Hip-hop, slam poetry, PowerPoint and student participation tell the almost-forgotten stories of Canada’s black communities.
Little Burgundy in Montreal was once called the Harlem of the North. Its wildly successful jazz club Rockhead’s Paradise would bring in acts like Ella Fitzgerald and Billy Holiday to town.
Hogan’s Alley in Vancouver was once a vibrant neighbourhood with a largely black population. Jimi Hendrix’s grandmother lived in Hogan’s Alley and he visited her on a number of occasions. Africville was a thriving black community in Halifax for close to 160 years.
Stories about these and other black communities from across Canada form the backbone of Tracking Black Canada, the latest Overture with the Arts production. The show tours Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia over the course of Black History Month, kicking off at Champlain College in St-Lambert, Jan 29.
Overture with the Arts was established by Kirkland resident Akilah Newton 10 years ago. Her twin brother Omari, an actor, slam poet, playwright and stand-up comedian, is the performer in the productions the two created to fill what they saw as a void in the black history experience. The show combines PowerPoint, hip-hop, slam poetry and a measure of student participation.
“Omari and I grew up in a home surrounded by black history,” Newton said. “But at school our background and contributions were strangely absent. When Black History Month started to gain momentum in schools, it consisted of stories about Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, etc., but with very little, or nothing, about our rich heritage right here in Canada.”
Little Burgundy is where jazz greats Oscar Peterson and Oliver Jones grew up. It’s home to Union United Church, the oldest black congregation in Canada.
“Because it was located close to the train station, porters and their wives came to Union United to worship,” Newton said. “Club owner Rufus Rockhead ran Rockhead’s Paradise in a time when it was unheard of for a black man to own a business and have a liquor licence.”
Rockhead’s Paradise closed in 1980. The closure was followed by the construction of the Ville-Marie Expressway. The neighbourhoods’s demographic has shifted ever since.
“This year we are doing 55 presentations,” Newton said. “Every year, the tour grows. There is a craving for this type of material.”
Two Overture with the Arts events are open to the public. The annual Caribbean Luncheon is at the Centre Communautaire Gerry-Robertson, 9665 Gouin Blvd. in Pierrefonds, Feb. 8 from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Hosted by media personality Catherine Verdon-Diamond, the luncheon’s special guest is Zanana Akande, the first black woman to be elected to the Ontario legislature and serve as a cabinet minister. Omari Newton will perform excerpts from the show.
And Tracking Black Canada will be performed, in its entirety, at the Pierrefonds Public Library, 13555 Pierrefonds Blvd., Feb. 17 at 2 p.m.
In 2018, Newton and co-author Tami Gabay self-published Big Dreamers: The Canadian Black History Activity Book for Kids Volume 1 (Bright Confetti Media Inc.). The focus was on high-achieving Canadian black men and women. Volume 2 will be ready by early June. It will focus black communities in Canada.
AT A GLANCE
For more information about Overture with the Arts, visit www.owta.org.
Tickets for the Caribbean Luncheon cost $20. To reserve, email email@example.com.
Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck pictured kissing as ‘Bennifer’ returns
Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck have been pictured exchanging passionate kisses, apparently confirming weeks of fevered rumors that they have rekindled a romance that dominated celebrity media almost 20 years ago.
Paparazzi photos printed in the New York Post on Monday showed the two actors kissing while enjoying a meal with members of Lopez’s family at Malibu’s posh Nobu sushi restaurant west of Los Angeles on Sunday.
Representatives for Lopez, 51, declined to comment on Monday, while Affleck’s publicists did not return a request for comment.
Lopez and “Argo” director Affleck, dubbed “Bennifer,” became the most talked about couple in the celebrity world in the early 2000s in a romance marked by his-and-her luxury cars and a large 6.1-carat pink diamond engagement ring. They abruptly called off their wedding in 2003 and split up a few months later.
The pair have been pictured together several times in Los Angels and Miami in recent weeks, after Lopez and her former baseball player fiance Alex Rodriguez called off their engagement in mid-April after four years together. Monday’s photos were the first in which Lopez and Affleck were seen kissing this time around.
Celebrity outlet E! News quoted an unidentified source last week as saying Lopez was planning to move from Miami to Los Angeles to spend more time with Affleck, 48, and was looking for schools for her 13-year-old twins Max and Emme.
Max and Emme, along with the singer’s sister Lydia, were also photographed walking into the restaurant in Malibu on Sunday.
Lopez married Latin singer Marc Anthony, her third husband, just five months after her 2004 split with Affleck. Affleck went on to marry, and later was divorced from, actress Jennifer Garner.
