WIBCA’s Phase 1: The 1st Five Years (1981 – 1986)
In the Spring of 1981, Norma Husbands and her good friend Margaret Jolly, the two Founders of WIBCA, were looking for some organized activities for their children, so they contacted the West Island YMCA (Y) and the city of Dollard des Ormeaux (D.D.O) and asked for help. The Y provided their Juvenile Diversion Worker, Linton Garner, to work with the two Founders. A select group was co-opted to help in starting the organization (including Keith Barrett and Momoh Kakula Tombo of the Black Community Council of Quebec (BCCQ) and the first meeting of the fledgling group took place. Coincidentally, two friends, Douglas Lloyd and Trevor Harriott, were in the process of establishing another new Black Community group on the West Island. When they discovered that the West Island YMCA was already helping with the startup of a similar group with their employee Linton Garner. Douglas and Trevor got the details from the Y and attended the next meeting. They decided to cancel their plans and join with the already established group.
This Steering Committee, chaired initially by Linton Garner, had weekly meetings in different homes, deciding on structure and strategy. A modest membership fee of $25 was established, instead of the exorbitant $250 proposed by a member who left the group immediately after the decision. Douglas Lloyd suggested a fundraising dance and he was delegated to coordinate it. Our first successful fundraising dance took place on a dry Dollard skating rink (with the help of DDO Mayor Gerry Weiner) on the same Saturday as the Long Sault Family Picnic. The Y provided the liquor license. This first successful event was the catalyst that catapulted the group into an extremely rapid growth rate.
The group quickly outgrew home meetings and moved to John Rennie High School, continuing its rapid growth. Douglas Lloyd was selected as the Chairperson and he formed a strong Steering Committee. During this period, a Youth Committee was formed, with emphasis on basketball, the Association democratically established its name as “The West Island Black Community Association (WIBCA)” and the WIBCA logo was selected in an open contest, won by Donald McFarlane. Reynold Clarke formed and coordinated the Constitution Committee and he chaired several meetings to create our Constitution. After several months, our Constitution was drafted and ratified at a general meeting.
In the spring of 1982, after WIBCA’s year of fastest growth in history, WIBCA had its first official Annual General Meeting at Mary Queen of Peace church-hall on Gouin Boulevard, with over 100 paid-up members. Non-members had to sit in designated rows and many of them joined and paid their membership fee in order to join the voting members’ rows. The first elected Board subsequently selected Momoh Kakula Tombo as Chairperson. The WIBCA Basketball Team (The WIBCA Wildcats) was officially created. The team played organized basketball with teams from other Black Community groups. With the dedication of a few members, the Association continued to grow rapidly. Momoh Kakula Tombo moved to Toronto after one year as Chairperson.
In the spring of 1983, Veronica Johnson became the Chairperson of WIBCA. With the help of a strong Board of Directors and an enthused membership, the Association continued to grow.
The Charter, which officially accepted WIBCA’s Constitution and registered WIBCA as a Provincial Non-Profit Organization (NPO), was obtained in 1983. It was signed by Reynold Clarke, Norma Husbands, Douglas Lloyd, Sandra Lloyd and Veronica Johnson.
WIBCA established many popular events included the annual Banquet, the annual Summer Day Camp for children, a Fashion Show which was beautifully done by Cynthia Thomas and Norma Husbands, an annual children’s Halloween Costume Party and an annual Caribbean Night, all supported by the wider community.
During Mrs. Johnson’s second one-year term as Chairperson, WIBCA moved its operations from the members’ basements and various chalets to a rented space at 11072 Gouin Boulevard. During our time at the Gouin Blvd. location the youth were extremely busy. Acting on a suggestion by Mr. Douglas Lloyd, a Pre-Sixteen group was established to follow in the footsteps of the older youth. With the adult volunteers the young people met on Friday nights for a variety of activities including poetry, short story writing, dance, games, sewing short wave radio etc.
