Sandwich mural celebrates heritage
Ontario Court Justice Lloyd Dean contemplated the resolute and steady eyes of his great-grandfather, seeming to gaze proudly across the years and into the very soul of his descendants.
“I feel he laid down the path for me and is one of the main reasons why I’ve been able to accomplish what I have,” said the judge, looking at the wall-sized portrait of Delos Davis, who during the late 19th century became the first African Canadian lawyer and Queen’s counsel.
Dean said that as a law student he began collecting fragments of his ancestor’s history, much of it passed down through the family, for his own research at university. He was always cognizant of what it must have taken for his greatgrandfather to achieve his goals.
“Whatever I had to do couldn’t have been too difficult compared to what he had to contend with.... It’s a great pleasure to be here,” said Dean, speaking Saturday at the unveiling of a newly restored Olde Sandwich Towne mural, which celebrates 17 individuals and groups — including Dean’s great-grandfather — who have made contributions to national and local African Canadian history. “I feel honoured and humbled.”
The official unveiling of the restored mural on the west wall of the Westside Foods Old Towne Grocer building on Sandwich Street, was a highlight of the Olde Sandwich Towne festival celebrated over the weekend.
Heritage and pride proved more powerful than drenching rain, as families, residents and descendants of the pioneers who built this community celebrated the neighbourhood’s colourful past.
Hundreds of participants, including elected representatives, artists and history buffs, were on hand to see Mayor Eddie Francis and Dean unveil the mural.
A gospel choir in 19th century costume, typical of the clothing worn by the runaway slaves who came to the area on the Underground Railroad, sang a hymn which included the refrain “we came this far by faith.”
Many of those who attended the restoration’s unveiling said they, like Judge Dean, had personal connections to the 17 historic figures, which included inventor Elijah McCoy, Henry W. Bibb, editor of the anti-slave newspaper Voice of the Fugitive, greenhouse operator Annie Hyatt, school board trustee Henry Taylor, police officers, soldiers and civil rights leaders.
“I know six of the people up there,” said Windsor resident Ken Rock.
“Annie Hyatt was my great-grandmother. She ran a successful greenhouse. I’m extremely proud today. You’ve got to know your past to know your future. I saw the first mural go up and I was happy to see them do a second.”
The artists, brothers Jermaine and Darrell Baylis, said the six-week project, to recapture the spirit and scope of the original mural, which was painted over on the site due to deterioration, said they learned a lot about their own history and the history of African Canadians in the course of their work.
“Right now, I’m very proud,” Darrell said.
“It took six weeks and we worked all night if we had to to get it done in time. We inspired each other.”
Ward Two Coun. Ron Jones said the people represented in the mural are an inspiration “not just to Sandwich Towne and the City of Windsor, but to all Canada.
“Their images will stand here as a thought-provoking reminder of their achievements for years to come.”
But the unveiling was only part of the festival, given the theme Ribbon Through Time.
There were several other events to celebrate the oldest established European settlement west of Montreal, founded in 1797.
Though rain forced some of the outdoor performances indoors, there was something on offer for everyone, practically on an hourly basis, throughout Saturday and Sunday.
They included a gospel choir concert and other performances, a parade and tours. In conjunction with the festival, The Mill hosted a weekend-long event which included live performances, open mike nights, a dance and food to help support the Windsor Military Family Resource Centre, located at the nearby F.A. Tilson Armouries.
Mill owner Bill Sarafianos said the idea was to take that symbol of a ribbon through time to tie the area’s history to current events and the sacrifices our military is still being called upon to make in Afghanistan. He said the idea was to honour our troops and their families.
Donations were accepted for the resource centre throughout the weekend.