GO Transit Celebrates Black History

We are thrilled to celebrate the contributions of the Black community across the Greater Golden Horseshoe Region that we serve. Our customers and employees have helped to shape our identity over the years, so Black history is also our history, and it’s a journey we will always be proud to be on!

Black History Month 2022

Metrolinx celebrates Black History Month

This year’s theme, Celebrating Black History’s Creative Journey, encapsulates our desire to honour the achievements of Black pioneers in the creative arts in our community. From Jazz to Rock N’ Roll, the Black community has shared stories and expressed emotions that have shaped and influenced our society in countless ways. One of these voices, Salome Bey, is one of the most iconic examples of Toronto and Canadian Black excellence.

Known as “Canada’s First Lady of the Blues”, Salome Bey was a singer-songwriter, composer, actress, playwright and director who had immeasurable impact on creative arts in Toronto and across the nation. It is due to her legendary status as a creative arts pioneer - and also as an activist for equality - that she has been selected as our lead figure for Black History Month 2022.

Throughout February and beyond, keep an eye out as we honour Salome Bey through a number of initiatives, including an art installation at Union Station’s Bay Concourse and a specially designed GO Bus wrap! Check out this Metrolinx Blog for a video capturing the launch of Black History Month, featuring members of Salome Bey's family present to mark the celebrations!

Honouring the Achievements of Salome Bey

Canadian legend Salome Bey poses

Salome Bey was one of the most acclaimed artists in Canada’s history, and a cultural icon whose talent and vision cemented her status as a pioneer of the creative arts and of social activism. Though American-born, she proudly called Toronto her home since moving there in 1964 all the way until her death in August 2020. It is because of her deep-rooted connection to Toronto and to the surrounding communities that we pay tribute to her legacy and impact on our vast region.

The career of Canada’s First Lady of the Blues began in the 1960s and spanned the remaining decades of the 20th Century. She was a fixture of the jazz club circuit, and Bey's husband co-owned Canada’s first Soul Food restaurant – The Underground Railroad. This restaurant served as a meeting place for Toronto’s Black community, and saw the likes of Miles Davis, Bob Dylan, Isaac Hayes, Mick Jagger, B.B. King, Desmond Tutu and Stevie Wonder walk through its doors!

Some incredible career highlights include:

  • Honorary member of the Order of Canada
  • Induction into Canada’s Walk of Fame, as an ‘Arts and Entertainment – Legend’
  • Obie Award win for the off-Broadway show Justine
  • 2x Dora Mavor Moore Award winner for her work Indigo, which is one of the most successful cabarets ever to play in Toronto and which also featured an all-Black cast and crew
  • Toronto Arts Award
  • Martin Luther Kind Jr. Award for lifetime achievement, from the Black Theatre Workshop of Montreal
  • An original cast member of the Tony award-winning, and Grammy nominated 1976 Broadway production Your Arms Too Short to Box with God
  • Celebrated as one of the '100 Accomplished Black Canadian Women' by The Honourable Jean Augustine.

Known for her extensive community, charitable, and activist work, Salome Bey will forever remain an inspiring visionary, and a true representation of the essence of Black History in Toronto and beyond. Learn more about the life and legacy of Salome Bey here!

BHM Spotify Playlist

Are you looking to hear some of Salome Bey’s incredible work? Check out this spotify playlist! Other artists featured in this playlist include James Brown, Bob Marley and Nina Simone - musical icons spanning Black history, who have not only helped pave the way for today’s popular music, but who have also brought forth a resonant call for social change through their timeless music. Have a listen on your next commute with GO, and take advantage of our free Wi-Fi service when travelling on GO trains and buses while doing so!

Black History’s Creative Journey

Bay Concourse Mural

Salome Bey artwork for BHM Mural at Bay Concourse

As part of our theme to celebrate Black history’s creative journey, an incredible mural featuring a vibrant design capturing Salome Bey’s image will be on display at Bay Concourse in Union Station throughout the month of February.

“As a tribute to Bey's contribution I think this design titled "Post No Bills" would be an excellent way during Black History Month to pay homage and honor her legacy”, says artist Mark Stoddart who was commissioned to create this piece.

“Creatively, this design aligns with a concept or rather a theme I have been using to celebrate and honor those that have made a significant difference or contribution”, he continues. “Whether that is within our communities or on a bigger scale around the world, it's been a consistent theme I like to use.”

Be sure to check out the mural at Bay Concourse on the top level nearby the south entrance – steps away from the doors that lead to Scotiabank Arena.

GO Bus Wrap

BHM Bus Wrap

We worked with Mark Stoddart to design artwork for a special GO Double Decker Bus wrap. This bus (number #8531 for those savvy riders out there who keep track!) will be in service across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area indefinitely, servicing all connected communities to ensure all our customers have a chance to experience this beautiful artwork up close and personal.

Snap a picture to share on social if you see the bus (or are lucky enough to ride it!) and tag @gotransit!

You may also see some of our other wraps from the past - many of which are still in circulation in a neighbourhood near you - including “Pride Rolls On”, “Clean From the Inside Out”, “The Yeti Bus” and “Celebrating Freedom and Diversity”, which was also designed by Mark Stoddart for Toronto Caribbean Carnival last summer.

Artist Profile – Mark Stoddart

This year, local artist and activist Mark Stoddart was commissioned to create the design used for the Bay Concourse Mural and the GO Bus wrap. Throughout his career, Mr. Stoddart’s acclaimed portfolio of paintings has been featured at several galleries and events in the Toronto area, and he has even been featured on the series “Star Portraits” on Bravo TV!

His passion for music and social activism shines through with his “Post No Bills” design for this month’s celebration. “Specifically within the Black community, we continually hear stories of how our stories have been torn out of our history books” he notes. “This concept allows us to not only tell those stories but also paints the perfect picture that despite the world trying to cover up our stories, if you do your research and start to peel away all of the layers of prints, you will uncover our fascinating stories and history.”

To hear more about Mark Stoddart and to see some of this other works, visit here!

BEEAM Spotlight

BEEAM Metrolinx resource group logo

GO Transit’s celebration of Black history and excellence could not have been possible without the incredible work of the Black Employee Experience at Metrolinx (BEEAM) resource group. With around 170 members, this resource group is comprised of employees from a number of divisions within GO Transit, Metrolinx, UP Express and PRESTO.

As part of its mandate, BEEAM works tirelessly to empower Black employees across the organization. This work consists of enabling:

  • Increased opportunities for professional networking and career advancement
  • Leadership in awareness-building activities and events
  • Mentorship
  • Community collaboration
  • Outreach support
  • Removal of barriers to encourage more diverse and inclusive decision-making.

All employees are welcome to join BEEAM, as a self-identifying member or as an ally.

To read more on our initiatives for Black History Month and beyond, check out the Metrolinx Blog here. And be sure to read about our celebrations from 2021 here, featuring an incredible conversation with Canada’s first Black female Member of Parliament, The Honourable Jean Augustine.