Saturday, 18 of January of 2020

Coming Home

I’m on the train heading home from Windsor and reflecting on all that has transpired in the past nine days. When I began this journey my desire was  to unearth stories of people enslaved at the site that is now Windsor’s Community Museum, also known as Baby House. I had no idea how I was going to do this.

My presence in Windsor was met with responses that ranged from anxiety, curiosity, caution and excitement. Writing Black and indigenous bodies into the dominant narrative complicates the proud legacy of Canada-the-good. Exposing how Canada profited from this invisible labour force challenges the nation’s deepest held mythologies. After all, “we” participated on the receiving end of the Underground Railway…and didn’t we welcome fugitive slaves with open arms?

Many of Baby's class were slave owners. John Askin and Mathew Elliott owned numerous slaves.

Now I’m not the first person to slay the sacred cow. The work of numerous historians such as Marcel Trudel and Afua Cooper interrupt dominant national narratives yet something persistently holds these secrets tightly under wraps. It is my sincere hope that (un)masking Windsor’s first family and laying bare their untold stories will open up a space for re-imagining the future. Thank you to all the historians, archivists and citizen researchers who have so generously contributed to this project. Big thanks to the CBC’s Asha Tomlinson and Bob Steele and The Windsor Star’s Dalson Chen for your stories.

My heartfelt thanks for Alana Bartol who worked tirelessly to connect me to the community she loves so much. And big hugs to Judy Chapus and her partner Glen for housing, feeding and entertaining me during this residency.

The work continues. I’ll be back Windsor!

Media Coverage:

Interview by Bob Steele of CBC radio for the Bridge broadcast on October 22 4pm

CBC News story by Asha Tomlinson

Windsor Star story by Dalson Chen

By coincidence, whilst I was in Windsor, The Post ran an article by Historian Gregory Wigmore exploring Canada’s legacy of slavery. Check out his mention of the Baby family.

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