Voices of Freedom Festival
September 28 - October 6, 2017
"Canada is not merely a neighbour to Negroes. Deep in our history of struggle for freedom, Canada was the North Star. The Negro slave, denied education, de-humanized, imprisoned on cruel plantations, knew that far to the north a land existed where a fugitive slave, if he survived the horrors of the journey, could find freedom. The legendary underground railroad started in the south and ended in Canada. The freedom road links us together. Our spirituals, now so widely admired around the world, were often codes. We sang of 'heaven' that awaited us, and the slave masters listened in innocence, not realizing that we were not speaking of the hereafter. Heaven was the word for Canada and the Negro sang of the hope that his escape on the underground railroad would carry him there."
-Martin Luther King Jr., “Conscience for Change” 1967 Massey Lectures, Toronto
Voices of Freedom Festival is a bi-national festival presented by Bravo Niagara! Festival of the Arts and the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area that commemorates and celebrates the significant Black history in the Niagara region in honour of the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024).
Voices of Freedom Festival (formerly North Star Festival) will highlight the ongoing journey to freedom and celebrate the historic contributions of people of African descent. The festival will feature educational musical performances, a symposium, lectures, and free interactive programming for youth.
Bravo Niagara!'s Voices of Freedom Festival will also raise awareness of the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake's Voices of Freedom Park scheduled to be completed in 2018.
Voices of Freedom Festival History
Bravo Niagara! presented the inaugural festival, formerly known as North Star Festival: Voices of Freedom, on October 2-4, 2015. The festival received endorsement by the UNESCO Slave Route Project for highlighting the cultural interactions born out of slavery and the slave trade.
I wish to congratulate you for your initiative which will showcase the musical interactions generated by the slave trade and slavery. This festival will pay tribute to the resistance and resilience of Enslaved People and highlight their contribution to modern societies. Your project is in line with the UNESCO Slave Route project's objectives and will contribute to the International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024).
Ali Moussa-Iye, Chief, History and Memory for Dialogue Section, UNESCO