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Finding Freedom in the Forest City

The Second Public Release of the film will be on Saturday May 28th at 12:00 p.m. (Noon). It will be held at Hyland Cinema located at 240 Wharncliffe Road South.
We will be having musical entertainment prior to the film.
Free parking at the back of the Cinema.

DVD'S are available to order, please contact Justine Turner at...

519-697-3430

justine@ffitfc.com


Jenkins / Howson & Turner Family

Family Photo taken on Saturday February 27, 2016 in front of the marquee of the theatre at Landmark Cinema

CJBK Radio Interview with Justine Turner on the "Mike Stubbs Morning Show".
Recorded March 4th, 2016.

An important name to mention is Mark Drewe, Film Maker of Mosaic Mind Pictures.

Gala After Party
Saturday February 27th, 2016

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Screening of Finding Freedom in the Forest City, a film by Justine Turner and Mark Drewe

By Joe Belanger, The London Free Press Wednesday, March 23, 2016 5:15:32 EDT PM

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It’s a slice of London history many of us don’t know but should.

But the documentary Finding Freedom in the Forest City, on at the Hyland Cinema Saturday for a free public screening, feels more like the start of something, an appetizer, rather than a full meal.

Produced and directed by Justine Turner with co-producer, editor and cinematographer Mark Drewe of Mosaic Mind Pictures, it tells the story of London’s black community, from its origins as a destination for fleeing slaves from the American south to present day.

Turner, the mixed-race daughter of William and Diane Turner, is a familiar face to many Londoners having organized Black History Month for more than a decade and current organizer of Emancipation Day celebrations Aug. 1.

“London is a hidden treasure chest of black history that even storybooks do not talk about,” said Turner, a self-described activist and historian. “The faces on the film vary in age while the seniors are the ones who have the story book in their heads. We need to capture their spirit and passion of yesterday.”

Turner was raised in London’s black community and, from an early age, was very involved as a member of the Beth Emanuel Church congregation, including their Home and Foreign Women’s Mission Society. In the late 70s, Turner was honoured by the church and the City of London as child of the year.

Over the years, Turner heard the stories about London’s black history, especially from her grandmother, Evelyn Johnson, who died in 1982. “She was a major motivator for everything I did as a child, my mentor.

“I made the film because one day I was sitting at home and the thought came to me that these people who knew the history or had stories to tell weren’t going to be here forever.”

So, Turner set out to make a film, recording conversations with people she knew or had heard about, from her dad, who owned and operated London Blueprint and Duplicating Service, to the McCauley Boys, brothers Gary, George, Mark and Randy, the singing group that was nominated for a 1997 Juno Award for Best R&B/Soul Recording, who are each pursuing professional careers in law, teaching and music. In the 60-minute film, they sing an impromptu medley that is simply divine.

Others interviewed include Marion Turner, the first black cheerleader of the Buffalo Jills squad of the Buffalo Bills; Joey Hollingsworth, the tap dancer, singer, conga player and producer, who was the first black man to appear on the CBC; and London Sports Hall of Famer Barry Howson, a member of the 1964 Canadian Olympic basketball team.

There are many others interviewed in the film, including London history buff Joe O’Neill, the city’s heritage planner, Don Menard, and Western University professor Michael Murphy.

Racism is a theme that runs through the film, but gently; some people talking about their experiences and achievements, but also acknowledging race-related obstacles they faced on their journey.

It is not just informative, but well pieced together with drone-assisted footage of London that is breathtaking at times. The only serious flaw is some wind distortion in the audio during one segment.

Turner said she would like to see other films made, not necessarily about the African Canadian community, but all contributing cultures. She also suggested there is more to tell about London’s black history, noting her film left out major stories, such as London’s first black policeman, Lewis Coray.

A DVD of the film, expected to be screened in schools and libraries, will be available in the coming months.

“Having learned this history my whole life, I also learned that one person’s story can an inspiration to anyone,” said Turner. “I don’t care if they’re black or white. I want this film to inspire people. Those faces you see in the film have expressions, life and now they’re going to live forever.”

