Aug. 1 was Emancipation Day, which recognizes the day in 1834 when the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 came into effect across the British Empire, formally ending slavery in Canada and its other colonies.
Canada’s federal government first recognized Emancipation Day in 2021 and Kingston City Council asked that it be recognized in 2022, and beyond, as a reminder of Canada’s history of enslaving people of African descent as well as Indigenous Peoples. It is also an opportunity to celebrate the past and present accomplishments of Black people in Kingston.
“The recognition of Emancipation Day in Kingston is a step toward dismantling anti-Black racism that is etched in the fabric of our communities,” says Vanessa Mensah, Acting Manager, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.
“It also allows each of us to pause, reflect and challenge dominant ideas that inform assumptions and stereotypes about the Black community. It causes us to rethink what we know and how we have been conditioned to see our history. With each step toward reconciliation, we celebrate the visibility, richness and inclusivity of Blackness in our communities,” she adds.
This year’s theme, Thriving in Colour, was chosen to honour the resiliency of Kingston’s Black community in the face of ongoing anti-Black racism and discrimination. The City worked with residents and many community partners to offer programming that recognized Emancipation Day.
Despite the rainy weather, spirits were high along Ontario Street and in Confederation Park during the Black Block Party, which was the centrepiece event. The front steps of City Hall hosted several artists with brightly painted canvases, spoken-word artists and musicians while local business owners offered food, handmade goods and warm conversation to community members from their booths along the street.