Emancipation Day August 1, 2021 Toronto

Slave Clothes On The Mink Mile? Only on Emancipation Day


Photos and story by Stephen Weir: According to well-known activist, organizer and owner of Canada’s largest diversity bookstore, Itah Sadu what happened on Sunday on Bloor Street was neither a demonstration nor a parade.  Maybe not but the Mas models, actors in chains wearing slave clothing and children holding Black Power signs walked the Mink Mile on Sunday afternoon – it was an August 1st Emancipation Day to remember.


“No, this was an act of love,” explained Sadu. “ We billed it as Emancipation on Bloor -- an animation of the Bloor Street Cultural Corridor from Yonge and Bloor (aka the Mink Mile) to Christie and Bloor adding to the all the terrific August First Emancipation Day activities here in Toronto.”

Actors in slave clothing carry their chains  Yonge & Bloor in Toronto

It started after lunch at one of the busiest intersections in Canada – Yonge and Bloor Street.  Over 60 musicians, models, street actors and historical speakers, shouted out proudly that it was Emancipation Day in Toronto.


For this reporter it was a joyful two-hour demonstration of street theatre.  The Bloor Street animation took place at key intersections between Bloor at Yonge, and Christie Pits with a number of artistic events happening taking place right on the sidewalk and even  in the alcoves of fancy (i.e. expensive) Mink Mile stores.


Itah Sadu (left) with MP Adam Vaughan and his wife Nicole

Emancipation on Bloor took shoppers, gawkers and pedestrians through a series of “artistic performance statements” about emancipation including street scenes about the liberation from chains, masquerade, and spectrums of beauty, stereotypes, respect, resistance, and resilience.

As pan players performed at street level Cars honked. People waved and shouted the support, and some actually joined in the walk for a block or two.  

Mas models in front of Tiffanys -- Mink Mile

Itah Sadu and her A Different Booklist Cultural Centre led this Street Be-In. It was done in collaboration with the Festival Management Committee (Toronto Caribbean Carnival), and the Carnival Arts Community.


The themes for the different presentations were printed on signs that were carried down Bloor St.  The placards included titles like “They Came Before Columbus”, and  “The Rape of Africa”. The Resilience sign introduced Carnival Masqueraders dancing in the street and needed no explanation to their curb-side audience.

drummers at Christie Pits park on Bloor St.

The event started at Yonge and Bloor and ended at Christie Pits with a slave meal picnic in the park.  Over 200 performers, speakers and supporters took part in the 3-hour happening. 


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