In June of 1985, a new Board was elected and Donald McFarlane became the Chairperson. He faced the ongoing challenge of paying rent, telephone and tax bills. With the help of his team, he met the challenge head-on. WIBCA had charted a new course. With our new home, we could hold longer meetings, and we certainly did! WIBCA continued to evolve. Our Association took on the appearance of a learning center.
One thing that should never be overlooked is the vision of those who established the “Building Fund”, they never allowed it to be out of the minds of any member. Mrs. Eileen White must be mentioned at this point. Mrs. White took on the Building Fund with all the tenacity she could muster and today we can see the result.
In the first five years of WIBCA, there were so many highlights and people who made substantial contributions that it was impossible to do justice to them all.
WIBCA’s Phase 2: The 2nd Five Years (1987 – 1991)
During the period of 1987 – 1991, many projects were undertaken, and I found it very difficult to compress them into one page. Therefore, I have tried to highlight what I consider to be the significant achievements of WIBCA during this time. The chairpersons, during Phase II, were Mr. Donald McFarlane, Mrs. Norma Husbands, Mrs. Marie Garnett and Mr. Winston Brathwaite. It is thanks to them, their respective Boards, our ‘partners’ as well as our members, that WIBCA was able to achieve the following:
Several partnerships were formed with other groups to create programs that benefited the community. Those listed here are not exhaustive, but simply highlight the key areas targeted: education and social & cultural.
At John Rennie and Lindsay Place High Schools, in conjunction with the Lakeshore School Board, a course in Black History was introduced. The Annual Day Camp was continued at Riverdale High School, with the assistance of the Protestant School Board of Greater Montreal (PSGM). An after-school tutorial program was held at Herbert Purcell Elementary School. A free Saturday morning tutorial program began. This was a joint program with the Quebec Board of Black Educators. At first it was held at WIBCA’s offices, and later moved to Riverdale High School. Initiated by the Ministry of Education of Quebec, COFI, French classes were offered and continued for four years. The City of Pierrefonds assisted WIBCA in setting up a basketball program also at Riverdale High School.
The close liaison continued with the police at Stations 11 and 12, with an emphasis on crime prevention. This relationship with the police officers allowed WIBCA representatives to become liaisons during situations of crises when black youths had encounters with the law. Working agreements were established with the Black Community Council of Quebec (BCCQ), the National Association of Canadians of Indian origin and the United Black Community Organization.
WIBCA began its participation at the Canada Day parade at the request of the City of Pierrefonds.
WIBCA hosted an Inter-Organizational Conference at its offices. The topic was “Relationships and Problems vis-a-vis the BCCQ and its member organizations”. The participants were the Cote-des-Neiges, LaSalle, Laval, NDG and South Shore Black Community Associations. This symposium was co-sponsored by the Secretary of State for Canada and the Quebec government.
The social events continued to give WIBCA the exposure and funding to create the above programs. Our programs target the youth, adults and seniors of the community. The ‘staple’ events of the Association continued:
Halloween (youth) and Christmas (all) parties;
Black History Month in February, promoting our traditions and culture (family);
Mother’s Day luncheon (family);
Caribbean Night (adult), and;
Our main fund raiser and opportunity to honor certain members of the community and within WIBCA, the Annual Banquet.
In 1987-88, WIBCA received grants of $21,150 to aid us in maintaining our programs. Also, during this period, WIBCA was forced to vacate its property due to the expropriation of our building which housed our office. As a result of this expropriation, WIBCA received $10,000 in grants from the Quebec government, $5,000 each from Mr. Sam Elkas, the Minister of Transport and the Treasury Board. Mrs. Eileen White was instrumental in the creation of a ‘Building Fund’. Her efforts and the generosity of our members and other interested parties, through pledges and donations, translated in a collection of $5,229 to go towards the purchase of our present building on 4th Avenue in Roxboro.
