George Brown College, together with the Ontario Black History Society (OBHS), celebrated the launch of the Lucie and Thornton Blackburn Conference Centre—a new facility named after the entrepreneurs and philanthropists who settled in Toronto in the 1830s after fleeing slavery in the United States.
The Blackburns came to Toronto via the Underground Railroad. They established the city's first taxi-cab company, were key contributors to the anti-slavery movement in Toronto and were founding members of the Trinity Church on King Street.
The new conference centre is located inside George Brown's student residence, The George, at 80 Cooperage St., near the Distillery District, and right across from the site that was once the Blackburn family home.
MPP Glen Murray and City Councillor Pam McConnell joined George Brown students, staff and faculty and OBHS members to celebrate the launch on Wed, Nov. 9, 2016. Celebrations continued Nov. 10 with an open house.
“We are delighted to be honouring the important legacy of Lucie and Thornton Blackburn at our new conference centre,” remarked Anne Sado, President of George Brown College. “The Blackburns were contemporaries of our namesake, George Brown, and together worked on anti-slavery initiatives. In many ways, their story mirrors our own commitment to supporting the aspirations of a remarkably diverse student body by instilling in them the values of entrepreneurship, activism and leadership.”
Four students from the George Brown School of Design—Jamie (Jung Yoon) Choi, Justin Heymans, Adriel McPherson and Huda Tariq—created a mural at the conference centre that tells the Blackburns' story.
“This is a proud moment for all of us. The Blackburns’ story teaches people of all backgrounds the values of courage and determination. The mural is a beautiful vehicle to share this narrative and the conference centre is a collaborative space to promote the exchange of ideas.” said, Nikki Clarke, President of the Ontario Black History Society.
This is the college's first large-scale conference facility. It will provide space for George Brown faculty, staff and students, as well as companies, agencies, charities and school groups, among others. This summer, the conference centre will host artists from Native Earth Performing Arts. The Blackburn facility will also be the final stop on the Great Waterfront Trail Adventure.