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Part of our Heritage

grandma

Justine Turner with her grandmother Evelyn Johnson September 1979.
She would of been 100 years old on April 16, 2016.
Evelyn Johnson 1916 - 1982


forest London

Emancipation Day Celebration Update - A Day to Celebrate the freedom of Slavery!

Monday, August 1st, 2016 The entire community of London are invited for a day of Celebration!

Held at Westminster Ponds from 11:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.


Organized by Justine Turner, the great granddaughter of the originators of the Emancipation Day Celebration, James Jenkins, Christina (Jenkins) Howson, and Frank Howson.
tree

The Emancipation Day Celebration that was held on Monday August the 3rd, 2015 at Westminster Ponds and it was a great success!

Thank you to our Deputy Mayor Maureen Cassidy, who spoke from her heart about the Meeting Tree and Emancipation Day. You can find Deputy Mayor Cassidy’s speech below. Rev. Kenrick Sharpe from the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church who led the day in prayer, Joseph O’Neil Jr., local historian who spoke about the history of the underground railroad and the significance of Westminster Ponds, William Turner who was our gospel singer( Great grandson of the originators) and Justine Turner, our organizer who spoke about the history and legend of the Meeting Tree… and all who attended the celebration! We were fortunate to have with us last year, Barry Howson, the son of Christina and Frank Howson who started the Emancipation Day Celebration in London Ontario in the early 1930’s.

We would like to thank all of our sponsors that made this day a great success! A special thank you to CTV News. We look forward to hosting the Emancipation Day Celebration next year. Remember to put it on your calendar. Civic Holiday 2016 with the Meeting Tree.

Deputy Mayor's Cassidy's speech

Good afternoon. I’m so happy to be here today on behalf of Mayor Matt Brown and London City Council to say welcome, welcome to this Emancipation Day Celebration. Thank you very much Justine for including me as part of this deeply meaningful celebration.

On August 28, 1833, the British House of Commons approved the Emancipation Bill which came into effect on August 1, 1834, marking the beginning of the end of an abhorrent and shameful phase of human history. To commemorate this important part of Canada’s cultural history we gather here, around this stately oak tree that has so much significance; the “Meeting Tree” where the men, women and children escaping the bonds of slavery would meet on their route to freedom.

We gather under the protective branches of the Meeting Tree after a stormy night. One is advised against taking shelter in the trees during a storm yet I feel safe here. I imagine the fleeing slaves felt that way too. Like a mother, this great tree sheltered and protected them. When I touch her bark and close my eyes, I feel a warmth and I swear I feel a beating heart. Her branches reach out and back through time and through history as they reached back at that time towards the south, beckoning to those people, those human beings who had been so cruelly ripped from their homes and then held in captivity for generations.

These courageous people, Canada’s first refugees, took such incredible risks in order to achieve the freedom that many of us, today, take for granted. And today, we celebrate that courage. We celebrate the hard fought freedom of those people who, after so many trials and tribulations, finally found a safe haven here in London.

It is gratifying that this Emancipation Day Celebration was revived in 2013 after a 20-year hiatus. Thank you to Justine for your vision and perseverance in ensuring this revival. Thank you to all of the volunteers for your hard work and dedication. I’m looking forward to seeing this important event continue and to seeing London’s history celebrated in this way for many, many years to come. And finally, thank you to each and every one of you for coming here today and for being a part of this wonderful celebration.

Thank you to the special ladies who assisted to get the podium and sound equipment

The day was a blessing; we got through it and at the end when everyone was packing up we were blessed with rain.

A special thank you to Parkwood Hospital.

See you the same time and same Civic Holiday next year.

CTV Coverage

Emancipation Day 2015

Looking back at the last two years
of Emancipation Day Celebration.

Emancipation Day 2013

Emancipation Day 2014


London Free Press Articles


Fred Jenkins was a natural public speaker took over a pioneering newspaper founded by his father for Canada’s black community

Posted April 27, 2015 on London Free Press and Shared on Facebook
Fred Jenkins

Fred Jenkins, owner and publisher of Canada’s only newspaper for blacks, Dawn of Tomorrow, looks over some back issues in a file photo from 1990. The paper was started by his parents in 1921. (Free Press file photo)

Born into an accomplished black family, Fred Jenkins spent nearly a century upholding the tradition of community service

Jenkins served two terms as the first black trustee on the former London board of education and was one of a group of brothers and sisters that took over the work of their parents in publishing Dawn of Tomorrow, a pioneering publication for Canada’s black community.

Jenkins died last week at age 94.

His father, James Jenkins, founded Dawn of Tomorrow in London in 1923 with the aim of unifying the black community with stories about North American black successes.

When the elder Jenkins died in 1931, his wife Christine and her eight children, including Fred, carried on publishing the paper.

His brother David, an English teacher at Central secondary school, and sister Christine wrote many of the articles while Fred helped with distribution and advertising.

Dawn of Tomorrow hasn’t been published for a couple of years but Fred’s half-brother, Barry Howson, one of Canada’s most renowned basketball players, says the family hopes to revive the publication.

