Stage Door News

St. Catharines: #EmancipationDaySTC returns to St. Catharines July 29-August 1

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Matter of Black (MOB) and BlackOwned905 are proud to announce the in-person return of #EmancipationDaySTC, an annual celebration set to reawaken old traditions and foster greater solidarity and pride among the Black Canadian community in memory of its remarkable achievements and in face of persistent racism. Free events that feature workshops, conversations, live performances and a vendor market featuring BlackOwned905 businesses will take place from 29 July – 1 August, presented in partnership with the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre and the City of St. Catharines.

After two years of hosting virtual and hybrid celebrations, co-founders Erika Smith, Natasha Bell and Jaida Steenhuis are ecstatic to bring the celebration back to Lakeside Park in Port Dalhousie. “I think it’s safe to say we are all so excited to finally be able to host our first in person Emancipation Day celebration and bring new light to the Big Picnic,” says Bell, “We’re looking forward to sharing the rich history of Emancipation Day with a fun, educational, and interactive weekend for everyone."

Historically, the annual Emancipation Day Picnic was said to have rivalled only Christmas as the high point in the lives of Black Canadians living in Niagara. And from 1924 until the early 1970s, as many as 8,000 people could be expected to converge at Lakeside Park in Port Dalhousie to attend the "Big Picnic" each year. People came from Toronto to Owen Sound and throughout the Great Lakes region, with some even travelling from Virginia and Tennessee in the U.S. to attend

Emancipation Day is a time to remember, honour and respect the struggles for freedom that Black Canadians experience, while continuing to learn and celebrate,” says Sara Palmieri, Director of Programming and Marketing. “The FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre is proud continue our partnership Matter of Black and Black Owned 905 to bring the community together for Emancipation Day.”

Emancipation Day has been part of St. Catharines’ history since 1924 and leadership from the local Black community and many partner organizations are bringing it back to centre stage. The Niagara community is once again invited to join in on the celebration and are encouraged to share their participation with #EmancipationDaySTC.

2022 Emancipation Day Weekend Activities Schedule


Fri 29 July

2pm — Raising of the Pan-African Flag

St. Catharines City Hall, 50 Church Street

Join us in person for a flag raising at St. Catharines City Hall with the organizers from Matter of Black, Black Owned 905, FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, and the City of St. Catharines.

Sat 30 July

4pm-9pm — Black Owned 905 Market + DJ Rennie

Check out this outdoor vendor market featuring Black-owned business in the beautiful Niagara region. The market will be hosted outdoors on St. Paul Street in front of the FirstOntario PAC.

5:45pm-7pm — Special performance by SHAD — Takin’ It to the Streets!

at 250 St. Paul Street in front of FirstOntario PAC

Shad is one of Canada’s most revered rappers, a peerless wordsmith who embodies hip-hop’s power to entertain and educate. Since releasing his DIY debut in 2005, the Toronto-based MC has pushed his style of socially conscious yet infectiously playful hip-hop across five increasingly ambitious albums that have received widespread critical acclaim and coverage in outlets like Rolling Stone, Complex, The Ringer, Fader, NPR, and more. To date, Shad has racked up over 30 million streams, a Juno Award for Rap Recording of the Year (for 2010’s TSOL), and five placements on Canada’s prestigious Polaris Music Prize shortlist, including his most recent album, TAO, released in October 2021 on Secret City Records. His mission to inspire and inform goes beyond his own music: a former host of CBC Radio’s flagship arts and culture program q, Shad can currently be seen talking shop with the legends of rap on the Emmy/Peabody Award-winning Netflix Original docuseries, Hip-Hop Evolution.

9pm/Dusk — Summer of Soul Film Screening — Fresh Air Flicks, FirstOntario in PAC Backyard - Mann Raceway Plaza

In his acclaimed debut as a filmmaker, Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson presents a powerful and transporting documentary-part music film, part historical record created around an epic event that celebrated Black history, culture and fashion. Over the course of six weeks in the summer of 1969, just one hundred miles south of Woodstock, The Harlem Cultural Festival was filmed in Mount Morris Park (now Marcus Garvey Park). The footage was never seen and largely forgotten--until now.

