Black ex­pe­ri­ence, past and present, forms new ex­hi­bi­tion

New shows ‘North is Free­dom’ and ‘ ... And We Rise’ open Satur­day

The Standard (St. Catharines) - - NEWS - JOHN LAW THE NIAGARA FALLS RE­VIEW

The faces are from across Canada, but pho­tog­ra­pher Yuri Dojc’s black and white pho­to­graphs aren’t just por­traits. They’re a ge­nealog­i­cal sur­vival story.

Open­ing Satur­day at the Niagara Falls His­tory Mu­seum, “North is Free­dom” shows the de­scen­dants of slaves who fled the United States for Canada be­fore the Civil War. About 30,000 peo­ple came to Canada via the Un­der­ground Rail­road, set­tling in places like Niagara, Wind­sor and as far away as the Man­i­toba border.

Among the peo­ple he pho­tographed was Niagara’s res­i­dent black his­to­rian Wilma Mor­ri­son, who died of COVID-19 ear­lier this year.

“We were able to work with Yuri to cre­ate a bit of a spe­cial trib­ute at Wilma’s por­trait,” says mu­seum cu­ra­tor Suzanne Moase. “We have a few of Wilma’s per­sonal items on dis­play.

“I feel like every­body in Niagara Falls had an op­por­tu­nity to know or know of Wilma. For the lo­cals, it’s an ex­tra rea­son to come, for peo­ple to come and say hello to Wilma.”

Dojc’s show was com­mis­sioned four years ago by the Cana­dian Embassy in Wash­ing­ton and has been seen in Ot­tawa, Hal­i­fax, Owen Sound and Chatham.

To mark its Niagara de­but, Dojc gave the mu­seum per­mis­sion to add a lo­cal el­e­ment with “… And We Rise,” a col­lec­tion of im­ages, au­dio and ar­ti­facts from the mas­sive anti-racism rally held in Niagara Falls on June 6. Or­ga­nized by lo­cal res­i­dent Sherri Dar­lene, the peace­ful demon­stra­tion saw thou­sands of peo­ple march­ing in re­sponse to the death of

Ge­orge Floyd, the Min­neapo­lis Black man who died in po­lice cus­tody while an of­fi­cer was press­ing a knee into his neck.

While the mu­seum spe­cial­izes in the past, Moase says items from cur­rent events are al­ways be­ing added to the col­lec­tion. “It’s pretty im­por­tant for mu­seum pro­fes­sion­als right now to be rec­og­niz­ing that it’s our job some­times to get out of the way,” says Moase, “so other voices can be heard and tell their story.

“This is re­ally Sherri Dar­lene’s


“North is Free­dom” and “… And We Rise” can be seen at the His­tory Mu­seum (5810 Ferry St.) from Sept. 26 to Jan. 10. John Law is a St. Catharines-based re­porter for the Niagara Falls Re­view. Reach him via email: @ni­a­garadailie­


The late Wilma Mor­ri­son of Niagara Falls is part of pho­tog­ra­pher Yuri Dojc’s ex­hi­bi­tion “North is Free­dom,” open­ing at the Niagara Falls His­tory Mu­seum Satur­day.

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