Bravo Niagara! Presents the North Star Festival: Voices of Freedom
In honour of the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent: Recognition,
Justice and Development (2015-2024), Bravo Niagara! will present the North Star Festival: Voices
of Freedom, an initiative that will utilize music and other art forms to give voice to Niagara’s rich
Black history and the legacy of the Underground Railroad. The North Star Festival has received official endorsement from the UNESCO Slave Route Project and will pay tribute to the courageous freedom-seekers who followed the North Star and established communities in Niagara, a terminus of the Underground Railroad and site of the signing of the first anti-slavery legislation in the British Empire. The North Star Festival will also align with the 70th Anniversary of UNESCO and the 21st Anniversary of the International Scientific Committee UNESCO Slave Route Project: Resistance, Liberty, Heritage. This annual festival will unite the Niagara Region in a global movement of promoting deeper cultural understanding, peace and dialogue for current and future generations.
Bravo Niagara! is honoured to present the Nathaniel Dett Chorale as the North Star Festival’s
Ensemble-in-Residence. Canada’s first professional choral group dedicated to Afrocentric music of all styles, the Nathaniel Dett Chorale has performed at events honouring Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, in addition to being the only Canadian ensemble invited to perform for President Obama’s inauguration. The Nathaniel Dett Chorale’s mission is “to build bridges of understanding, appreciation, and acceptance between communities of people, both Afrocentric and other, through the medium of music. The Chorale seeks to dissolve the barriers of stereotype, to empower humans in general, and those of African
descent in particular.”
The opening day of The North Star Festival will feature a free community outreach “informance” at the Niagara Historical Society & Museum in partnership with the Harriet Tubman Institute at York University, the lead institution which represents Canada on the International Scientific Committee of the UNESCO Slave Route Project. This educational initiative will utilize a multi-sensory approach to engaging audiences of all ages and cultural backgrounds and will include lectures, a commissioned photographic installation, archival display, performances, and a presentation of “Breaking the Chains: Presenting a New Narrative for Canada’s Role in the Underground Railroad,” an interactive research tool designed by the Harriet Tubman Institute.
The second day will feature “Food for the Soul” in partnership with The Market @ The Village, bringing together 30 vendors of local chefs, food trucks, music, artisans, local produce, Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake and more. “Food for the Soul” will coincide with the Harvest Celebration and last market of the 2015 season. Locals and visitors alike will have an opportunity to come together and experience the roots of soul food and the culinary contributions of people of African descent.
The North Star Festival: Voices of Freedom will culminate with a performance by the renowned Nathaniel Dett Chorale at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. Founded in 1794, St. Andrew’s has a special connection to the story of the Underground Railroad, as their schoolhouse was once used for children of Niagara’s Black settlers who found freedom in Niagara. Using the power of music, we believe we can communicate this powerful story and a painful subject of our past that is often difficult to express through words. This music is vital to telling the story of the strength of the human spirit, uniting people of all backgrounds and ages through its universal language, and fostering a shared sense of identity across our Region and beyond.