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Saturday, June 22, 2024
Friends of the Forgotten partners with Shaw Festival Theatre
George Webber, head of the Friends of the Forgotten committee, is excited to partner with the Shaw Festival Theatre. The partnership will help bring awareness to the Niagara Baptist Church Burial Ground. (Somer Slobodian)

The Friends of the Forgotten is introducing a new partnership to help raise money and spread awareness about restoration work taking place at the Niagara Baptist Church burial ground.

The committee has partnered with the Shaw Festival Theatre in an effort to spread its message to a wider audience.  

At the Shaw’s Aug. 19 production of “The Amen Corner,” writer James Baldwin’s 1954 play, inserts with information about the burial ground and its history will be placed into each playbill.

“This is an amazing achievement,” said George Webber, head of the committee. 

He said he got in touch with Kimberley Rampersad, the associate artistic director of the Shaw Festival, to see if there were any opportunities to work together. 

Webber said that Rampersad suggested they include the inserts in the playbills since “The Amen Corner,” like the Niagara Baptist Church, is driven by Black history.

“Every person who comes to opening night, or 850 of them, will get the program with an insert,” said Webber.

The show will start on Aug. 19 at 6 p.m.

The insert will describe in detail what the committee is doing to restore the burial ground and will include a QR code for donations. 

The Friends of the Forgotten is a community committee dedicated to restoring the Niagara Baptist Church burial ground, formerly known as the Negro Burial Ground. 

There are believed to be 28 graves and 19 buried headstones belonging to Canadian settlers on the Mississagua Street property.

Many were members of the Baptist church and some fled from slavery in the United States in the 1800s. 

Webber said the committee needs another $35,000 to go ahead with stage two and three archeological assessments and that the plan is to eventually “lift the headstones that are there.”

In addition to the playbill inserts, Rampersad suggested another idea to Webber. 

“She said, ‘You know what we can do? We can put a banner up in the lobby on opening night and beyond that talks about the Friends of the Forgotten and the burial ground,’ ” he said.

The banner idea hasn’t been confirmed yet, but Webber said he’s pretty sure it’s going to happen. 

Along with the inserts and the sign, there will be information on the TV monitors about the burial ground. 

He said he never expected this to happen and couldn’t contain his excitement. 

“It’s coming together and I’m loving every moment,” said Webber. 

There are also plans in the works to hold a fundraiser in the coming weeks and to hold a consecration on the grounds.

More information about the Friends of the Forgotten can be found at friendsoftheforgotten.ca.

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