August 1, 2020, marks 186 years since slavery was abolished in the British Colonies.
This year’s anniversary was especially relevant for English-speaking Black Montrealers fighting for a place to call their own.
“The NCC’s story is an emancipation story, it’s a group of people who want to emancipate their space they want to emancipate their history,” said Tiffany Callender, executive director of the Côte-des-Neiges Black Community Association.
Founded in 1927 by Reverend Charles H. Este, the Little Burgundy Community Centre played a key role in the lives of English-speaking Black Montrealers for decades.
Facing financial troubles, it closed in 1989 and began to crumble. The organization behind it fell into insolvency. The historic building was sold to a private developer in 2014 and demolished.
“The story of this centre and the absence of this centre is a very sore spot for many of us,” said committee member David Shelton.
In July, the NCC-Rev. Charles H. Este Committee announced a grand vision to reclaim the land and rebuild it to its former glory.
On Emancipation Day those advocates invited other community members to join them on the long walk home from Place D’Youville in the Old Port to the Oscar Peterson park adjacent to the former NCC.
Members spoke about the historical importance of recognizing Black cultural sites in Montreal and establishing them for generations to come.
“(Sites) which bares so much historical importance for our community would be very welcome and is very much needed and is a question of time before such thing would be in place and so why wait is our question,” said Shelton.
But even with mounting pressure, the group has to wait for the land to be for sale.
Something landowner Paul Sen Chher said still isn’t happening: “If there’s a great offer that’s at the right price, maybe I’ll let it go but for now it is not for sale.”
“This has to be a movement for community by community and I don’t think that aligns itself with the attention of the promoter at this time,” said Callender.
The two are waiting for the city to decide what will be done with the space.
Global News reached out to The City of Montreal but they said while they say they are following the issue with much interest they refuse to comment on the matter at the time.
— With files from Global’s Dan Spector