This Black History Month, Metrolinx is paying tribute to the late Salome Bey, known as Canada’s first lady of the blues.
The legacy of the award-winning singer-songwriter and honorary Order of Canada member is honoured on a GO Transit bus as it travels its route around the Golden Horseshoe area of southern Ontario.
The regional transit agency has also installed a mural of Salome Bey at Union Station as part of the theme of “Black history’s creative journey.” Visitors can find the mural in the station’s southwest corner, next to the entrance of Scotiabank Arena.
Born in Newark, N.J., and settling in Toronto in the 1960s, Bey made herself known as a gifted musician whose singing captured audiences in nightclubs, TV and radio. She also distinguished herself as a multi-talented actress, playwright and director of musicals who opened doors for other Black artists in Canadian theatre.
“To see my mother celebrated like this is incredibly moving,” says Bey’s daughter, the musician known as SATE. “She was an inspiration to so many and I’m so glad people will now get to see her on the road and inside Union Station.”
The bus wrap and mural were designed by local Toronto artist Mark Stoddart, who used a newsprint collage style to tell the story of Salome Bey’s impact and legacy.
“She is a huge part of the tapestry of our country and I had the honour of meeting her 15 years ago to show her one of my paintings,” Stoddart recalls. “I’ve always taken pride in educating others about significant individuals within our community and telling stories of those whose history may not be known.”
In Stoddart’s perspective, Salome Bey represented herself as an artist who not only was dedicated to her craft, but also an activist, trailblazer and a source of inspiration for the Black community for generations to come.
Bey died on Aug. 8, 2020, in Toronto. She was 86.