The Owen Sound 151st Emancipation Festival was recently held in the tranquil surrounds of Harrison Park in Owen Sound.
One of the highlights of the festival was the 11th Annual Speakers Forum, held at the Grey Roots Museum and Archives in Owen Sound, the northern terminus of the Underground Railroad.
The forum, held from August 2-4, began with a wine and cheese reception. Historian Les MacKinnon, who has diligently worked to reprint the book Broken Shackles, was the first speaker. Broken Shackles is about James ‘Old Man’ Henson, who escaped slavery in the U.S. and settled in Owen Sound in the 1850s.
The following speaker was Anthony Sherwood, a playwright, producer and activist, whose lineage can be traced to slaves who escaped the U.S. and settled in Nova Scotia.
The forum also featured an arts exhibition of original paintings titled Moments in our History and gospel music and song, performed by Rob Green of Hamilton.
The weekend’s activities commenced with the traditional Ancestors Breakfast – a time for camaraderie and relaxation.
Following breakfast, a gathering assembled to hear Bonita Johnson de Matteis describe the origin of the Black History Cairn, which was built to commemorate slaves who fled the U.S. for freedom in Canada.
Two educators who underwent a four-week, 1,300 km trek by bicycle from Cincinnati, Ohio to Owen Sound were present at the gathering. Titling their ride “Pedal for Peace”, Adrienne Barnette and Claire Huller followed a route of the Underground Railroad to Owen Sound. They were applauded after telling the gathering about their journey and why they underwent it.
Following the meeting at the Cairn, activities commemorating the courage of slaves who escaped tyranny in the U.S. to settle in Canada continued for the duration of the festival.
By TED SHAW