She said the film is for all cultures “because it’s their history too, it happened in their city and it’s important to know where these people came from.”


Local black history doc premieres March 26

By Chris Montanini, Londoner Tuesday, March 22, 2016 4:12:28 EDT PM

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A locally produced documentary about the history of London’s black community will premiere at Hyland Cinema March 26.

Titled Finding Freedom in the Forest City, the documentary has been co-produced by Mark Drewe and Justine Turner, a pair of Londoners who began working on the project about two years ago.

Drewe, the owner of Mosaic Mind Pictures, is a local filmmaker who has taken an interest recently in London stories with historical significance. Turner said she connected with Drewe about making the doc after deciding she wanted to tell some of the stories she’s heard through her family’s own connections to London’s black community.

“I’ve been involved in the black community since I was a child,” she said. “I’m biracial — my mother’s Scottish, my dad is African American — so I was very much involved in my paternal side. It dawned on me … that a lot of these people have stories to tell, whether its racism or different accomplishments (or) hardships, all facets of their life that need to be told on film because a lot of these people are passing away.”

The documentary features about 40 interviews with prominent black Londoners, many with accomplishments of their own or ties to the work of others who were influential in shaping their community in London.

A couple of the stories featured in the documentary include The Dawn of Tomorrow, an early African-Canadian newspaper founded in London by James F. Jenkins, and the 1964 Canadian Olympic basketball team, which included London Sports Hall of Fame inductee Barry Howson.

“The film does also touch a little bit on the origins of slave migration in the city and the settlement of the slaves,” said Drewe, adding that research for the film included London’s role as a model of racial integration during that period.

Racism became a topic of conversation in London last month when American actor E.B. Smith, in town to play Martin Luther King Jr. in a production of The Mountaintop, shared with the London Free Press a story about being the target of racial slurs during the first few days of his time in the city. The story is among a handful of unsavory moments involving black community members to make the news in London over the past few years, but Drewe and Turner said their documentary is about celebrating black culture in London without dwelling solely on racism.

“The film does touch on racism, but it’s a small part,” Drewe said. “We really wanted to focus on the achievements and the accomplishments of the black community in London as opposed to focusing on the struggle and the hardship. We know it’s there. We’re not saying it doesn’t exist in the film. We’re just saying that may have had something to do with how they (black Londoners) were perceived, but you look at what they accomplished and it’s overwhelming. They just so happened to be black.”

Admission to the film March 26 is by donation and proceeds will be put towards producing physical copies of the documentary on DVD. Turner said she hopes the film will be inspirational and educational for people in London today.

“It opens people’s eyes to a lot of things they didn’t know,” she said. “Every person brings a beautiful story and a unique flavour to the film. It’s a film of love, really.”


  • You can email Justine at:
  • justine@ffitfc.com
  • justine@findingfreedomintheforestcity.com
  • Phone Number:
  • 519-697-3430

CJBK Radio Interview with Justine Turner on the "Mike Stubbs Morning Show". Recorded March 4th, 2016
Click the Icon to listen. Click Me

http://www.findingfreedomintheforestcity.com you can also log onto www.ffitfc.com.


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Finding Freedom in the Forest City

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Emancipation Day 2015

Emancipation Day 2014

Emancipation Day 2013

London Free Press Articles


Fred Jenkins was a natural public speaker took over a pioneering newspaper founded by his father for Canada’s black community

Posted April 27, 2015 on London Free Press and Shared on Facebook
Fred Jenkins

Fred Jenkins, owner and publisher of Canada’s only newspaper for blacks, Dawn of Tomorrow, looks over some back issues in a file photo from 1990. The paper was started by his parents in 1921. (Free Press file photo)

Born into an accomplished black family, Fred Jenkins spent nearly a century upholding the tradition of community service

Jenkins served two terms as the first black trustee on the former London board of education and was one of a group of brothers and sisters that took over the work of their parents in publishing Dawn of Tomorrow, a pioneering publication for Canada’s black community.

