In this time of COVID-19, when provincial restrictions have caused postponement of many Civic Holiday weekend celebrations until 2021, a small group of dedicated Owen Sound Emancipation Festival (OSEF) members have turned to technology as a means of keeping the historic Festival before the public. As a result, a primarily online production and a campaign of social media posts will “stand-in” for the annual Festival, which has been ongoing since 1862. A major effort by organizers has resulted in nation-wide participation that brings people together with stories of the Black experience focused largely on the Northern Terminus of the Underground Railroad.
A number of prominent Canadians, many with ties to former Owen Sound Emancipation Festivals make appearances in the online presentation, Senator Wanda Bernard of Halifax shares progress being made on a Parliamentary Bill on Emancipation Day, along with best-selling authors Afua Cooper, Wayne Grady, Elizabeth Abbott, Natasha Henry, Karolyn Smardz Frost, and George Elliott Clarke. They are joined by black history consultant, Dr. Bryan Walls, and the prominent Canadian actor, filmmaker and playwright, Anthony Sherwood, among others. The program will also present Bernice Carnegie, whose father the late Herb Carnegie has an honoured place in the Owen Sound Sports Hall of Fame. Ms. Carnegie is scheduled to be in Owen Sound next year as the 2021 Festival keynote speaker when she will focus on her father’s inspiring life.
Music has long figured prominently in past Emancipation festivals and the online presentation continues the tradition with appearances by such popular performers as Michael Dunston, Eugene Smith, David Sereda and The Song Circle and the young Owen Sound vocalist, Rebecca Ironmonger. With its historic link to the Underground Railroad, the much-visited Black History Cairn in Harrison Park has been well-utilized for filming numerous area residents. Among them the immediate past OSEF chair Blaine Courtney, OSEF vice-chair Pat Lorenzo Faulkner, OSEF secretary Terri Jackson, author/artist/cairn designer Bonita Johnson DeMatteiss, ceramics artist Jim Hong Louie, and the Official Emancipation Crier, Bruce Kruger with his wife, Lynn. Participation of area officials include Owen Sound’s Mayor, Ian Boddy; Grey County Warden, Paul McQueen; Alex Ruff, MP; and, Bill Walker, MPP. Their cooperation and the monies raised through public donations and at the Black Lives Matter walk on June 10, have made the online production possible. Everyone is invited to attend the YouTube Premiere on the Emancipation Festival YouTube channel at 11:00 a.m. Saturday, August 1, Emancipation Day.
To watch the video which debuts Saturday, August 1 at 11 am, visit the Owen Sound Emancipation Festival Youtube Channel. There, you can also subscribe to the Channel which will ensure that you will receive a reminder the day before to tune in on Emancipation Day, August 1.
The main production titled Emancipation Day: Honouring Black Ancestors has been produced locally by Leaking Ambience Studio in Flesherton for the Owen Sound Emancipation Festival, whose board members are Jeff Smith, chair; Pat Lorenzo Faulkner, vice-chair; Terry Jackson, secretary; Brock Hansler, treasurer; Dorothy Abbott & Barry Penhale, board members, with committee support by Petal Furness, Nathan Segal, and Jane Gibson.
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