About the Guelph Black Heritage Society
The Guelph Black Heritage Society (GBHS) is dedicated to preserving Guelph, Ontario’s Heritage Hall as a cultural heritage building, symbolizing the historical, present, and continued influence of the Black community on the quality of life in Guelph, the Wellington County area, and across the country. Our mandate encompasses raising awareness of local and national Black heritage while addressing social issues of importance to Black Canadian communities.
Our journey began in response to the sale listing of the British Methodist Episcopal (BME) Church in November 2011. This historic stone church, erected in 1880 by formerly enslaved individuals and their descendants who sought refuge in Canada through the Underground Railroad, stands as a testament to resilience and hope of our community. Under the stewardship of the Guelph Black Heritage Society, the BME Church building was renamed Heritage Hall and transformed into a thriving cultural centre that honours its historical significance and fosters community connections.
As the owners of Heritage Hall, we curate a range of engaging events, including concerts, workshops, live performances, and provide meeting space for community groups. Heritage Hall serves as a welcoming hub for cultural exchange, offering a unique contribution to Guelph’s growing cultural diversity.
At GBHS, we recognize the vital role Heritage Hall plays in preserving Black history and heritage. It acts as a critical historical record, representing the struggles, achievements, and cultural legacy of the Black community. In alignment with our commitment, we have launched Change Starts Now, a digital archive project that aims to digitize and showcase a comprehensive collection of photographs, documents, and records related to the Black community in Guelph and the broader Wellington County area.
#ChangeStartsNow is a digital archive project initiated by the Guelph Black Heritage Society. Our primary goal is to preserve and share the rich history of the Black community in Guelph and the Wellington County area. By collaborating with local families and museums, we have gathered and digitized photographs, documents, recordings and other records that provide a deeper understanding of Black history.
This archive will feature pictures of past GBHS programs and events, and artifacts owned by the organization. Watch videos of our past events, learn about historical members of the Black settler and immigrant communities or take a virtual tour of Heritage Hall. Tune in to the “Nicky Dread” podcasts, hosted and produced by Shane Philips. Nick “Nicky Dread” Taylor, a native of Guyana, was an esteemed figure in our community, renowned for hosting the “Crooked Beat by Nicky Dread” radio shows for over 40 years on CFRU Radio, a campus radio station based at the University of Guelph. Through his dedication to community radio, he shared his passion for reggae music with the world. The Caribbean community has significantly contributed to the cultural landscape of Guelph and Wellington County for over 60 years.
Through #ChangeStartsNow, we strive to raise awareness of the significant contributions made by the Black community, both within Guelph and Wellington County, and on a national scale. Our digital archive acts as a valuable resource for researchers, students, and the general public, offering easy access to historically significant materials. By leveraging the power of digitization, we ensure that these resources are preserved for future generations and provide a platform for exploring and engaging with Black history like never before.
Join us on this transformative journey as we celebrate the resilience, achievements, and cultural heritage of the Black community in Guelph and Wellington County. Together, we can preserve our shared history, promote inclusivity, and foster a greater understanding of our collective past.