It all started 100 year ago under a pear tree in Shannon's Prince's family field where North Buxton held its first homecoming.
This weekend, the small community just south of Chatham, Ont., will mark that 100th anniversary with a full weekend of activities and reunions, bringing the close-knit community — and the many friends and family members that have since moved away — together.
"It's amazing how connected this community is. When people come home this weekend, it makes it even stronger," said Prince, a sixth-generation North Buxton resident and one of the organizers for this weekend's event.
Shannon Prince is a sixth generation North Buxton resident and one of the organizers of this year's Homecoming celebration, the 100th anniversary. (Meg Roberts/CBC)
North Buxton is a historically Black community that was founded in 1849 by people coming to Canada through the Underground Railroad. Prince's family settled in the area in the late 1800s. North Buxton established itself as a thriving community with industries, a school and church.
One hundred years ago, the town decided to hold a homecoming festival on Labour Day, welcoming family members who had left the community.
Now, that celebration has grown into a full long weekend celebration that kicked off on Friday, though the community looks a lot different these days.
A pear tree in North Buxton on the Prince family farm, under which the community's first Homecoming celebration was held 100 years ago. Pictured on Sept. 1, 2023. (Meg Roberts/CBC)
"Even though we're not as highly populated, that same strong sense of community is still here today," Prince said. "It's amazing how connected this community is.
"When people come home, it makes it even stronger … even though they move away, they have not lost that sense of community."
Brenda Lenore Travis is one such family member who looks forward to the homecoming every year. Travis's mother was born in North Buxton, but Travis was born in Detroit.
Brenda Lenore Travis returned to North Buxton, where her mother was born, for the community's 100th annual Homecoming celebration. (Meg Roberts/CBC)
It feels just so awesome and I don't want to get teary on camera, but most people in the cemetery … are related to me in some way," Travis said.
"We're just so rooted and grounded with history, because 100 years … how many communities can say that?"
There are plenty of events planned all weekend, including fireworks, a parade, talent show, family baseball game and a community party. Prince said that you don't have to be related to a descendent to come celebrate: friends, family and the community are all invited.
Prince said she had no idea how many people will be in town for this weekend's celebrations — but she does know hotel rooms have been booked up for months and licence plates on cars coming into town are from all over.
North Buxton, a historically Black community in southwestern Ontario, holds its annual homecoming celebration on Labour Day weekend. The 2023 homecoming is the town's 100th annual celebration. (Meg Roberts/CBC)
And as for the Prince family, Shannon said she'll welcome more than 120 cousins for a huge family photo on the farm field where it all started.
"I'm really, really proud. It is a tribute and an honour … and the fact that because it took place under a pear tree that's still standing in my dad's soybean field today, that is the real tribute," Prince said.
"We're still flourishing. We still do things as a community and we still have that strong sense of pride and community that is here with us and it will never be lost."
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.
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