When the Intergenerational Gathering Planning Committee received their Rainbow Grant from Community One Foundation to fund their event Bigger Than We, it was less than two weeks away, taking place in a replacement venue after an unanticipated challenge straight from an event planner’s nightmare – their original venue on the Toronto Islands had been shut down due to extreme flooding.
“We found a new venue after a lot of research and footwork,” said Phillip Pike, Director at Roaring River Films and a member of the IGPC. “This turned out to be a blessing in disguise as the new venue was a beautiful space, ideally suited to our event.”
And so on June 18, Bigger Than We captivated an audience of people from Toronto’s Black queer communities with oral presentations spanning across generations, an artifact exhibition and performances of music and poetry inspired by those who helped shape the Black queer community.
Organized by the IGPC, an ad hoc group of Black queer community activists in Toronto, and backed by the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI), the event’s goal was to increase historical awareness and spark friendship and solidarity.
“The vision guiding the event was to bring together members of Toronto’s Black queer communities of different ages and generations to share stories,” said Pike. “[To] celebrate the radical, transformative work of community building over the years, and acknowledge and honour those involved… including our Black queer ancestors.”
The event’s success is evident in how deeply it resonated with attendees.
“Learning about the events that took place in the community before I was born helps fulfill a history and inspires me to continue the work of community building and resistance through my work,” said one guest.
Another remarked, “Without this event, I would never have had the opportunity to learn about, witness, meet and understand who, where and how I am.”
“I am truly grateful to have the opportunity to learn firsthand about what it’s been like to be queer throughout the generations,” said another guest. “Oftentimes these stories fade as life takes its natural course. Thankfully, as a queer person myself, I now have stories before my time to pass on to the generations to go along with my own lived experiences. This event has really made me feel visible and important.”
The gathering was also recorded as part of a feature-length documentary by Pike’s Roaring River Films.
Tell the Children the Truth maps the stories of the courageous individuals whose decades-long work and activism helped shape Toronto’s Black queer community. The film is slated for release in Spring 2019.