Toronto History Museums launch new program to explore previously untold stories by BIPOC artists

A still from “A Revolution of Love”, a short film featuring the powerful words of civil rights activist Assata Shakur.

Awakenings is a virtual art series currently accessible on the City of Toronto’s website (running since mid-December), brought forth entirely by artists who are Black, Indigenous, and people of colour. Operating under the principles of anti-oppression, anti-colonialism, and anti-racism, the program aims to feature art projects that explore untold stories, awaken a new perspective, and invite all to join in the conversation. 

The series is part of the City’s efforts to address anti-Black racism and will be released over the next couple of years.

In July 2020, Toronto History Museums recognized the need to reassess the way in which it develops, delivers, and evaluates its programming. In accordance with the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions Calls to Action in the Museum sector, the Toronto History Museums sites are now set to embrace partnerships that embody Indigenous voices, stories, and knowledge into programs, collections management, and sites. 

The Awakenings program begins to address the lack of representation in the stories of Toronto’s history. More than 80 per cent of creative people involved in Awakenings art projects are from the Black, Indigenous, and people of colour communities.

The program launched with three online art projects available to the public — “A Revolution of Love”, “Behind the Curtain”, and “We Were Always Here” — and also features behind the scenes discussions in Awakenings Reflections.

Featuring the words of Assata Shakur: “‘A Revolution of Love’ is a digital short film that follows a young Black woman as she grapples with the histories of her ancestors and the present-day violence ravaging her community, and begins to imagine what her future looks like through dance.”

Esie Mensah, the choreographer, says, “Our stories have been left out of the global narrative for centuries. We must move forward by healing and empowering our truths in order to obtain a true sense of equity and most of all unity.”

In conversation with award-winning hip-hop recording artist Shad and producer Byron Kent Wong, Food Network host Roger Mooking reflects on the effects of racism on mental health and shares untold stories of his experiences growing up in the Canadian Prairies. Mooking is also a restaurateur and award-winning recording artist. The two-part conversation explores how food, art, and music formed his journey.

World-renowned director Julien Christian Lutzpka (professionally known as Director X), mentors 10 emerging Toronto-based Black, Indigenous, and people of colour filmmakers to present short films that aim to disrupt, discover, and display colonial narratives. Each of the filmmakers focuses on one of the 10 Toronto History Museums to bring to light untold stories. 

This experimental short film by Alex Lazarowich, one of the chosen filmmakers, explores the relocation of the Don Valley River and the impact of land extraction on the Indigenous peoples of Tkaronto and Kanata.

“We were always here… Black, Indigenous, multi-generational immigrants, and people of colour were always here as were the heritage sites; this will be a true awakening to Toronto’s unseen history and our stories that need to be told,” said Director X, who believes Awakenings presents a more rightful and complete version of Toronto’s history. 

Toronto Mayor John Tory said that the program helps to address the gaps in representation and develop opportunities which include programs such as Awakenings to increase support for Toronto’s Black creative communities. 

“The time to invest and create change is now as we work toward confronting and eradicating anti-Black racism and all forms of racism within multiple facets of our city,” Tory said. 

The full (and updating) video-series is available for free to watch here:

About the Author

By Bhabna Banerjee

Former Editor


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