Jenkins died last week at age 94.

His father, James Jenkins, founded Dawn of Tomorrow in London in 1923 with the aim of unifying the black community with stories about North American black successes.

When the elder Jenkins died in 1931, his wife Christine and her eight children, including Fred, carried on publishing the paper.

His brother David, an English teacher at Central secondary school, and sister Christine wrote many of the articles while Fred helped with distribution and advertising.

Dawn of Tomorrow hasn’t been published for a couple of years but Fred’s half-brother, Barry Howson, one of Canada’s most renowned basketball players, says the family hopes to revive the publication.

Fred Jenkins attended Ealing public school and H. B. Beal secondary school.

He worked as truck driver, cook, porter and supervisor with General Motors. When he was laid off from GM he started his own company, FREN, a flyer distribution company, acting as boss and mentor to the teenagers he employed.

Jenkins was elected to the London board of education (later merged into the Thames Valley District board), serving two terms in the 1980s representing south-east London.

Thames Valley trustee Peter Jaffe said Jenkins fought for the interest of poor and disadvantaged students but downplayed his status as the first black trustee.

“If he was revolutionary, he was a quiet one,” Jaffe said.

He was a lifetime member of Lions International and rose to the position of district governor.

In his early years he was a boxer and later took up golfing and bowling.

Jenkins is remembered by his family as a charismatic and natural public speaker.

“He was full of fun. He kept things lively,” said his sister Christine Booker.

Along with sister and brother, Jenkins is survived by his son Douglas, daughters Leslie Anne and Jennifer, a grandchild, three great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren.

hank.daniszewski@sunmedia.ca


Filmmaker probes hidden heritage

Posted Feburary 27, 2015 on London Free Press and Shared on Facebook
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Local historian and documentary maker Justine Turner, shown here in her London home, displays a newspaper article from 1978 about her grandmother, Evelyn Johnson. The article is part of a collection of newspaper articles, photographs, and letters Turner has accumulated in her endeavour to create a documentary film about black history in London. She hopes to release the film in November. (CRAIG GLOVER, The London Free Press)

Justine Turner is on a quest aimed at saving, celebrating and sharing — if not making — the history of London’s African Canadian community.

The 45-year-old daughter of an African Canadian man, William Turner, and white mother, Diane, Turner is making a documentary about London’s black community — where it came from and what it’s contributed to London and Canada.

Saturday, Turner will be at the Black History Month closing gala at London Central Library’s Wolf Performance Hall to talk briefly about the film she’s hoping to release in November.

“It’s been a truly amazing ride,” said Turner, who is still raising money for the project (to contribute, visit the website at igg.me/at/londonsblackhistory.)

“When you speak to some of these people who are in their 70s, 80s and even their 90s, it’s like they’re taking you back in time and you feel like you’re living it. But it’s important to get their stories now because these people aren’t going to live forever.”

Turner has just launched a Name This Film contest and is urging the public to make submissions to justine@londonsblackhistoryfilm.com, where there are a few sneak previews to view. The winner will have their name listed in the credits. The deadline is March 9.

Tap dancer and singer Joey Hollingsworth, Canadian basketball star Barry Howson and many others are featured in the documentary, which reaches back to the slaves who fled to London from the United States in the 19th century.

“Young people need to know their history and London is a hidden treasure chest when it comes to black history,” said Turner.

Turner has been celebrating black history her entire life — “I’m bi-racial and proud” — but especially since 1991 when she started hosting Black History Month events. She’s also known for founding the The School Bus Fashion Show, with the aim of teaching children that “bullying is not fashionably acceptable and being kind to one another is.”

The film explores not just the people, but the landmarks related to black history, such as London’s 166-year-old fugitive slave chapel which was moved last year from Thames St. to a lot beside its daughter church, Beth Emanuel British Methodist Episcopal Church on Grey St.

Turner’s African Canadian history in London goes back more than 100 years to her great-grandparents, James and Christina Jenkins, who founded “Canada’s first Negro newspaper” in London, The Dawn Tomorrow in 1921.