Fred Jenkins attended Ealing public school and H. B. Beal secondary school.

He worked as truck driver, cook, porter and supervisor with General Motors. When he was laid off from GM he started his own company, FREN, a flyer distribution company, acting as boss and mentor to the teenagers he employed.

Jenkins was elected to the London board of education (later merged into the Thames Valley District board), serving two terms in the 1980s representing south-east London.

Thames Valley trustee Peter Jaffe said Jenkins fought for the interest of poor and disadvantaged students but downplayed his status as the first black trustee.

“If he was revolutionary, he was a quiet one,” Jaffe said.

He was a lifetime member of Lions International and rose to the position of district governor.

In his early years he was a boxer and later took up golfing and bowling.

Jenkins is remembered by his family as a charismatic and natural public speaker.

“He was full of fun. He kept things lively,” said his sister Christine Booker.

Along with sister and brother, Jenkins is survived by his son Douglas, daughters Leslie Anne and Jennifer, a grandchild, three great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren.

hank.daniszewski@sunmedia.ca


Filmmaker probes hidden heritage

Posted Feburary 27, 2015 on London Free Press and Shared on Facebook
Local historian and documentary maker Justine Turner, shown here in her London home, displays a newspaper article from 1978 about her grandmother, Evelyn Johnson. The article is part of a collection of newspaper articles, photographs, and letters Turner has accumulated in her endeavour to create a documentary film about black history in London. She hopes to release the film in November. (CRAIG GLOVER, The London Free Press)

Local historian and documentary maker Justine Turner, shown here in her London home, displays a newspaper article from 1978 about her grandmother, Evelyn Johnson. The article is part of a collection of newspaper articles, photographs, and letters Turner has accumulated in her endeavour to create a documentary film about black history in London. She hopes to release the film in November. (CRAIG GLOVER, The London Free Press)

Justine Turner is on a quest aimed at saving, celebrating and sharing — if not making — the history of London’s African Canadian community.

The 45-year-old daughter of an African Canadian man, William Turner, and white mother, Diane, Turner is making a documentary about London’s black community — where it came from and what it’s contributed to London and Canada.

Saturday, Turner will be at the Black History Month closing gala at London Central Library’s Wolf Performance Hall to talk briefly about the film she’s hoping to release in November.

“It’s been a truly amazing ride,” said Turner, who is still raising money for the project (to contribute, visit the website at igg.me/at/londonsblackhistory.)

“When you speak to some of these people who are in their 70s, 80s and even their 90s, it’s like they’re taking you back in time and you feel like you’re living it. But it’s important to get their stories now because these people aren’t going to live forever.”

Turner has just launched a Name This Film contest and is urging the public to make submissions to justine@londonsblackhistoryfilm.com, where there are a few sneak previews to view. The winner will have their name listed in the credits. The deadline is March 9.

Tap dancer and singer Joey Hollingsworth, Canadian basketball star Barry Howson and many others are featured in the documentary, which reaches back to the slaves who fled to London from the United States in the 19th century.

“Young people need to know their history and London is a hidden treasure chest when it comes to black history,” said Turner.

Turner has been celebrating black history her entire life — “I’m bi-racial and proud” — but especially since 1991 when she started hosting Black History Month events. She’s also known for founding the The School Bus Fashion Show, with the aim of teaching children that “bullying is not fashionably acceptable and being kind to one another is.”

The film explores not just the people, but the landmarks related to black history, such as London’s 166-year-old fugitive slave chapel which was moved last year from Thames St. to a lot beside its daughter church, Beth Emanuel British Methodist Episcopal Church on Grey St.

Turner’s African Canadian history in London goes back more than 100 years to her great-grandparents, James and Christina Jenkins, who founded “Canada’s first Negro newspaper” in London, The Dawn Tomorrow in 1921.

Other tidbits of history in the film include the fact London’s first taxi cab was owned by a black man, and that a 600-year-old oak tree in the Westminster Ponds area served as a meeting place, or beacon, for fugitive slaves when they arrived in London.

Turner said she hopes the documentary will “put London on the map as a beacon of strength, hope, perseverance and love — focusing on the courage of the past and how it shaped London into the city it is today.”

joe.belanger@sunmedia.ca



Biracial and proud

Posted March 15, 2011 on London Free Press and Shared on Facebook

Biracial and proud

Justine Turner with her father Bill Turner at Black History Month event in London. Justine began championing Black History Month as a teenager 20 years ago. (DEREK RUTTAN/THE LONDON FREE PRESS)

Her only offence was the colour of her skin as she lay crumpled outside a London elementary school.

"They threw me down and kept kicking," Justine Turner recalled of a vicious assault that left her with cracked ribs nearly 30 years ago.

Her Grade 4 tormentors had begun with what was by then a familiar taunt - "zebra."

The eight-year-old Turner had red hair and freckles, her skin porcelain like her mom's, much lighter than her dad's and one of her brothers.

As a small child, Justine thought little of the varying shades of black and white in her home.

But others couldn't see past the differences. Some classmates asked if she was adopted. Others spoke with hands and feet.

On the day of the assault, with a friend by her side, Justine didn't back down.

