Summer fun should include our festivals and books


If you did not attend the Aretha Franklin concert on June 24 you missed a treat. Technically it was not an Aretha Franklin concert but the 18,000 people at Metro Square on June 24 were there to see and hear the Queen of Soul. Imagine people lining up at 10:00 in the morning for an advertised 8:30 p.m. concert. Those were some dedicated Aretha fans. I did not get there until 6:45 p.m. not being familiar with the rules of early arrival for concerts. I thought 6:45 was early for an 8:30 concert but I have learned my lesson.

The Queen of Soul’s performance kicked off the TD Jazz Festival and the performance was free. It is not often that a concert by a world class performer like Ms. Franklin is free. She lived up to her title Queen of Soul with a fabulous, flawless 90-minute performance that had people of all ages and abilities dancing and singing. Only a few hundred lucky people saw her perform in person, the other more than 17,000 of us had to be satisfied with viewing the performance on large screens.

The performance began at a bit past 10:00 p.m. which meant that some of those dedicated fans had been waiting for 12 hours. I admire Aretha’s talent and love her music but not 12 hours worth of standing-in-line-waiting admiration and love. I did sit on the ground for more than two hours though which is something I had not done since I was a 10-year-old member of Girl Guides in New Amsterdam, Berbice, Guyana. It was well worth the sacrifice though. The Queen of Soul treated us to some of the old classics including Natural Woman, Giving him something he can feel, Think, I say a little prayer and How Long I’ve Been Waiting, one of her newest pieces from her 2011 album Aretha: A Woman Falling Out of Love. What a wonderful start to the summer!

The weather is cooperating beautifully so far and there is so much more to come. This weekend (for the final time if City Hall gets its way) Africa will be brought to Toronto, at Queens Park. Afrofest, the annual celebration of African culture which has brought thousands of Africa-loving visitors to Queens Park, has received their walking papers from City Hall.

Afrofest, which is the first ever festival held at Queens Park beginning in 1990, has been evicted from Queens Park. The July 9 and 10 Afrofest is the last that will be held there.

In January 2011 the organizers of Afrofest were informed by the powers that be at City Hall that they would not be allowed to hold Afrofest at Queens Park in July. Music Africa which organizes Afrofest wrote to the city asking them to reconsider and received a letter from the City’s Parks Department in March informing them that they would not receive a permit to stage Afrofest at Queens Park. On April 22 a Support Afrofest Concert was held at the Centre for Culture and Arts, 918 Bathurst Street. It seems that one of the reasons for refusing the permit is Afrofest’s success. In an article published by CBC News on March 16, 2011, Richard Ubbens, the director of Toronto’s Parks Department, is quoted:

The number of people and success of the festival is partly working against itself in that the park is too small for such a huge, huge crowd.”

Wasn’t that the reason Caribana was moved from University Avenue to Lakeshore? Watch out now! Well it seems that Music Africa and its supporters have been able to convince the City politicians to permit this last staging of Afrofest at Queens Park. Since this will be the final Afrofest at Queens Park make sure you attend this 2011 Afrofest and shake something.

As wonderful as the various summer festivals are, many of us do not attend festivals and prefer other ways of enjoying the summer. Reading is an excellent summer activity especially for our children and young people who are out of school and away from formal education for the next eight weeks (back to school Tuesday, September 6.) Encourage them to read for fun and to learn about our heroes and sheroes, those well known, little known and unsung. One of those heroes, Dr. Daniel Hale Williams (January 18, 1856 – August 4, 1931), made history when he performed the first successful heart surgery on July 9, 1893. His achievements were extraordinary for an African American who was born before slavery was abolished in the USA on January 31, 1865.

Dr. Hale Williams received his medical degree from the Chicago Medical College in 1883 and established the Provident Hospital and Training School on May 4, 1891. I could only find two books written for children about Dr. Hale Williams: Sure Hands, Strong Heart: The Life of Daniel Hale Williams by Lillie Patterson published in 1981 and Daniel Hale Williams: Surgeon Who Opened Hearts and Minds (Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Inventors and Scientists) by Mike Venezia published in 2010. Unfortunately, neither book is available at the Toronto Public Library (TPL.)

Good news! The TPL has several children’s books about the little known history of Africans in Canada including The Children of Africville by Christine Welldon published in 2009; Last Days in Africville by Dorothy Perkyns published in 2003; To stand and fight together: Richard Pierpoint and the coloured corps of Upper Canada by Steve Pitt published in 2008; The kids book of Black Canadian history by Rosemary Sadlier published in 2003; The Black Canadians: their history and contributions by Velma Carter published in 1993; Viola Desmond Won’t be budged by Jody Warner published in 2010; Crossing to freedom by Virginia Frances Schwartz published 2010 and John WarePrint | Close by Ian Hundey published 2006.

Enjoy the great summer weather and the summer festivals, read with your children and encourage them to read.

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