Artist Tony Miller wanted his nieces to learn more about their family’s history, including their journey out of slavery.
He decided that the best way to teach them was through his artwork, which is currently on display at his Bliss Studio in downtown Owen Sound this month, which is Black History Month.
“I originally started this project because a couple of my nieces didn’t know about their heritage,” Miller said Saturday. “When they found out they were descendents of slaves they were really upset about it. They really didn’t understand what our ancestors had gone through in order for us to survive and be here today.”
Those nieces were looking at their ancestors’ escape from slavery as something bad, rather than as a perseverance of strength, Miller explained.
“That is what got me starting to do the project,” said Miller. “It was so they would take some pride in their history rather than shame.”
Miller, who operates the Bliss Studio along with his spouse Lorraine Thomson, is calling his show Still We Rise in honour of Mya Angelou’s poem Still I Rise. The poem is all about the struggle to overcome prejudice and injustice.
He plans to hold a closing reception at the gallery at 271 9th St. E. on March 1 from 4 to 9 p.m., but will likely extend the show for an extra week or two beyond that.
The show is part of an extended narrative he has been working on for a number of years focusing on his family’s history beginning in Africa, through slavery and then their freedom in Owen Sound.
The city is recognized as the most northern terminus of the Underground Railroad, a secret network of abolitionists who helped African American slaves escape to freedom in the early to mid- 19th century.
The city is also home to the longest-running Emancipation picnic in North America. The picnic has been continually held in the city since 1862 to celebrate the Slavery Abolition Act of 1834, which abolished slavery throughout the British Commonwealth.
There are a total of 39 pieces in Miller’s show. Among the works are paintings, mixed media and linocuts, depicting Miller himself and scenes inspired by historical photographs of his relatives. He has included works that show his interpretation of the inside of a slave ship, images of landscapes in Africa, a ship on the ocean surrounded by monstrous waves and even colourful tiles depicting the secret symbols that were sewn into quilts to help slaves navigate the Underground Railroad.
Miller, who has been a lifelong artist, hasn’t always incorporated his family’s history into his work, but felt the narrative had to be told. He plans to continue to tell their story through his works.
“It is one of my favourite subjects,” said Miller. “I just think about what they went through in order for me to be here and I enjoy telling their story and keeping it alive.”
Miller first started working on the theme after he received an Ontario Arts Council grant to tell his family’s story. The project, called The Journey, featured many of Miller’s works, which led to him getting a small show of half-a-dozen of his pieces at the Royal Ontario Museum.
He was then approached by the The Porcupine’s Quill publishing company to do a biography of one of Owen Sound’s best-known escaped slave, John “Daddy” Hall. The biography, which features 80 linocuts done by Miller, has gone on to win multiple international awards.
Miller was raised in Owen Sound, but has just returned to the city after many years away. They most recently had their gallery and studio located in Port Franks, south of Grand Bend for 18 years, before moving it back to Owen Sound last year. Details about the gallery can be found blissstudio.info.
Miller said he is proud to be from Owen Sound, where his great-greatgrandfather Thomas Miller actually started the Emancipation picnic.
“No matter where I am in the world I always make it home for that,” said Miller.
The show isn’t the only event telling the story of the area’s black history this month. Grey Roots Museum and Archives just west of Rockford is presenting Black Roots in Grey for the month of February.
The exhibition tells the stories around the earliest Black settlements, the progress made and the successes of many Black community members. It runs until Feb. 28.
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LONDON — The family of a British teenager who ran away to join the Islamic State group says she has given birth to a baby boy.
The family’s lawyer said Sunday that 19-year-old Shamima Begum and her latest baby are in good health. Begum is living in a refugee camp in northern Syria and wants to return to Britain with her child.
Begum was one of a group of schoolgirls from London’s Bethnal Green neighbourhood who went to Syria to marry IS fighters in 2015 at a time when the group’s online recruitment program lured many impressionable young people to its self-proclaimed caliphate.
She told The Times newspaper that her first two babies had died of illness and malnutrition.
Her legal situation remains unclear. She may face charges for supporting the banned extremist group.
The Associated Press
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CLINTON, Miss. — Authorities say four people are dead and a suspect is in custody after a domestic dispute in Mississippi led to a fatal hostage standoff.
Clinton city spokesman Mark Jones says the incident began about 2:30 a.m. Saturday inside a Clinton home and lasted for about 12 hours.
Jones says four people were killed but did not provide any other details about the deaths in the Jackson suburb.
The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation says the suspect has been taken into custody. Clinton Police Chief Ford Hayman says two small children who had been inside were released before the hostage situation came to an end.