*Please note these events will take place rain or shine. The concert and vendor market will move inside the PAC if there is inclement weather.

Sun 31 July

12nn-4pm Salem Chapel BME Church Open House + Tour Talk

Join Rochelle Bush, Trustee and Historian for Salem Chapel BME Church for a tour talk. Rochelle is also the Owner and Operator of Tubman Tours Canada. Many of the freedom seekers who settled in St. Catharines attended this church, including the legendary Underground Railroad conductor, Harriet Tubman. Many scholars agree the Salem Chapel BME Church is the oldest Black Church in Ontario (1814). Join Rochelle for a guided tour talk at 2pm or enjoy a self-guided tour between 12nn to 4pm.

12nn - 4pm — Open House at Salem Chapel BME Church

2pm — Tour Talk with Tubman Tours — Facilitated by Rochelle Bush


10am-Dusk — An incredible day of music and celebration presented by Matter of Black — Lakeside Park, Port Dalhousie

Matter of Black and Black Owned 905 presents #EmancipationDay STC in Lakeside Park with live entertainment and activities ALL DAY LONG! The day will feature incredible Black talent from Niagara and beyond, activities for the whole family and food options on site.

10am-11am — Soca Fit on the beach

Join us for a free Soca Fit workout on the beach. We welcome all ages and fitness levels. Dress comfortably and get ready to sweat it out!

1pm-6pm — DJ Rennie

Lorenzo Evans also known as DJ Rennie has always had a strong passion for music. He started producing music at the age of 12. In 2016 he began to DJ, doing birthday parties and small events for family and friends. With his strong passion and love for music he decided he wanted to take his talents to the next level and start his own business. With 7+ years of DJ experience Rennie has proven to be one of the top DJs in the region. Always a crowd favourite, Rennie knows how to get the people dancing.

2pm — Drumming Performance by Alpha Rhythm Roots

The founder and artistic director of Alpha Rhythm Roots, Alpha, is from Guinea, West Africa. Alpha has played African percussion for over two decades and is based in Toronto. Before working as a full-time business owner and musician/instructor, Alpha used his bachelor's degree to work as a planner and project manager in the corporate world, in Europe and Canada, for over 15 years. In collaboration with award winning percussionists Derek Thorne, Walter MacLean, Dancer and multi-disciplinary artist Fumu Jahmez, as well as other professional musicians and artists, Alpha regularly performs and provide drumming related services, in French or English, at concerts, festivals, cultural events, schools, private corporate events, and community fundraisers across Canada.

3pm-3:45pm — Youth Drumming Workshop with Alpha Rhythm Roots

It is recommended that kids be 11 years old and up to truly benefit from the workshop. Registration is required, please visit this link to register.

6:30pm — Dwayne Morgan

Dwayne Morgan is a two-time Canadian National Poetry Slam Champion. He began his career as a spoken word artist in 1993. In 1994, he founded Up From The Roots entertainment, to promote the positive artistic contributions of African Canadian and urban influenced artists. In 2019, he founded and co-produced the inaugural Toronto Spoken Soul Festival.

Morgan is the 2018 winner of the Sheri-D Wilson Golden Beret Award for Career Achievement in the Spoken Word. In 2016, Morgan was a finalist for the Premier’s Award for Excellence in the Arts. In 2013, Morgan was inducted to the Scarborough Walk of Fame. Morgan has received both the African Canadian Achievement Award, and the Harry Jerome Award for Excellence in the Arts. In 2012, Morgan performed at Super Bowl 46, in Indianapolis, Indiana. Morgan is the winner of 3 Canadian Urban Music Awards (2001, 2003, 2005). In 2005, Morgan was recognized as Poet of Honour at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word in Vancouver, and in 2008 his contribution to the Arts and Canadian society were recognized on the Legacy Black History Month poster.

7pm — LMT Connection

The Emancipation Day celebration caps off with a live outdoor performance by Niagara’s premiere funk and soul band, the LMT Connection featuring the legendary Motown frontman Leroy Emmanuel.

Photo: Dwayne Morgan. © 2022 Ron Fanfair.