Other tidbits of history in the film include the fact London’s first taxi cab was owned by a black man, and that a 600-year-old oak tree in the Westminster Ponds area served as a meeting place, or beacon, for fugitive slaves when they arrived in London.

Turner said she hopes the documentary will “put London on the map as a beacon of strength, hope, perseverance and love — focusing on the courage of the past and how it shaped London into the city it is today.”

joe.belanger@sunmedia.ca



Biracial and proud

Posted March 15, 2011 on London Free Press and Shared on Facebook

Biracial and proud

Justine Turner with her father Bill Turner at Black History Month event in London. Justine began championing Black History Month as a teenager 20 years ago. (DEREK RUTTAN/THE LONDON FREE PRESS)

Her only offence was the colour of her skin as she lay crumpled outside a London elementary school.

"They threw me down and kept kicking," Justine Turner recalled of a vicious assault that left her with cracked ribs nearly 30 years ago.

Her Grade 4 tormentors had begun with what was by then a familiar taunt - "zebra."

The eight-year-old Turner had red hair and freckles, her skin porcelain like her mom's, much lighter than her dad's and one of her brothers.

As a small child, Justine thought little of the varying shades of black and white in her home.

But others couldn't see past the differences. Some classmates asked if she was adopted. Others spoke with hands and feet.

On the day of the assault, with a friend by her side, Justine didn't back down.

"I called them names back," she said.

She hasn't backed down since in the face of racism and bullying that's more subtle than a fist but just as hurtful.

Turner was barely out of her teens when in 1991 she organized a celebration of black history in London - a celebration she has repeated every year since, despite some members of the black community looking askance at the skin of the organizer.

"You'd get people saying, 'Who's that'," said her father, Bill Turner, who is both proud and protective of his daughter.

Justine Turner also reached out to children who might be the victims, perpetrators or observers of bullying, by organizing a fashion show. The 11th Annual School Bus Fashion Show opened Monday and runs this week at Citi Plaza at 355 Wellington St.

The event showcases local children from five to 17 on the catwalk and features an anti-bullying message Turner hopes will spare some the trauma she endured.

Since many assume she's Caucasian, some will make racial comments to her about blacks.

"Some say the N-word. One referred to 'those monkeys out there,' " Turner said.

She doesn't pass on a chance to tell them who she is.

" 'Well I'm one of them,' I'll tell them. Their jaws just drop," she said.

Turner says she grew up respecting the heritage of both her parents and hopes her life reflects the best in both of them.

"I'm biracial and very proud of it. I have two great halves in me."

E-mail jonathan.sher@sunmedia.ca, or follow jsherLFPRESS on Twitter.




- A Documentary

In partnership with Justine Turner and the City of London, we are producing a major documentary film based on the lives and major land marks of the city of London.

This film will be concentrating on the rich history we have in our city of African Canadians and how they created a safe haven here in our forest city.

The film will encompass many faces who made up the strong community. London is a hidden treasure chest of black history that even story books do not talk about.
The faces on the film will range from ages 0 to 90. The seniors are the ones who have the story book in their heads. We need to capture their spirit and passion of yesterday.

It is time to put London on the map as a beacon of strength, hope, perseverance and love. For if it was not for their courage London would not be the city it is today. They assisted to make up the character and passion of our great forest city.



London was a safe haven for run away slaves who fled here. Their kidnappers were bent on returning them to the United States. They would come up on horse back.
The Oak tree located behind Parkwood Hospital in Westminster Ponds is approximately over 600 years old. This tree was their safe haven, their hope and only source of peace and tranquility.

They used this oak tree as a landmark, they were not just on free ground but hidden in the deep forest where it would be next to impossible to capture them. They would build caves in around the oak tree to hide themselves in the case of danger. There was a stream (I would think more like a river) where they would bathe drink.

An amazing sight to be around, this oak tree tells the tale on its own. The oak tree is my friend.

The length of the documentary will be approximately 45 minutes to one hour in length.

The film will be going into schools all across Canada.


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