Capt. Johnny Poulos says the MBI took over the case because the shooting involved police. He could not provide any information on what led to the shooting.
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Chicago police believe Empire star Jussie Smollett paid two brothers to stage an assault on him late last month, according to several media reports citing police sources.
The brothers were detained by cops on Thursday after they were named as “persons of interest” and later described as “potential suspects.”
The two were released without charge late on Friday, and now Chicago Police Department officials say the investigation has shifted to the Empire star himself.
A law enforcement source told Deadline that “the new direction of the investigation is now based on the premise that Mr. Smollett was an active participant in the incident.”
Police are now keen to re-interview Smollett about his alleged assault.
Sources told CBS Chicago that at least one of the brothers bought the rope used in the incident at Smollett’s request. The actor also allegedly paid for the rope.
The brothers were paid $3,500 before leaving for Nigeria and were promised an additional $500 upon their return, CBS Chicago reported.
Smollett, who is black and gay, claimed two masked men beat him on January 29 and tied a rope noose around his neck. They also allegedly poured a bleach-like liquid over him, while hurling racist and homophobic slurs.
The brothers are Nigerian.
Sources have told CNN that the two men are now cooperating with police.
Lawyers for Smollett were contacted by law enforcement officials on Saturday afternoon.
“Due to new evidence as a result of today’s interrogations, the individuals questioned by police in the Empire case have now been released without charging and detectives have additional investigative work to complete,” a police statement read.
One of the brothers has appeared as an extra on Smollett’s TV drama Empire.
Smollett described his alleged attack in detail during a show at the Troubadour in Los Angeles on February 2, telling fans he fought back against his assailants and chased them off.
He previously handed over redacted phone records to police officials in a bid to help them with their investigation, but they were rejected as they were unusable as evidence.
Smollett also appeared on TV news show Good Morning America on Thursday and told interviewer Robin Roberts he felt he was attacked because of his public stance against U.S. leader Donald Trump.
– with files from WENN.com
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Dozens stood in the cold at a candlelight vigil in Mississauga Saturday night to honour the memory of an 11-year-old girl who was found dead following an Amber Alert.
Riya Rajkumar was found deceased inside a Brampton residence late Thursday night following a frantic search.
Her father was later taken into custody near Orillia and charged with first-degree murder in her death.
Police had previously said that Rajkumar was supposed to be celebrating her birthday with her father, Roopesh Rajkumar, but was not returned to the custody of her mother by the agreed upon time.
Her father then allegedly made comments to the mother indicating that he planned to do harm to Riya or himself, police say.
A patch of Meadowvale Village Green was covered with roses and candles Saturday night.
The park is located a short distance from Meadowvale Public School, where Rajkumar was enrolled as a Grade 5 student.
Faye Oxley came from North York with a friend to honour Rajkumar’s memory.
“The loss of a little girl is such a hard thing,” she said. “It was on her birthday, it was on Valentine’s Day.”
She said she didn’t know Riya or the family, but the loss hit her hard and was compounded by people who complained about the Amber Alert waking them up.
“Seeing the negative posts on social media of people being inconvenienced and woken up because of the Amber Alert, it just really hit hard for me.”
She suggested some of those who complained were missing the point of the alert in the first place.
“People seem to have forgotten what community is all about.”
Small children held roses in front of the candles, while older teens embraced each other, some on the verge of tears.
The vigil was one of two events planned to commemorate Rajkumar.
Brampton city councillor Rowena Santos is also organizing a community vigil in Garden Square in downtown Brampton Tuesday night. That event was scheduled to take place between 5:45 p.m. and 7 p.m.
“We are gathering the artists, the business community, the residents all throughout the city to make sure that we remember Riya in the most beautiful way,” Santos told CP24 on Saturday morning.
Makeshift memorial forms
As the larger community continues to struggle to come to grips with the shocking murder of Riya Rajkumar, a makeshift memorial has formed outside the Hansen Road home where she was found dead.
On Saturday morning a steady stream of people could be seen approaching a telephone pole outside the home and leaving flowers, balloons and other items in memory of Rajkumar.
“It is so upsetting that this could actually happen,” Michelle Lander told CP24 after visiting the site with her partner. “The 11-year-old trusted her father, she had her whole life ahead of her. It’s heartbreaking.
Roopesh Rajkumar, 41, was taken to hospital after being transferred into the custody of Peel police on Friday morning due to an unspecified medical issue. Police say that he is expected to remain in hospital throughout the weekend.
His case will be in court Tuesday, though it remains unclear whether he will appear in person.
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