n Saturday afternoon about 150 people attended a community cookout held at Bickford Park in celebration of Juneteenth.
The event was organized by Not Another Black Life in collaboration with This Way Up Collective, Durham Black Accountability Coalition and the ON8ON Collective. About 10 people served jerk chicken, chicken wings, burgers, rice and peas, pasta salad, fruit salad, potato salad and a ton of other home cooked dishes to friends, family, passersby and members of the community.
The celebration featured three young jingle dancers who were accompanied by young drummers, as well as Black artists and performers, like singer songwriter Jesse De LaLune, who sang and played two beautiful songs on their acoustic guitar, and Markus Aurelyus, who also sang two of his original songs.
“I'm here for many reasons, but mainly it's because it is good to celebrate Blackness as a whole,” spoken word artist and singer Sapphira said. “And regardless of what emancipation we are celebrating, celebrating Blackness in general is important. And I'm here for that. I'm here to celebrate and to honour that.”
According to organizers, the event itself came together quickly. “It took about a week and a half to put it all together,” said Ashleigh-Rae Thomas, one of the organizers from the Durham Black Accountability Collective. “It was a lot of work but I’m happy it all worked out.”
Stephanie Osorio-Springer is a founder of This Way Up, a collective of individuals who have been or are currently part of the shelter system in Toronto who help homeless queer and trans BIPOC youth. The collective was founded during the Black Lives Matter protests in the GTA last summer.
“We all met in a shelter. And on the floor of one of our rooms, we were like, ‘okay, we want to do something.’” So they started making meals and giving them out to protestors who, at the time, were staging a sit-in at Nathan Phillips Square, demanding an end to anti-Black racism, police brutality and violence against Indigenous communities.
A year in and now This Way Up provides weekly meals for encampment residents. They’ve partnered with Community Fridges Toronto and provide weekly meals for them as well.
This Way Up also organizes Art in the Park, mostly held at Alexandria Park, where they bring art supplies and lay them out on a big tarp for encampment residents and members of the community to make art. They took a break over the winter but expect to start up again soon.
To celebrate Juneteenth, This Way Up wanted to do something special.
Two weeks ago they reached out to Not Another Black Life to co-organize. “It was a big network of folks helping each other. Like, this person knows someone who can help with this. And this person knows somebody who knows somebody.”
They made a call out to chefs in the GTA and asked for food donations, “and so many people came through. So many people donated [food]...It just sort of reminded us that we're active members of the community.”
“The goal of the action was to have a good time,” Osorio-Springer said. “So we're super happy with how it turned out here. Because a lot of the time, whenever the Black community gets together, it's because of a tragedy. Somebody shot, or somebody killed. And it's all completely justified. But we wanted to try and take that moment to carve out a little piece of Black joy where we could.”