Local play highlights life of black civil rights leader Hugh Burnett from Dresden

Aaron Haddad was so moved by the story of Hugh Burnett, he was inspired to write a play about the Ontario civil rights leader.

“He’s a person of colour, he’s a person of mixed ancestry, … he’s a regular man, but he did something extraordinary,” Haddad said, standing in the Registry Theatre in Kitchener during a recent rehearsal of his play, My Place Is Right Here: Hugh Burnett and the Fight for a Better Canada.

The group Flex We Talent rehearse the play at the Registry Theatre in Kitchener. (Peggy Lam/CBC)

Burnett was born in Dresden, Ont., worked as a carpenter and fought for the province’s anti-discrimination legislation, including the Fair Accommodations Practices Act. 

“That’s something that I find really inspiring and it’s kind of like, I need to do something too,” Haddad said.

Flex We Talent, a theatre group made up of members of Caribbean heritage, is now performing Haddad’s play. They’ve had three shows in Waterloo region and Guelph. They have one more local show this month, then they’ll take it on the road to Dresden in May. Dates for those shows have yet to be finalized.

Aaron Haddad is the writer of the play, My Place is Right Here: Hugh Burnett and The Fight For a Better Canada. (Peggy Lam/CBC)

Lannois Carroll-Woolery plays Burnett in the production.

“When I think about all the ground these persons broke for us, in Ontario, in the Maritimes, and out west, I feel the least we can do is learn about them and appreciate them,” Carroll-Woolery said. 

“For me, Hugh Burnett was a, ‘who?’ and to know that his story happened in Dresden, just a couple of hours from here … this isn’t a black story, it’s a Canadian story.”

Joan Blackwood is a member of the Flex We Talent, a theatre group made of members with Caribbean heritage. (Peggy Lam/CBC)

The other members of the cast include Kevin White, Lisbeth Haddad, Anandi Carroll-Woolery, and Joan Blackwood. 

“We try to keep the Canadian stories alive,” Blackwood said.  “As we evolve, we’re realizing there are so many more Canadian stories we can tell.”

The play’s next showing is scheduled at the Waterloo Region Museum on Feb. 24 at 2 p.m. 

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