Black History Month in Toronto: What to Read, Watch, Listen to and Attend

Feb 2, 2024 Pearl Maguire Works News

Stories connect, educate and inspire – they are core to our shared humanity. At Works Design, we spend our days helping clients tell the stories that matter, so in honour of Black History Month, we are celebrating, listening to and learning from Black stories and storytellers. Because stories are meant to be shared, we’ve assembled our favourite reads, watches, listens and events for you below.


The Skin We’re In: A Year of Black Resistance and Power, by Desmond Cole

This is a must-read for our fellow Torontonians. Desmond Cole recounts a year’s worth of news stories about the racial injustices Black and Indigenous people faced in 2017. The Skin We’re In shatters the complacency that some Canadians may have about race and instead offers a real account of what it’s like to be a person of colour in Canada.

Read now.

Saga Boy: My Life of Blackness and Becoming, by Antonio Michael Downing

While Toronto is known for its diversity, that isn’t the case for all Canadian cities. For perspective, we’re reading Saga Boy, a memoir about Downing’s early years as a young boy newly arrived in a small and predominantly white town in northern Ontario. His journey to invent and reinvent himself mirrors the experience of many young immigrants and their search for identity and belonging in Canada.

Read now.

In the Black: My Life, by B. Denham Jolly

If you’ve ever bumped hits from 93.5 while sitting in traffic on the Gardiner, this book will give you the inside story on one of Toronto’s historic radio stations. Equal parts history lesson, manifesto and memoir, Jolly recounts his life as a Jamaican Canadian teacher, entrepreneur and activist who fought to launch Flow 93.5 (now Flow 98.7), the first Black-owned radio station in Toronto. Beyond his own experiences, Jolly tells the story of a generation of activists who worked to reshape the country into a more open and just society.

Read now.


“Secret Agents of the Underground Railroad” on The Nature of Things

Niagara Falls isn’t just a great place for weekend road trips – it’s also the setting for a key part of Canada’s Black history. In this episode of The Nature of Things, you’ll learn about Heritage Park, once home to the Cataract House, an upscale hotel considered the most important station of the Underground Railroad on the Niagara Frontier. Watch as host Anthony Morgan joins an archaeology team to uncover evidence of the Black resistance operation run by the hotel’s staff and led by its head waiter, John Morrison, who helped to guide enslaved people to freedom in Canada.

Available on: CBC Gem

Watch now.

Journey to Justice

Can you name Canada’s unsung heroes in the fight for Black civil rights? Watch some of their stories in this documentary, which highlights the struggle of six Canadians refusing to accept inequality in Canada – including Viola Desmond, who insisted on keeping her seat at the Roseland movie theatre in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, rather than moving to the section normally reserved for the city’s Black population, and Fred Christie, who was denied service at a Montreal tavern because of the colour of his skin and took his case to the Supreme Court. This film will transport you into the lives of the brave pioneers who helped secure justice for all Canadians.

Available on: National Film Board of Canada website

Watch now.

Across the Line

Leafs or Habs? No matter what team you’re cheering for, Across the Line will give you a new perspective on the role race can play in sports. Inspired by the 1989 Cole Harbour District High School race riots in Nova Scotia, Director X’s feature film directorial debut tells the story of young Mattie, a Black hockey player who finds his career prospects in jeopardy after racial tensions in his community rise.

Available on: Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, Paramount+

Watch now.


Black Tea

We’re grateful to work in Toronto – a thriving multicultural hot spot. Diversity makes being part of this city so special, but that isn’t always reflected in the stories and conversations around us. To change that, Dalton Higgins and Melayna Williams run the Black Tea podcast – we’re listening as the hosts put important and uncomfortable Black community conversations out in the open with humour and candour. There are currently three seasons that cover a range of topics from Black art to influencer culture and more.

Available on: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music

Listen now.

I Am Black History – Our Stories, Our Voices

As we learn more about the history of Black people in Canada, we’re also listening to the Black Canadians who are making history today. In this podcast, Nova Scotia–born host Donna Paris invites Black Canadians from across the country to tell their stories, and the stories of their ancestors, in their own voices. A production of InTheBlack: Canada.

Available on: Apple Podcasts, Spotify

Listen Now

The Secret Life of Canada

Think you know Canada? Think again. We’ve been learning a new side of this country’s history thanks to the Secret Life of Canada podcast. Tune in to hear hosts Leah-Simone Bowen and Falen Johnson as they reveal the beautiful, terrible and weird histories of this land. Add these episodes to your pod lineup for Black History Month:

Available on: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music

Listen now.


OCAD U Yonge-Dundas Square Black History Month Digital Exhibition

When: Feb. 1–29
Where: Yonge-Dundas Square and the Centre for Emerging Artists & Designers

This month, visit Yonge-Dundas Square for this exhibition featuring four artists from the OCAD U community. Get inspired by the theme of celebration with artworks that explore stories of resilience, self-discovery, preservation of culture and social change. The artists’ work will be displayed on five digital screens for the duration of Black History Month.

Learn about the artists.

The 12th Toronto Black Film Festival (TBFF)

When: Feb. 14–19
Where: Online and In-Person Options

This one is for all our movie buffs in search of stories that present new ways of looking at the world (count us in!). The 12th edition of the Toronto Black Film Festival is a dynamic, refreshing and audacious event – TBFF’s ambition is to encourage the development of the independent film industry and promote movies from across the globe that focus on Black people’s lives.

Learn more.

Hot Docs: Ijeoma Oluo on Be a Revolution – Curious Minds Author Talks

When: Feb. 5 at 7:00 p.m.
Where: Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema

We have some voracious readers on our team and if, like them, you have 2024 reading goals, you won’t want to miss this event. Join Ijeoma Oluo, one of the most influential writers in North America, as she digs deep into her new book, Be a Revolution: How Everyday People Are Fighting Oppression and Changing the World – and How You Can, Too. Presented in partnership with HarperCollins Canada.

Learn more.

Have a favourite book, flick, podcast or event from a Black creator that wasn’t listed here? We’d love to hear about it! Share your top picks with our team.

Pearl Maguire
Pearl Maguire
Pearl Maguire

Pearl Maguire is our Social Media Manager. When she’s not busy writing, Pearl likes to spend her time playing with her rescue dog, Antonio, exploring new places on her motorcycle and binge-watching game shows.

Subscribe to In Scope Digest
Sign up and we’ll send In Scope to you.