AFROFEST 2016 – Toronto, ON

Afrofest 2016

Attendees at the 2016 Afrofest celebration, July 9th at Woodbine Beach Park, Toronto, ON, © 2016 Jacqlyn Sagna.

We made it, ya’ll. We made it through the week. We made it through the BLMTO Pride backlash. We made it through the first 48 of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile (barely). And we made it to Afrofest.

They tried to silence us this year by removing our “privilege” to a 2-day cultural festival and we fought back. We tweeted, called, emailed, ranted. We voiced our concern to anyone who would or wouldn’t listen. Afrofest is home. For the past 28 years, Toronto’s African and Caribbean community have used these two days of the summer to celebrate our heritage and our future. You will not silence us. I give many thanks to Music Africa for tirelessly working, fighting to provide this cultural hub for our families every year.

After what felt like a week of trauma, sadness, helplessness, and rage for black folk, I can barely express how comforting it was to be present at Afrofest this year. To walk through Woodbine Beach Park and encounter so many familiar faces of family and friends, black bodies that smiled and welcomed you back home. There was nothing but love and laughter. We were safe. We we free to be unapologetically us. And if I hadn’t realized before, I know now that Afrofest is both a healing space and a catalyst for the African diaspora.

So to those of you who joined us in healing, welcome home.

As I walked through the park with someone special on my arm, I couldn’t help but embrace the warmth and energy of this space. The sight of melanin surrounding us was both comforting and beautiful, it was almost utopic.

Below are some portraits I snapped throughout the day. If you recognize any of these darling faces, please tag them. Love+Light.


7:52 PM, Alysha (@demoiselleennoir) — Haiti



7:57 PM, Kolade (@_itsko) — Nigeria



8:55 PM, Cynthia — Nigeria



9:01 PM, Grace — DR Congo



9:05 PM, Prince + Young — Nigeria



9:11 PM, Jacqlyn (@madsophisticate) — Senegal



9:23 PM, Eugénie (@itsaj_17) — Ghana



9:32 PM, Ishmil (@ishmilwaterman) — Trinidad and Tobago

Demi (@demi_valentine) — Ghana / Trinidad and Tobago




Madsophisticated "M" Hand Logo

07/05/16, 2:10 PM EST

I’ve been scrolling down my news feed for a few minutes now and I am simply in tears.

There is so much hate, anger, and disregard circulating against Black Lives Matter Toronto and the folks that protested at Sunday’s Pride event. All of these hurtful words coming from people I’ve acquainted, worked with, gone to school with. People that identify as progressive, inclusive individuals. People that “don’t see colour because we are all one race”.

Well see my colour. See me. My blackness isn’t a joke. My blackness isn’t something for you to ignore. It is the root of who I am and where I’ve been. It is this very skin that carries the stories and strides of my ancestors, my family, my immigrant parents.

We chant “black lives matter” to your face because you don’t see colour. Because you don’t realize that I have lived different than you have, than she has, than he has. Because you don’t realize that different people have different struggles, we are not all fighting for the same freedom.

See my colour. Because although all humans hurt, we do not hurt the same. And I am telling you that something is hurting me and you tell me to be quiet.

You have not lived as I’ve lived. Ask me if I’m OK. Ask me if I need help. Ask me to explain. But do not tell me that the pain in my heart is not real. Do not tell me that the obstacles I climb are not existent. Do not tell me the oppression I overcome is exaggerated.

When I tell you “black lives matter” respond “yes, friend. Your life matters” instead of telling me that yours does too. I know that your life matters, but you’ve never had to remind anyone.

See my colour. Because when we spoke up at Pride and told you that even on this day of celebration we were still in pain, you booed us and told us to get out of the way. When we sat down and occupied a space that was meant to be safe for everyone, you told us that the space was not ours.

I am so heartbroken at this moment, reading posts from some of you stating that this act was divisive and exclusive. What is divisive and exclusive is the ongoing lack of space and resources for black folks in the LGBTQ+ community. What is the most divisive and exclusive, however, was the lack of SUPPORT and SOLIDARITY towards black LGBTQ+ folks in a moment when they were crying out for your help.

Many of you understand that Pride is a day where people rise above their struggles with gay, queer, trans issues. But do not forget that humans are intersectional, they might also struggle with issues of race, class, and religion. One person might only identify as trans. Another person might identify as trans, black, AND muslim. Please begin to consider how folks can be a double or even triple+ minority outside of the only one that you relate to personally or have knowledge of.

To my brothers and sisters, this too was your day of celebration. But even on this day you had to stand in front of the world and showcase your vulnerability. On the day you wanted smile, sing, and dance, you had to speak about your pain. You had to share your trauma and the memories of your friends, relatives, and lovers who have been killed. Killed not just for being LGBTQ+, but for being LGBTQ+ and black.

There is an array of issues within the LGBTQ+ community that need just as much support as the primary struggle. And I am so thankful that you not only told the stories of black lives, but stood in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the Indigenous and South Asian communities.

BLMTO is more than a black movement. It is a POC movement. It is an LGBTQ+ movement.

Black folks have been at the forefront of many LGBTQ+ resistances and have stood for a multitude of movements supporting Indigenous, Latinx, South Asian, and Arab POC. We continue to include your struggles in our prayers and demands alongside our own hardships.

Black folks have been at the forefront of Pride, originally leading the first Pride day as a political riot alongside Brown/Latinx folks who have also faced discrimination and police brutality. We reclaimed this space years later, sadly, for the same reason.

Black folks are here with the rest of you, beside you when you deal with your struggles, please be here with us also. There is so much power in recognizing our differences and helping each other achieve equity in our respected communities.

Thank you, genuinely, to my brothers and sisters from BLMTO leading the front lines every single day. Sacrificing time from your careers, school, families, and loved ones to fight for all of us. Many of you are my friends, classmates, peers, and I am so happy to be surrounded with your passion and dedication.

Thank you for never giving up. I cannot imagine the amount of trauma, frustration, sadness, depression, anxiety, and fear you all overcome every single morning you wake up to continue leading this movement. But I share your pain and I love you all.

To those of you bothered by this please, see my colour. See our colour. Do not call us angry when we tell you that we are hurting. Hold our hands and share our pain. Mourn with us. Give us space. Keep us safe.

Keep us alive.