Project highlighting local Black history to be discussed at public event

Local Black history and work that is underway to recognize its significance in Niagara-on-the-Lake will be at the centre of this month’s Brock Talks event.

On Tuesday, Feb. 28, Brock University Professor Lissa Paul will join PhD candidate Hyacinth Campbell and artist Quentin VerCetty for a public discussion about their efforts to memorialize individuals buried in Niagara-on-the-Lake’s historic Niagara Baptist Church Burial Ground.

Held at 6:30 p.m. at the St. Catharines Public Library, the presentation, titled “Making Decolonization Visible on the Ground,” will explore how decolonization requires changes to the built environment and the replacement of memorials of colonizers with memorials to honour those who resisted colonization.

The Niagara Baptist Church Burial Ground (formerly called the Negro Burial Ground) stands on the site of the former Niagara Baptist Church, which was formed in 1830. Only the white founding pastor and his daughter are named on the commemorative plaque currently at the Mississauga Street site.

The ongoing project aims to change that.

To tell the story of the 18th- and 19th-century Black survivors of slavery in Niagara, Campbell has been researching and sharing the backstories of those who left written testimonies on the project’s website, Memorials to People in Fugitive Ads.

At the Brock Talks event, VerCetty, a multidisciplinary artist, sculptor and activist, will share his vision for a memorial to those who lived, worked and died in Niagara. VerCetty’s work has been exhibited around the world, with his past work including the Joshua Glover statue in Toronto. VerCetty is also among the artists whose work is currently featured in the Toronto Transit Commission’s (TTC) Moving Legacies exhibition on TTC streetcars.

Paul’s research on educator Eliza Fenwick — who ran a school on Centre Street in Niagara-on-the-Lake in the 1830s after teaching in England, Barbados and the U.S — led her to research in Barbados, where she became involved in efforts to digitize the Barbados Mercury and Bridgetown Gazette under the British Library Endangered Programme Grant.

Brock Talks is held in collaboration with the St. Catharines Public Library. The event is free, but pre-registration on Eventbrite is encouraged.

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