WIBCA’s mandate is to provide a variety of cultural, social, educational programs for the community. As can be concluded from the above, I strongly believe that we have done so. It could not have been done without the assistance of our partners and the drive of our members. I believe that the achievements listed above were attained through a collective effort. In spite of some challenges and many long hours, we can be proud of our accomplishments.
WIBCA’s Phase 3: The 3rd Five Years (1992 – 1997)
The third segment of our brief history, which covers the years 1992 to 1997, was marked by a couple of momentous events. First, we celebrated our 10th anniversary in October 1992 at the Holiday Inn, Pointe-Claire, an event that brought together several past Chairpersons as well as our members, well-wishers and elected officials in the area.
Later that year, we received a Notice of Expropriation from the Provincial Ministry of Transport announcing the expropriation of the shopping center that housed our offices. Following that decision, we were literally thrown out of our home and had to revert to the situation of the founding years. The gruesome task of representing the Association at the numerous expropriation hearings for compensation was handled by Mr. Reynold L.M. Clarke, Chairperson, Dr. Martin Chato and Mr. Winston Brathwaite. Needless to say, during that unsettling period, all our programs were interrupted. Association meetings had to be held at the chalets, and the sitting Chairperson’s home became our mailing address.
This intolerable situation energized the membership and accelerated our resolve to get a permanent home for the Association. Under the chairpersonship of Mr. Reynold Clarke, a search committee was formed and mandated to find and buy a building
– a long, tedious and frustrating process to say the least. In October 1994, our dream came true with the purchase of our present Building at 48A – D 4th Avenue, Roxboro. With the help of Mr. Russell Williams, MNA for Nelligan, and Mr. Dionne of the Caisse Populaire Ste-Genevieve, we succeeded in securing our first mortgage.
Furthermore, the City of Roxboro collaborated immensely in the renovation and transformation work the Building required to render it suitable for use as a community center. Credit must also go to the Renovation Committee, the Board of Directors and the membership for their contribution. Even though the Building was in partial use in 1995, it was only officially opened on June 8th, 1996 thanks to the marvelous work of Mrs. Eileen White, chairperson of the Opening Day Ad Hoc Committee and all the members of that committee.
The years 1996 and 1997 have been devoted to operational consolidation and expansion. Most of our programs are back in place with new ones added. We doubled our efforts in the area of intercultural relations and intensified our resolve to work in partnerships in the initiation, development and delivery of services and programs. We collaborate with Human Resource Canada, the Quebec Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration, Travail-Quebec, Batshaw Youth and family Services, YMCA, CTMOI, Maison des Jeunes Pierrefonds and AmaBaie, Cloverdale Multi-Resource/and the MUC Community Policing Stations in the West Island.
As we enter Phase IV of our history, that is 1997 – 2002, we come to the painful realization that time has caught up with our founding members and they are slowly out of steam and energy. The current chairperson salutes them for their foresight and dedication. We hope that the younger generation will follow in their footsteps, reenergize the Association, initiate new ideas and new directions, and above all, keep the dream alive by ensuring a steady flow of funds to keep the Building in our hands.
WIBCA’s Phase 4: (1998 – 2003)
The period 1998-2003 was a quiet one in the life of the association and could be referred to as the lean years.
Nevertheless, during this period, I had the privilege of working with a vibrant and dynamic Board of Directors, who worked extremely well together. We managed to continue our programs and services such as:
liaisons with the local police stations, municipal, provincial and federal politicians and the Lester B. Pearson School Board
providing services for the young people via the summer day camp
maintaining our monthly mortgage
various fundraising activities
WIBCA plays a very important role in our community. Due to the dedication and hard work of our members, we have been able to build a solid foundation and a reputation as a dynamic organization in the West Island.
In 2001, our theme was “Our Youth – Our Future Hope”. We must continue to focus our efforts on providing programs and services for our young people, encourage them to participate in community activities and be more involved in our Association.