"I called them names back," she said.

She hasn't backed down since in the face of racism and bullying that's more subtle than a fist but just as hurtful.

Turner was barely out of her teens when in 1991 she organized a celebration of black history in London - a celebration she has repeated every year since, despite some members of the black community looking askance at the skin of the organizer.

"You'd get people saying, 'Who's that'," said her father, Bill Turner, who is both proud and protective of his daughter.

Justine Turner also reached out to children who might be the victims, perpetrators or observers of bullying, by organizing a fashion show. The 11th Annual School Bus Fashion Show opened Monday and runs this week at Citi Plaza at 355 Wellington St.

The event showcases local children from five to 17 on the catwalk and features an anti-bullying message Turner hopes will spare some the trauma she endured.

Since many assume she's Caucasian, some will make racial comments to her about blacks.

"Some say the N-word. One referred to 'those monkeys out there,' " Turner said.

She doesn't pass on a chance to tell them who she is.

" 'Well I'm one of them,' I'll tell them. Their jaws just drop," she said.

Turner says she grew up respecting the heritage of both her parents and hopes her life reflects the best in both of them.

"I'm biracial and very proud of it. I have two great halves in me."

E-mail jonathan.sher@sunmedia.ca, or follow jsherLFPRESS on Twitter.

Martin Luther King

Reflecting Back...

On February 24, 1991 the Annual Black History Celebration was launched for the city of London. This was spear headed and implemented by Justine D. Turner. The day was chosen to honour Black History Month and as a dedication and celebration to the Beth Emmanuel church that suffered a fire a few months before. Surprisingly and gratefully the church survived with just some internal damage that was repairable.

The celebration was held at the historical heritage church, the Beth Emmanuel Church, located at 430 Grey Street every year until 2004. This church is part of the British Methodist Episcopal (BME) churches across Canada. The Beth Emmanuel church embodies years over centuries of history. It was built in 1856 by the hands of run away slaves who fled here to London. This was 23 years after the Emancipation Proclamation in 1833 (the freedom of slaves).

London was a safe haven for run away slaves fleeing from the Southern United States. They felt that London was as an inland city safe from kidnappers bent on taking them back to the United States. In 2004 the Annual Black History Month Celebration uprooted their venue from the Beth Emmanuel church and continued the celebration at the Holiday Inn London located at 864 Exeter Road. It continues to be spearheaded by Justine D. Turner, Just Eventzz and assisted by Pastor Kenrick Sharpe, in partnership with the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church.

ribbon

Ribbons represent Racial Unity. This was incorporated by Justine Turner in 1998. It has been worn at the Annual Black History Month Celebration for 15 years.

19th annual gala photo

This picture was taken during the 19th annual Black History Month celebration held at the Holiday Inn, London. Featuring Justine Turner, Rosemary Sadlier, Errol Blackwood, Craig Ruddock, Ray Ruddock, Billy Stergiou, Jerry Hooper, John Montgomery, Harry Swallowel, William Turner, Sandy Annunziata, Roger Caranci and Harold Usher. We had 300 people attend this Gala.

A-Channel News Clip from 2009

A Part of our Heritage…

William Hall

William Hall, born in 1825 in Summerville, Nova Scotia.
Received the Victoria Cross, the highest British military award for bravery.


The campaign for the end of slavery gained momentum in Great Britain and it was expected that slaves in the British colonies would soon be set free. Finally, on the 28 August 1833, the House of Commons in England approved the Emancipation Bill which was earlier introduced by Thomas Buxton.

The final Act, which would come into effect on 1 August 1834, stipulated that:

1- Immediate and effective measures would be taken for the abolition of slavery throughout the British colonies.
2- All children born under the passing of the Act, or under the age of six shall be free.
3- All slaves over the age of six years would have to serve an apprenticeship of six years in the case of field slaves, and four years in the case of others.
4- Apprentices should work for not more than 45 hours per week without pay, and any additional hours for pay.
5- Apprentices should be provided with food and clothing by the plantation owner.
6- Funds should be provided for an efficient stipendiary magistracy, and for the moral and religious education of the ex-slaves.
7- Compensation in the form of a free gift of 20 million English pounds should be paid to the slave owners for the loss of their slaves.

The Emancipation Act successfully ended one phase of a long and bitter struggle against a system which transformed people into beasts of labour with absolutely no human rights.

Actually, slave society regarded the African slaves as mules and even referred to the offspring of a European and an African female slave as a "mulatto", meaning literally a "young mule".

War of 1812


In 1812, another war broke out between the United States and Britain. Much of the fighting took place in Upper Canada. Worried that the Americans might take over Upper and Lower Canada and return them to slavery, many Black Upper Canadians fought on the British side. Some became part of a military unit for Black soldiers called Captain Runchey's Company for Coloured Men.

Once again, many slaves in the United States escaped from their owners to also fight for the British side, hoping to win their freedom. After the war, around 2 000 of them came to British North America, mostly to Nova Scotia. Others went to Upper Canada, near what is now Barrie, to accept the land offered to war veterans by Sir Peregrine Maitland, Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada.

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