Donations In Memory of Salome Bey Go To Freedom School’s Liberatory Education For Black Children

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The family of Canada’s First Lady of the Blues Salome Bey, who died Aug. 8 at Toronto’s Lakeside Long-Term Care Centre, at age 86, chose The Freedom School Toronto for anyone wishing to make a donation in her honour.

The American-born, Canadian-based singer-songwriter and actress had dementia since the 2000s, but her children — daughters Jacintha Tuku Matthews (known professionally as Tuku) and Saidah Baba Talibah (who performs as SATE), and son Marcus Matthews — instead of choosing a medical or health related charity chose this Toronto school which provides liberatory education for Black children. Bey's husband, restauranteur Howard Berkeley Matthews (The Underground Railroad), died in 2016.

“We feel that BLMTO Freedom School is most aligned with Salome’s values that balance art and activism and best suited to receive the gems of her legacy,” Tuku told Samaritanmag in an email. “Salome’s artistic practice contained key components that were integral to the body of work she created throughout the duration of her professional tenure.” 

Tuku laid it out with these four points:

  1. Salome was passionate and outspoken about human rights and the eradication of racial inequity and injustice
  2. Salome’s heart was ignited by and devoted to community engagement and to celebrating black dignity
  3. Salome believed in fiercely mothering the creative identities of young people by encouraging deep self-knowledge and self-awareness through artistic mentorship 
  4. Salome was committed to the preservation of black artistic legacy and extended that practice by centering the creative brilliance of young people in her mentorship work

According to the Toronto’s school’s web site, Freedomschool (written as one word) “is a youth and parent driven initiative that intervenes to fight against anti-Black racism in the school system and to creative educational alternatives for Black children.

"We run a three week program for children aged four to twelve, a Saturday school program, curriculum fairs, students conference, and training programs to engage youth in Black liberatory education," it continues. "We also do research on Black liberatory education and participate in campaigns to create systemic change.”  (e-transfers in Bey's name can be sent directly to the trustee:

In 2018, Bey was celebrated in the 100 Accomplished Black Canadian Women project created by The Honourable Jean Augustine. She was made an honorary member of the Order of Canada in 2005 and a decade earlier received the 1996 Martin Luther King Jr. Award for lifetime achievement from the Black Theatre Workshop of Montreal.

The New Jersey-born, Grammy-nominated singer sang with her brother Andy and sister Geraldine as Andy & the Bey Sisters across the U.S., Europe and Canada, releasing albums for RCA Victor and Prestige (their self-titled debut was produced by country legend Chet Atkins) before relocating to Toronto in 1964. Her creative output included two albums with Horace Silver; two Dora Mavor Moore awards for Indigo, a history of black music she conceived, wrote and starred in; a Grammy nomination for Your Arms Too Short to Box with God for Best Cast Recording; and an Obie Award in 1972 for Justine. Bey also sang on the 1985 charity single "Tears Are Not Enough" recorded by Northern Lights, to raise funds for relief for famine relief in Ethiopia and for Canadian food banks.

As a mentor, Bey’s musical theatre work entitled Rainboworld also provided path forward for young artists, including such notable Black Canadian artists such as Deborah Cox, Divine Brown, Orin Isaacs, Simone Denny, and Shantall Young.

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