Black experience, past and present, forms new exhibition
New shows ‘North is Freedom’ and ‘ ... And We Rise’ open Saturday
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: john.law @niagaradailies.com
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.