We celebrated our 20th anniversary in September 2002. Our theme was “Perseverance – a Fundamental Requirement for Success”. This was based in the idea that our founders, and those who chaired the association over the years, had perseverance. Though they sometimes faced difficult challenges, they persevered, nonetheless. Our members and members of the wider community have also played an important role in these efforts.
Unfortunately, as we were celebrating this important anniversary, we lost one of our long-standing members, Kenneth Husbands. Not only had Kenneth been with the youth group in the formative years, but he continued, with his wife Helga Pont, to be active in the adult membership. We all know he is watching our every move from above.
We must work together to shape a vision of the future and build on our strengths for a successful tomorrow.
Kenneth Bynoe, Chairperson, 1998 – 2003
WIBCA’s Phase 5: (2003-2007)
WIBCA is now twenty-five (25) years old. This is an amazing accomplishment for a community association and more so because we have operated according to the norms that govern groups such as ours and have survived the scrutiny of public officials. This phase of WIBCA’s history may be characterized by the following words: re-building, expansion and consolidation.
When I took over as Chairperson in the fall of 2003, it was clear to me that we had to focus on re-building. We did this through outreach to our members, re-connecting with other community groups and continuing our relationships with our political representatives at the municipal, provincial and federal levels. Though there were many challenges, we faced them with determination and drive. As a result, we had many accomplishments. In particular, we participated in the Community in Crisis discussion aired by CJAD in December 2003 which focused on the untimely death of a few young men in our community. This discussion pushed us to come up with strategies to deal with anti-social behavior and work on prevention initiatives to help our youth. Even before we received any money, we quickly resumed the Saturday Morning Tutorial Program.
With the Cote des Neiges Black Community Association and other service-delivery groups in Montreal we formed the Black Family Support Network which later became the African-Canadian Development and Prevention (ACDP) Network. With this group we learned how to develop a model of “Best Practice Prevention” to strengthen families and reduce delinquency. Through this partnership and the help of Mr. Michael Gittens and Mr. Leith Hamilton, WIBCA was able to receive grants from the government under the “Crime Prevention” banner as well as from Health Canada.
It was in this period that Mr. Errol Johnson created the West Island Blues Festival (WIBF) and donated to WIBCA the total proceeds of the 2004 Festival which was over six thousand dollars. Happily, we have continued our partnership with the WIBF which has donated almost thirteen thousand dollars to date.
This infusion of money allowed us to hire staff and increase our programs offered to the public. Along with money raised from our Annual Banquet, Breakfasts, Bridge Club, International Night and the Friday Night Club, we were able to cover our operating expenses and do much-needed repairs and the enhancement of our building.
The expansion period was 2004-2005 when we were very busy and extremely productive. We continued our existing partnerships while reaching out to make new ones.
During the consolidation period which followed in 2005-06, we revised our aims and objectives and finally qualified for tax-exempt status under the Income Tax Act. I must express special thanks to Mrs. Margaret Jolly and Mr. Errol Johnson for their amazing work on this dossier. In this period, we also focused on youth issues by using money from the grants to carry our programs and to create the D.R.E. A. M. (Delivering Real Empowerment and Motivation) Drop-In Centre- thanks to Tiffany Callender and Melissa Alleyne. This period also witnessed the election of Ms. Yolande James to the Quebec National Assembly, a fact of which we were all justly proud.
In 2006-07, we continued to have office staff, thanks to a grant from the federal/provincial governments. Therefore, we could have a part-time worker in the office, relieving the stress on the Board of Directors. We also became a founding community partner at the Riverdale Community Learning Centre and inaugurated a “WIBCA Room” there to be a drop in centre and help students with homework. It was during this time as well that we got a grant to work with seniors to bridge the gap between them and our youth.
Overall, it was an extremely busy four years in which we managed to return to our roots by helping our youth while developing a supportive and caring adult community.