In honour of Black History Month, fans and the public are invited to contribute to a fundraising campaign to celebrate and honour musician Jackie Shane with a commemorative plaque in downtown Toronto. Her legacy and influence have enjoyed a resurgence in recent years, including a 2019 Grammy™ nomination, a Polaris Music Prize Heritage Award nomination, and a recent Heritage Minute featuring transgender activist Ravyn Wngz as Jackie. In addition, Any Other Way: The Jackie Shane Story, a documentary co-produced by Banger Films and the National Film Board of Canada's Ontario Studio, in association with Bell Media and directed by Michael Mabbott & Lucah Rosenberg-Lee, is currently in production with an anticipated release in 2024.
Beyond her musical legacy, Jackie’s place as a Black trans pioneer is only now being celebrated. This plaque is but one step towards honouring her, as well as encouraging the celebration of more Black trans lives.
Any Other Way producer and lead fundraiser Amanda Burt says, “It’s been a gift getting to know Jackie and her history as we work on the documentary. She considered Toronto her home, and while she was here she changed the very sound of the music that came out of this city. We should all know her story”.
Heritage Toronto, through their plaque program and the support of donors, commemorates key people, places, and events from Toronto’s past. Jackie Shane was one such person. Born in Nashville in 1940, Jackie’s musical talent and charisma were clear from an early age. She crossed paths and shared stages with legends like Little Richard, Etta James, Jackie Wilson, and Jimi Hendrix. But as her talent and her popularity grew, so did the danger of being a Black trans artist in the American south. Fearing for her life and wanting more than Nashville could offer, Jackie escaped the south on the “Chitlin’ Circuit” when she was a teenager, and relocated over the border to Toronto where her career almost immediately exploded.
The Canadian years were exciting, populated by ghosts and gangsters, kidnappers and killers, con artist ministers, crooked record executives, and gamblers, all fueling her artistic growth. Despite the music industry’s reluctance to support a trans artist at the time, audiences and listeners loved her, and her 1962 single “Any Other Way” was a hit. A fabled run at Toronto’s Saphire Tavern led to the classic album Jackie Shane Live!, a visceral, propulsive document, proof of her genius for connecting with audiences and taking them to ecstatic highs. For this reason, the proposed location for the plaque will be the corner of Richmond and Victoria in downtown Toronto, where the Saphire once stood.
All donors will be invited to the unveiling of the plaque, which is planned for June 2023 during Pride Toronto. Jackie’s living relatives will be in attendance. Donors can also follow and join the journey on Instagram at @thejackieshaneplaque.
Donations, public or private, can be made through the JustGiving Campaign Page or by cheque, and gifts $20 or over will receive a Heritage Toronto charitable donation tax receipt. Plaque donors will also receive a thank-you letter, and in the case of gifts of $20 or more, recognition on "Our Supporters" page on the Heritage Toronto website and in the Annual Report.
Any donations over the goal of $10,000 will automatically go to Heritage Toronto's Curated Plaques Fund, to support the commemoration of other worthy individuals and stories celebrated through historic plaques. Jackie, whose personal motto was “live and let live”, and herself celebrated unheard voices, would be proud.
Amanda Burt, producer on Any Other Way: The Jackie Shane Story and lead fundraiser for the Heritage Toronto Jackie Shane plaque.