Jully Black, WondaGurl, Gary Beals help TD Bank launch nationwide event series

On the heels of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the month of February celebrates Black Canadians, past and present, who have made outstanding strides politically, creatively and socially in their communities and across the world.

TD Bank has partnered with local organizations across Canada for its 8th annual Black History Month series bringing more than 60 events ranging from live performances and concerts to theatre productions and various exhibitions taking place across six Canadian cities: Montreal, Toronto, Halifax, Calgary, Vancouver and Ottawa. Through these events TD Bank hopes to illuminate and support today’s Black artists, aspiring entrepreneurs and youth.

President of ArtXperiental Projects Shawn Cuffie // Photo By. Sadé Powell © Urbanology Magazine

President of ArtXperiental Projects Shawn Cuffie // Photo By. Sadé Powell © Urbanology Magazine

“It’s the next generation, so you have to instil a level of arts and culture amongst everyone to have a thriving community and a thriving arts community. It’s important to make sure that no one is marginalized on the outside,” explains Alan Convery, Director of Community Relations for TD Bank.

“It’s so great to see the excitement that comes from somebody who gets the opportunity to actually do the things they want to do in life, it’s so spectacular,” he adds. “We want to enable as many people as we can to have the career that they want.”

TD Bank hit the ground running with a kick-off event held at its TD Bank Tower in Toronto where guests were able to learn more about the upcoming festivities and chat it up with local entrepreneurs and some of TD’s partners. Notable guests included Canadian R&B and soul music icon Jully Black, who hosted the event, singer and former Disney star Jordan Francis, “Canadian Idol” runner-up Gary Beals, platinum-selling producer WondaGurl and several others.

Guests were treated to a cultural fashion show, dance and musical performances, as well as a few displays of artistic projects developed by local entrepreneurs across the city, giving them just a taste of what they can expect throughout this month.

One of the returning events from previous years will be the Kuumba festival taking place at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre, a three-day event happening Feb. 5 to 7. The festival celebrates artists of African heritage and provides a platform for young adults to showcase their poetry, music, fashion and film initiatives. Canadian rap legend Michie Mee is scheduled to grace the stage and dazzle the audience with a lively performance.

This year will be the first time TD Bank has partnered with the Toronto Black Film Festival as well as the Toronto-based ArtXperiential Projects, an organization that hosts workshops and events for new and established artists. With TD’s help, its new initiative the Black Expo and Celebration (BXC), will bring workshops and events on music production, dancing, painting and other art forms to passionate youth in Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto.

“I found my way and now I can help other people break into the industry. I think it’ll just make us stronger as a community so why not help each other? People helped me so now I’m giving back.”

The travelling expo is a dream come true for the president of ArtXperiential Projects, Shawn Cuffie, who came up with the idea for BXC several years ago, but initially struggled to get the enterprise off the ground.

“As a youth growing up in Jane and Finch we were trying to get into the industry, but we didn’t know how,” shares Cuffie.

Eventually, Cuffie says, he was able to make his way into the entertainment industry and build connections of his own; he then decided to share these opportunities.

“I thought, ‘OK cool I found my way and now I can help other people break into the industry. I think it’ll just make us stronger as a community so why not help each other? People helped me so now I’m giving back,” he explains.

“I think the youth could take a moment to look back at the history, even the local history. See where they are, and project where they want to be.”

At the end of the month, the Black Diamond Ball will wrap up the BXC tour in Toronto on Feb. 26 and set off a night overflowing with dance, culture and food. Performances by Andra Day, Maestro Fresh Wes, Ray Robinson and Jully Black will ensure an exciting evening for guests.

During her speech at TD’s opening event, Black took the time to recognize those who have contributed to this year’s Black History Month initiative and spoke on what she believes teens and young adults can do to get more involved in their community and set their independent ventures in motion.

“I think the youth could take a moment to look back at the history, even the local history. See where they are, and project where they want to be,” the singer said.

“Get a mentor, even a mentor outside of what you think you want to do. I’m a singer and my mentor is a life coach. Get someone who’s going to develop and boost you up, because why strengthen your strengths? You already know [them].”

Photos By. Sadé Powell © Urbanology Magazine