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Sorry to Bother You is screening as part of VIFF Centre's Black History Month programming.

Black Futures Month: The Best Events From Coast To Coast

From VIFF’s on screen programming to showcases of music, dance, visual arts, theatre and more across the nation, here’s our rundown of Canada’s most exciting events celebrating Black excellence. 

by Ozioma Nwabuikwu

Whether you call February ‘Black History Month’ or ‘Black Futures Month,’ it remains an important marker to remember Black innovation, resilience and current struggles. While centuries of important histories can’t all be captured in the shortest month of the year, there’s no doubt that arts and culture are tools of Black resistance, liberation, and joy across the diaspora–and Canada is no exception. Across the country, many amazing showcases are happening to celebrate all forms of Black expression. Here’s our top picks in Vancouver, Montreal, and Toronto. 

Vancouver


Black History Month at VIFF

The Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) Centre is welcoming two new guest curators, Jamila Pomeroy and Kikachi Memeh, to celebrate Black voices on screen. Each curator provides a new series with unique approaches to Black and African cinema, but they’re unified in their purpose – to look ahead while honouring how far the genres have come. 

A New Chapter 

A still from Jamila Pomeroy’s Union Street, screening Feb. 2 to 7 at VIFF Centre | TICKETS

Director Jamila Pomeroy brings her made-in-Vancouver hit, Union Street, back to the big screen from February 2-7 at VIFF. In addition, she will be screening two international films: Boots Riley’s surreal comedy Sorry to Bother You (pictured above) and Suhaib Gasmelbari’s Talking About Trees, in which four Sudanese cinephiles attempt to resurrect film culture after years of civil war and oppression. 

Pomeroy’s selections highlight a new chapter in Black and African cinema. And although Black pain is at the centre of most Black/African media, we’re called this month to look beyond those tropes to embrace the variety of culture and history held within Africa and the diaspora. Each of these films has distinct characters who are steadfast in their truth while actively seeking joy and liberation.

 

Celebrating Black Futures

Writer and journalist Kika Memeh guest-curates the series Celebrating Black Futures.

Starting on February 8th, writer and journalist Kika Memeh guest-curates the series Celebrating Black Futures. This series will take place every Thursday and is presented in partnership with the Vancouver Art Gallery.

It  begins with Ben Shapiro’s documentary Max Roach: The Drum Also Waltzes, which delves into the American jazz legend’s life and his significant commitment to the Civil Rights movement. The special event includes live jazz from the Feven Kidane Sextet.

Max Roach: The Drum Also Waltzes screens Feb. 8 (7:40 pm) at VIFF Centre, preceded by a live jazz show at 6:30pm | TICKETS

Kika will also exhibit Babatunde Apalowo’s All the Colours of the World Are Between Black and White, which follows a tale of forbidden love in an unsupportive society, and Kelly Fyffe-Marshall’s When Morning Comes, which sees a nine-year-old faced with a move from Jamaica to Canada.

Celebrating Black Futures also includes a showcase of four short films on February 22 (Toye Aru’s Gita Boy, Janessa St. Pierre and Courtenay Mayes’ Hair or No Hair, Courtenay Mayes’ DEAD END, and Brandon Wint’s My Body Is A Poem The World Makes With Me). Ranging from humorous dark comedy to sombre drama, these shorts explore existential crises, beauty standards and daring ambitions in the lives of the protagonists.

These selections provide a modern snapshot of the dynamic nature of African, African-American, Caribbean, and Black Canadian culture and cinema.

A TRIBUTE TO CHARLES OFFICER: MIGHTY JEROME

A Tribute to Charles Officer: Mighty Jerome is screening for free on Feb. 4 at VIFF Centre | BOOK NOW

On February 4, VIFF will also pay tribute to the late Charles Officer, one of Canada’s most masterful filmmakers, with a free screening of Mighty Jerome introduced by the film’s producer Selwyn Jacob. The documentary tracks the rise, fall and redemption of Harry Jerome, Canada’s most accomplished track and field star.

The full program can be viewed at viff.org/blackhistorymonth.

 

Ebony Roots Concert (February 9th)

Brandon Thornhill and Sound the Alarm: Music/Theatre deliver the second installment of the Ebony Roots concert: an intimate musical experience that narrates the evolving emancipation journey of the Black community through a North American perspective. Musical experiences range from passionate spirituals to genre-shaping records in soul, R&B, Blues and Motown. You can find tickets here

 

Acacia’s Black Parade (February 2nd)

For their first-ever collaboration, Level Up, Made By We and AfroQueer bring you Acacia’s Black Parade. This joyous celebration of Black, queer identity is hosted by local drag star Acacia Gray and features performances by local performers Batty Banks, Kendall Gender, DJ Softie Shan and DJ Nea Stone Fox. Don’t miss out, buy tickets here

 

REWIND by Vancouver Black Therapy and Advocacy Foundation in collaboration with Vancouver Pride Society (February 23rd)

The VBT&AF presents REWIND, a collaboration with the Vancouver Pride Society honouring the Black roots of electronic music. The event includes performances by electropop artist Vot and DJ sets from local DJs Karen Njoki,  Donna Dada, Rammie and Venetta. Get your tickets here

 

Obsidian’s Hip Hop Dance Battle and Jam (February 25th)

Obsidian delivers its first-ever installment of Black History Month programming with a hip-hop dance battle and jam in collaboration with The Black Arts Centre (BLAC). The Surrey-based event is a celebration of Black culture, talent and voices. Find more information and tickets here.

