February has become an important time in Canada – and beyond – to pay tribute to the story of Black history. This year, Metrolinx will look to the life of Salome Bey, an influential Toronto blues artist, as inspiration. Her image will be used on a GO Transit bus wrap and in an art installation inside Bay Concourse at Canada’s busiest transit hub. As well as holding internal Metrolinx gatherings, the visuals will offer a moment – whether on a busy street or as customers walk through historic Union Station – to reflect on the past.
There are times when art can speak loudly on important history and those who drove change.
Metrolinx is celebrating Black History Month in February with a number of initiatives, including an upcoming GO Transit bus wrap and a visual arts installation at Union Station’s Bay Concourse (southwest corner, close to the Scotiabank Arena entrance).
Both the bus wrap and art display will debut at the start of next month (Feb.).
Recognition of the late Salome Bey, Canada’s ‘First Lady of the Blues’, will be the most visible aspect in Metrolinx’s commemoration, as her image will be prominent on a bus making its way around the Greater Golden Horseshoe Region of Ontario.
Metrolinx’s public celebrations of the month – dubbed ‘Black History’s Creative Journey’ – are led by the transit agency’s Black Employees Experience at Metrolinx Employees Resource Group (BEEAM).
“There are a lot of opportunities for stories to be told about the Black experience and using creative arts is a very interesting and tangible way to do that,” said Trevor Anderson, BEEAM’s chair and program sponsor for Union Station. “Hopefully we will educate, inspire and challenge people to learn and do more.”
The face of the celebration will be Bey, an iconic Toronto singer-songwriter, composer, activist, actress and playwright. Passionate about diversity and inclusion, Bey created theatre opportunities for Black performers. She was also an Honourary Member of the Order of Ontario.
Metrolinx commissioned artist Mark Stoddart to create a graphic that pays tribute to Bey. Replicas of it will be on display in Union Station and wrapped around a GO bus.
A new Spotify playlist, created by Metrolinx, features music by Bey and other artists that expressed the need for social change.
Metrolinx will also mark Black History Month with internal speakers and gatherings, including a diversity, equity, and inclusion forum and panel discussion featuring Metrolinx Chief Inclusion Officer Karima Hashmani and Cultural Intelligence Consultant Carlos Cadogan.
“It’s an amazing thing to show the growth and progression of what we’ve been involved with in the past few years,” Anderson said.
During an internal gathering of Metrolinx staff, he said a video on the bus wrap will be shared, as: “An opportunity to highlight and reflect on our Black employees who are in Bus Services – drivers, mechanics, bus supervisors, and others – and thank them for their efforts during the pandemic.”
Here’s a story from Metrolinx’s 2021 Black History Month celebrations, featuring Jean Augustine, Canada’s first Black female Member of Parliament.
BEEAM members have been involved in Black History Month commemorations at Metrolinx since 2020. The group took on broader responsibilities soon after.
“We felt a need to understand the experience of black employees, amplify their voices and look for areas where we can advocate for improvements and opportunities,” Anderson said.
After 18 years at Metrolinx, Anderson is looking to give back to the next generation.
“I am grateful to have had really great mentors in my career, and now I’m able to mentor other Black employees, share my experience and do that in a great environment,” Anderson said.
Story by Mike Winterburn, senior writer, Metrolinx News