A Note from the Chairs
A Living History
An accurate and complete understanding of our history is essential for establishing our true identity. This understanding allows us the opportunity to respond, and the manner of our response uncovers our character and shapes our future. The presentation of Canadian history often excludes the voices of Blacks, one of the earliest group of settlers.
The Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake has set aside a significant site in the heart of the Old Town to understand, celebrate, and honour its Black history. Voices of Freedom is an experiential art installation designed to engage, educate, and challenge visitors about this most important aspect of our history. Voices from the past will tell their stories, enriching visitors’ understanding of how they shaped our town and nation.
But Voices of Freedom isn’t just about looking back. Ongoing research and programming will allow today’s and tomorrow’s voices to impact our nation’s future.
It is a tragic injustice that, amidst the celebrated historical importance of Niagara-on-the-Lake, the Town’s significant and nation-shifting Black history has not been given a proper “hearing.”
Voices of Freedom is intent on righting this wrong. Individually and collectively, all of Canada will benefit from listening to the Black voices of Canada’s past, present, and future. Such a hearing is essential for our nation to move towards a fair, just, and free society.
Co-Chair, Betty Disero
Councillor, Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake
Co-Chair, John Hawley
Founder, The Village; local business owner
Wilma Morrison, Order of Ontario
The design of Voices of Freedom as an art piece encompasses the whole site. The resulting space supports a strong experiential narrative by combining sculptural art with park design. As visitors move through the space, they interact with the various components visually and physically. The art is comprised of four linked components.
Voices of Freedom gives expression to the silenced and forgotten stories of people of African descent, enslaved, freed, and free, whose sacrifices, labour, skills, and talents contributed to the development of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Voices of Freedom permanently inscribes these Black men and women on the historical and cultural landscape of the town.