 

Toronto

KUUMBA (February 1st – 29th)

The Evolution of Breaking is screening Feb. 3 at the Studio Theatre as part of KUUMBA’s 204 programming.

KUUMBA is a month-long celebration of Black culture, diversity and creativity hosted at Harbourfront Centre. This year, the festival aims to highlight a variety of Black artistic experiences while sparking joy and hope in an inclusive setting. Notable events include Jully Black’s concert on the 17th, which will be opened by Aqyila, and (Screaming)…into the void: a compelling visual arts exhibition that explores themes of Black identity through lens-based media. 

Read our KUUMBA preview coverage and interview with coordinator Arinola Olowoporoku 

 

Black History Month at the AGO (February 2nd – 28th)

The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) brings an exciting lineup of artistic activities celebrating Black and Caribbean culture. At the heart of this month’s programming is the exhibition Life Between Islands: Caribbean-British Art 1950s-Now, spotlighting more than 30 artists and giving visual form to histories of migration, movement and change. Other notable events include Sharon Marley in concert and Zak Ové in conversation. Find more information and tickets here

 

Toronto Black Film Festival (February 14th – 19th)

The 11th installment of the Toronto Black Film Festival (TBFF) represents Canada’s largest celebration of Black History Month, presenting 125 films from 20 countries. The festival will also include panels and networking for Black film industry professionals. Find more information and tickets here

 

Before the 6ix: Michie Mee (February 27th)

Michie Mee emerged in Toronto’s hip-hop scene in the 1980s and built a distinct style of MCing that would go on to change the scene’s identity forever. She will join Before the 6ix hosts Del Cowie and DJ Agile in an interview to celebrate her cultural and musical legacy. Find more information and tickets here.

 

Montreal

Jam Arts Centre Presents: When Big Man Talk (January 31st to February 14th)

In this August 1922 photo, Marcus Garvey is shown in a military uniform as the “provisional president of Africa” during a parade on the opening day of the annual Convention of the Negro Peoples of the World at Lenox Avenue in Harlem, New York City. Photo: The Associated Press

This multimedia exhibition blends film, VR, photography and paintings to capture a captivating experience of the Black community in the 1970s–with a special focus on Marcus Garvey’s time in Canada. Journey through time and learn about the Black Canadians who shaped Montreal’s rich cultural landscape. Find more information and tickets here

 

Women of The World Raise Their Voices (February 1st to March 8th)

In collaboration with TD Bank Group, Productions Nuits d’Afrique presents “Women of The World Raise Their Voices”, a 5 concert program celebrating female African artists across the diaspora. Performers include Lydol (Cameroon), Lorraine Klaasen (South Africa), Roots Daughters (Germany), Bia Ferreira (Brazil) and Sona Jobarteh (Brazil). Find more information and tickets here

 

Black Theatre Workshop presents DIGGERS (February 1st – 17th)

DIGGERS tells the story of three essential workers – gravediggers – who make the best of a bad situation when townsfolk grow increasingly distant as illness hits the town (February 1 to 7). Full of song, laughter and humanity, DIGGERS is a tribute to the essential workers in society. Find tickets here

 

Festival Afropolitain Nomade (February 9th and 10th)

On February 9th and 10th, renowned Black and African artists, including Lydol and Sandrine Masse, will perform at McCord Stewart Museum under the artistic direction of composer and arranger Fredy Massamba. This multicultural concert is the culmination of an international residency project that will take place as part of a partnership between Canadian Heritage, the Conseil des Arts de Montréal, La Table Ronde du Mois de l’histoire des Noirs, the Afromusée, the Festival Afropolitain Nomade and the Museum. Find more information and tickets here

 

The Underground Comedy Railroad Tour (February 18th)

Created by Ridney Ramsey and Daniel Woodrow in 2012, this comedy tour aims to platform Black Canadian comedians. This year’s line-up will visit Montreal, Toronto, Halifax, Vancouver and Ottawa. Find more information and tickets here

Let us know if we missed any key celebrations! The influence of Black culture on the world today cannot be overstated, especially in arts and music. Consider offering support to these organizations and others this month through volunteering or donations. And remember, Black art and artists are important and you should support them year-round.