Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport unveils "Fabric of Our Being" textile installation

February 22, 2024

TORONTO, ONTARIO - Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport today unveiled the “Fabric of Our Being,” a textile art installation celebrating and bringing awareness to the International Decade for People of African Descent (2014 to 2024), a United Nations (UN) initiative. The government of Canada officially recognized the decade in 2018 and recently announced its extension to 2028. The project was conceptualized by poet, author and arts educator Nadine Williams and her Collective and features designs by the students of the Toronto and District School Board (TDSB) Waterfront School.

The “Fabric of Our Being” project fuses art and poetry to tell stories and celebrate Black history. Bordered with African fabrics from many nations, and centred by the shape of the African continent, the quilt features 30 tiles designed by grade four students at the TDSB Waterfront School. As part of the creation process, students chose one of four criteria to incorporate in the design of the quilt tiles: An Amazing Black Canadian (ABC), Recognition, Development, Justice (the theme of the UN’s International Decade for People of African Descent), Mother Tongue and The Fabric of Our Being, a poem by Nadine Williams that inspired the project.

The quilt, now on display at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport and developed with the designs of the TDSB Waterfront School students, features portraits of prominent Black Canadians such as Jean Augustine, Viola Desmond and P.K. Subban. It also features artwork speaking to the themes of diversity, justice, resilience and Canada’s multicultural identity.

(from left) The Honourable Jean Augustine and Neil Pakey, President and CEO, Nieuport Aviation celebrate the unveiling of the "Fabric of our Being."


“I am incredibly elated and thankful that PortsToronto and Nieuport Aviation have agreed to come onboard to ensure a smooth flight for this meaningful project and that The Waterfront school agreed to participate. This collaboration strengthens my resolve to keep soaring to new heights, especially now that we have been given an extension of four years. This partnership epitomizes the Federal Government’s Black History Month theme of ‘Black Excellence: A Heritage to celebrate; a Future to Build’ Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport is my first airport installation and I am looking forward to many more to come.”

- Nadine Williams, poet, author and arts educator, founder of the Nadine Williams Pen Foundation and the Fabric Of Our Being project

”We hope our visitors and guests appreciate this work of art as much as we do. Nadine Williams, and our local Waterfront School students, have done a great job in capturing the inspirational work of prominent Black Canadians. We were humbled when we were asked to showcase this work in our terminal and to help pay tribute to the artists and the stories, improving the customer experience at the airport in the process.”

- Neil Pakey, President and CEO, Nieuport Aviation, owner and operator of the passenger terminal at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport

“As a contributor to Toronto’s vibrant waterfront, Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport strives to reflect its community and showcase the stories that matter to those we serve. We are proud to support Nadine Williams in shining a spotlight on Black Canadian history, and to be able to do so in partnership with our neighbours, the students and teachers at the TDSB Waterfront School, makes this all the more meaningful.”

- RJ Steenstra, President and CEO, PortsToronto, owner and operator of Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport

“The Waterfront School students are thrilled with the opportunity to learn about people of African descent in Canada and to create the illustrations for the quilt inspired by artist Nadine Williams. They are delighted to be part of the celebration quilt being displayed at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport commemorating this decade.”

- Dolora Harvey, Principal, Toronto District School Board Waterfront School

Neil Pakey, President and CEO, Nieuport Aviation, addresses attendees at the unveiling of the "Fabric of our Being."

About Nadine Williams

Nadine Williams is a Jamaican-Canadian who was born in the Parish of St. Mary and now calls Ontario home. She has published three collections of poetry, two children’s books, and over fifteen volumes of literature for Black History Month. These creations are a staple in the curricula of several schools in Canada in celebration of Black History. She is a regular presenter at schools across Canada, including local universities and was the distinguished Guest Lecturer to the prestigious African Writers Club at the University of Vienna in May 2019, and is often called upon to participate in Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) citizenship ceremonies reading poetry, singing the anthem and welcoming new Canadians. She is the recipient of the CIC Volunteer Award 2012, York Regional Police Deeds Speak Award 2014, received parliamentary mention for significant contribution to Black History in Canada in 2019, was named among the 100 Accomplished Black Canadian Women (100ABC) 2022, and has received numerous certificates from all levels of government, including three in the last few months of 2023.

About Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (YTZ)

Offering service to more than 20 cities in Canada and the U.S., with connection opportunities to more than 80 international destinations via our airlines’ networks, Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport is an important international gateway that will offer US Preclearance in 2025. The airport is a key driver to Toronto’s economy, generating more than $2.1 billion in total economic output and supporting 4,450 jobs, including 2,080 directly associated with the airport’s operations. Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport has served its community for 85 years from its iconic location on the Toronto waterfront, where it facilitates healthcare for Ontarians by providing a base for medevac services connected to local hospitals. Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport is committed to achieving its vision of cleaner, greener and quieter operations, and is renowned for its unique travel experience, efficiency, and customer service, having won a host of passenger-driven and environmental achievement awards. Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport is owned and operated by PortsToronto.

About Nieuport Aviation

Nieuport Aviation is the owner and operator of the passenger terminal at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport. Backed by Canadian and international pension funds and supported by significant international expertise in managing aviation operations, we are committed to world-class customer service for the millions of customers using the airport. In addition to managing the passenger terminal, Nieuport Aviation offers passengers a free bus shuttle service between the airport and downtown Toronto, helping to provide a seamless travel experience. For more information, please visit Since acquiring the airport terminal, Nieuport has invested $60 million in upgrades, recently opening the Aspire Business Lounge for Canadian travellers. Nieuport is further investing in the development of the US Customs pre-clearance facility, to be opened in 2025.

About PortsToronto

For more than 100 years PortsToronto has worked with its partners at the federal, provincial and municipal levels to enhance the economic growth of the City of Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area. PortsToronto owns and operates Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, which welcomed approximately 2.8 million passengers in 2019; the Outer Harbour Marina, one of Canada's largest freshwater marinas; and, Marine Terminal 52, which provides transportation, distribution, storage and container services to businesses at the Port of Toronto. PortsToronto is committed to fostering strong, healthy and sustainable communities and has invested more than $14 million since 2009 in charitable initiatives and environmental programs that benefit communities along Toronto's waterfront and beyond. PortsToronto operates in accordance with the Canada Marine Act and is guided by a nine-member board with representation from all three levels of government.

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