on a chosen theme. Following the presentation, the poets will participate in a virtual live discussion and Q&A with the audience. For more info, visit blacktheatreworkshop.ca.

Liberation’s Radiance

The Segal Centre for Performing Arts is teaming up with Black Theatre Workshop  to present Liberation’s Radiance, a light installation by BTW’s Artist-in-Residence, lighting designer Tim Rodrigues, to commemorate Black History Month. The work of free public art will be displayed in loops visible to passersby on the front of the Segal Centre (5170 chemin de la Côte-Sainte-Catherine) daily starting at 5:30 pm, from February 1 to 28. To respect curfew guidelines, the installation will run until 7:30 pm every night, with more information regarding run times to be announced as restrictions and government guidelines are updated.

The Palaver Tree

Attend the fourth edition of The Palaver Tree (l’Arbre à Palabres) from the comfort of your own home: based on an ancestral practice from Africa, participants will enjoy a unique, authentic and enriching human experience that mixes traditional, urban and immersive digital art via the Dance Battle, RAP Battle and Slam. The March 21 virtual event is free, but registration is required. Visit fondationmuntu.org.

When Africa Ruled Empires

Compiled, written and directed by Josa Maule, the Montréal School of Performing Arts presents Black Legends: The Hidden, The Unknown & The Forgotten which focuses on positive aspects in Black History. From the Egyptians to the Zulus, each culture has produced some of the greatest warriors and most powerful leaders in the world. Various monologues and scenes based on historical facts will be presented online via Facebook and YouTube on (tentative date) March 20. For more information, visit msopa.com.

Black History Month School Tour

Montréal-based Overture with the Arts (OWTA) presents its 10th annual Tracking Black Canada Part 2 tour. Founder and Executive Director Akilah Newton teams up with her twin brother – actor, playwright, slam poet and stand-up comic – Omari Newton in the 45-minute interactive presentation for high school and college students. The show retells the histories of early Black communities across Canada using OWTA’s trademark “edu-tainment” style combining video, music, Slam Poetry, Hip Hop, stand-up comedy and audience participation / interaction. Each event is live but due to COVID-19 is presented entirely online throughout the month of February. For the full schedule, visit owta.org.

Nuits d’Afrique

Productions Nuits d’Afrique – the good folks who run Montréal’s iconic Club Balattou and the Festival International Nuits d'Afrique – present a musical evening in the image of Africa and First Nations, webcast live for free on the Nuits d'Afrique Facebook page on February 26 at 8 pm. Musical guests are Mi’gmafrica, Djely Tapa and Anachnid (Kiki Harper). For more information, visit festivalnuitsdafrique.com

An Evening with Desmond Cole

Award-winning Canadian journalist, radio host and activist Desmond Cole – who chronicles the struggle against racism in Canada in his bestseller The Skin We’re In: A Year of Black Resistance and Power – will address what it means to be Black, in an online moderated discussion presented by the Canadian Museum of History, February 18 at 7 pm. In English with simultaneous translation in French. Free but registration required.

Collective artwork at Place des Arts

The Communal Attachments: Creating in the Absence Of Each Other exhibition at the Espace culture Georges Émile Lapalme in Place des Arts showcases three artists – Émilie Régnier, Damien Ajavon and Shanna Strauss – imagining new ways of being inspired, transformed and in kinship with one another. Each artist will work in the Espace culturel Georges-Émile-Lapalme for a week, contributing to a collective artwork without ever sharing the space physically. Their residencies will be broadcast on the Facebook pages of Mois de l’histoire des Noirs and Place des Arts from February 8 to 26.

Book launches

Antiguan-Québecoise poet and performer Tawhida Tanya Evanson launches her début novel Book of Wings during a free YouTube online event February 18 at 7 pm, presented by Montréal publisher Véhicule Press and Librairie Drawn & Quarterly. The event will feature a reading by the author, a conversation with celebrated Montréal writer Kaie Kellough, questions from viewers, and a book give-away.

The West Island Black Community Association hosts the Zoom virtual book launch of Can You Hear Me Now? by Celina Caesar-Chavannes, February 12 at 6 pm. In her book, Caesar-Chavannes explores her childhood and life as a young Black woman entrepreneur and politician to show that effective, humane leaders grow as much from their mistakes and vulnerabilities as from their strengths. A copy of Caesar-Chavannes’ book for the first 20 event registrations received.

Rhythm & Blues

Virtual out-of-town shows by Montréal performers: powerhouse RnB singer Hanorah headlines Quebec City’s L’Anti Bar & Spectacles on February 24; supersonic soul man Clerel headlines the Hamilton Winterfest on February 6 (Hanorah and Clerel both wowed the audience when they opened for soul icon Mavis Staples at POP Montréal in 2019); and singer-songwriter Athena Holmes launches their new EP Shine on February 13.  

BHM Blood Drive

The annual blood drive organized by The Round Table On Black History Month will be held throughout February in three Héma-Québec GLOBULE donor centres: Globule Versailles (7275 Sherbrooke Street East / Radisson Metro Station), Globule Laval (1600 le Corbusier Boulevard / Centre Laval, Entrance 4), and Globule Dix30 (9370 Leduc Boulevard / local 30) in Brossard.

One must book an appointment at 1-800-343-7264 or by emailing igive@hema-quebec.qc.ca. Donating blood to Héma-Québec continues to be a safe experience, from access control at all sites (they take the temperature of all donors and volunteers) to sanitizing measures and prescribed physical distancing.

 

Check out the complete Black History Month schedule at www.moishistoiredesnoirs.com.

Richard Burnett

Richard “Bugs” Burnett is a Canadian freelance writer, editor, journalist, blogger and columnist for alt-weeklies, mainstream and LGBTQ publications. Bugs also knows Montréal like a drag queen knows a cosmetics counter.

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