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; editing by Jonathan Oatis)
TikTok debuts new voice after Canadian actor sues
After noticing a new female voice narrating the videos on , users of TikTok were baffled as to why. It actually turns out that the Canadian actress behind the old voice filed a lawsuit against the platform for copyright violation as her voice was apparently being used without her permission.
Bev Standing, , is taking China-based ByteDance to court. TikTok’s parent company has since replaced her voice with a new one, with Standing reportedly finding out over email after a tip-off from a journalist. On the matter, Standing said: “They replaced me with another voice. I am so overwhelmed by this whole thing. I’m stumbling for words because I just don’t know what to say.”
TikTok is said to be considering a settlement for Standing outside of the courts, but nobody knows whether or not this is true. According to legal experts, the fact TikTok now has a new voice on the popular social media app suggests they acknowledge Standing’s case and potentially understand that she may have suffered as a result of the company’s actions.
Thanks to the emergence of the powerful smartphone devices of today, alongside taking high-quality images for Instagram, getting lost down YouTube wormholes, and , people are turning to relatively new platforms like TikTok. The service has 689 million monthly active users worldwide and is one of the most downloaded apps in Apple’s iOS App Store. This latest news could harm the platforms future, although many of its younger users potentially aren’t aware that this type of scenario is unfolding.
For Bev Standing, the ordeal is a testing one. She wasn’t informed of the voice change, there is no mention of it in TikTok’s newsroom online, and the development is news to her lawyer also.
This all comes after her case was filed in a New York State court in early May after the voice actor noticed a computer-generated version of her voice had been seen and listened to around the world since 2020. Speculation is rife as to how TikTok managed to obtain the recordings but Standing believes the company acquired them from a project she took part in for the Chinese government in 2018.
The Institute of Acoustics in China reportedly promised her that all of the material she would be recording would be used solely for translation, but they eventually fell into the hands of TikTok and have since been altered and then exposed to a global audience.
According to Pina D’Agostino, an associate professor with Osgoode Hall Law School at York University and an expert in copyright law, the fact that the hugely popular social media platform has now changed Standing’s voice could result in a positive outcome for the distraught voice actor. She said: “It’s a positive step in the way that they are mitigating their damages. And when you’re mitigating, you’re acknowledging that we did something wrong, and you’re trying to make things better.”
When assessing social media etiquette and how both companies and users should act, this type of news can only do more harm than good. Not only does it make the company look bad, but it could have an effect on revenues and, ultimately, TikTok’s reputation.
With a clear desire to move on and put this whole process behind her, Bev Standing is eager for the case to be resolved and get back to the daily work she loves and has been doing for a large part of her life. TikTok has until July 7 to respond to her claim.
Nigeria orders broadcasters not to use Twitter to gather information
Nigerian television and radio stations should not use Twitter to gather information and have to de-activate their accounts, the broadcast authority said following the move to suspend the U.S. social media giant in Africa’s most populous country.
Nigeria’s government on Friday said it had suspended Twitter’s activities, two days after the platform removed a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari that threatened to punish secessionists. Nigerian telecoms firms have since blocked access to Twitter.
International diplomats responded with a joint statement in support of “free expression and access to information as a pillar of democracy in Nigeria”.
Buhari, who was Nigeria’s military ruler in the 1980s, has previously been accused of cracking down on freedom of expression, though his government has denied such accusations.
Twitter has called its suspension “deeply concerning” and said it would work to restore access for all those in Nigeria who rely on the platform to communicate and connect with the world.
The National Broadcasting Commission, in a statement dated June 6, told broadcasters to “suspend the patronage of Twitter immediately”.
“Broadcasting stations are hereby advised to de-install Twitter handles and desist from using Twitter as a source of information gathering,” it said in the statement, adding that “strict compliance is enjoined”.
The statement comes two days after the attorney general ordered the prosecution of those who break the rules on the ban.
The foreign minister on Monday held a closed door meeting in the capital, Abuja, with diplomats from the United States, Britain, Canada, the European Union and Ireland to discuss the ban.
It followed the statement by their diplomatic missions on Saturday in which they criticised the move.
“These measures inhibit access to information and commerce at precisely the moment when Nigeria needs to foster inclusive dialogue…. as well as share vital information in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic,” they said in their statement.
Nigeria’s information minister on Friday said the ban would be “indefinite” but, in a statement late on Sunday, referred to it as a “temporary suspension”.
The minister did not immediately respond to phone calls and text messages on Monday seeking comment on the altered language.
(Reporting by Camillus Eboh and Abraham Achirga in Abuja; Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Alex Richardson)
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