“From the residential school system, to the razing of Africville, to Japanese internment camps – Canada has a violent history that is fraught with painful examples of what happens when large institutions go unchecked. Black Lives Matter Toronto, a grassroots chapter of an activist movement that spans North America, is part of a long tradition of black frontline activism that spans generations, cultures and issues. In Canada, the historical context of activism that Black Lives Matter Toronto belongs to includes the Coalition for the Truth About Africa. This coalition protested the Royal Ontario Museum’s 1989-1990 exhibit Into The Heart of Africa and denounced it as racist in its glorification of colonization and demeaning in its portrayal of Africans. Some of the Coalition’s weekly demonstrations included confrontations between protesters and the police, arrests and criminal charges being laid. The Coalition’s black grassroots frontline activism posed real-life risks and had lasting consequences for those who were willing to publicly express dissent for a large and influential organization. Governor-General Award-winning playwright Djanet Sears went on to write the play The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God that weaves in a story line that is an artistic re-imagining of the existence of and resistance to the Royal Ontario Museum’s Into The Heart of Africa exhibit. Black art and/as politics is an ongoing act in Canada that the state is only beginning to acknowledge” (270).
Excerpt from Naila Keleta-Mae’s chapter “Black Lives Matter Toronto Sit-In at PRIDE” in the book Until We’re Free: Black Lives Matter in Canada edited by Rodney Diverlus, Sandy Hudson and Syrus Marcus Ware (University of Regina Press, 2020 p. 263-275)