On Saturday February 16, Borderless Bound Records and Black Lives Matter Nogojiwanong-Peterborough hosted an event for Black History Month in Sadleir House’s dining hall. The event offered a change of scenery and pace from the day’s many Black History Month festivities. The showcase followed an open mic held at the Historic Red Dog and hosted by BLM Nogojiwanong-Peterborough.
Shortly following Valentine’s Day, the showcase featured black poets and musical artists in Peterborough-Nogojiwanong offering their interpretations on the theme of “Black Love and History.”
The showcase began with poet, journalist, spoken word artist, and activist, Elizabeth Jenkins. Jenkins helped organize the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word when it came to Peterborough-Nogojiwanong in October 2017. She has competed twice at the Canadian Individual Poetry slam, placing fifth in the country in 2018.
As Jenkins explored personal traumas, love, and her Belizean heritage in her poetic performance, she reminded audience members to “avoid those who take us from where our hearts reside” and to “live the story you wish to write.”
Singer-songwriter and Trent University student Camille Springer followed Jenkins. Hailing from the island of Barbados, Springer has been performing since she was 13 years old.
Honouring her home, Springer performed “Emmerton” by The Mighty Gabby. She also performed songs by Lauryn Hill, Sam Cooke, and John Legend and previewed a song she wrote about racialized police violence.
Tokoni Edmund-tam’nabo, also a Trent University student, performed next. The Nigerian-born singer-songwriter brought his stage presence to a variety of songs, ranging from “Redemption Song” by Bob Marley to “All Night Long” by Lionel Richie, effortlessly.
Environmental Science and International Development student and Trent African and Caribbean Student Union (TACSU)’s own President, Bethlehem Bekele, then took to the stage. Usually a singer, she performed as a poet for the first time after encouragement from fellow performer, Niambi Tree. Her poems expressed themes of inner growth, social development, and mental health through nature imagery and rhyme.
Brandon Kwakye-Longdon, a self-taught musician and Trent student from Mississauga, Ontario, performed a short set spanning neo-soul, hip hop and piano ballads. Producing music for rappers in the Mississauga and Milton areas under the name “Don Soul,” his performance offered creative ideas like a mash-up of “Hello” by Lionel Richie and “Skyfall” by Adele, and a passionate cover of J. Cole.
The showcase wrapped up with Niambi Tree. Born and raised in Jamaica, Tree is a Peterborough-based poet and organizer, performing for and organizing with BLM Nogojiwanong-Peterborough since it was first started in Peterborough in 2014 by Charmaine Magumbe. She became BLM Nogojiwanong-Peterborough’s sole organizer in 2016.
Accompanied by music by Kwakye-Longdon, Tree performed poems that candidly explored experiences with mental health issues (“Anxiety”), loving (“The Type”), and the tension between community-building and self-care (“Mango Season”).
As the showcase wrapped up, attendees were invited to return to the Red Dog for a dance party called “We’re a Big Deal” hosted by BLM Nogojiwanong-Peterborough and DJ’ed by Niambi Tree.
The art and artists of the evening reminded everyone of the multi-dimensional reasons to reflect on and celebrate Black History Month: for a future of radical warmth, healing, and prosperity in the face of oppression and injustice. And that is a big deal.