March 20, 2023

‘Special’ launch for Black History Month

By Steph Crosier, From Kingston Whig-Standard

With Black History Month a few days away, the launch was hosted Sunday evening by the African & Caribbean Students’ Association at Queen’s University.

Judith Brown, president of the Afro-Caribe Communty Foundation and adviser to the Queen’s students, was pleased to learn the launch was in the Robert Sutherland Hall.

“I think that is going to be very special,” Brown said before the event. “[Sutherland] being the first black student, not only at Queen’s, but maybe in all of Canada, to go to a building named in his honour is very special.”

Sutherland, originally from Jamaica, graduated in 1852 with honours in classics and mathematics. He then studied law at Osgoode Hall Law School, graduated and set up shop near Walkerton, Ont. When Sutherland died in 1878, he left his entire $12,000 estate to Queen’s, saving the university, which was struggling after the bank handling Queen’s endowment fund collapsed in 1867. In February 2009, the Policy Studies building (138 University Ave.) was named Robert Sutherland Hall.

“I personally don’t feel [Sutherland] is given enough credit,” Brown said. “I remember the first year I spoke five years ago, I mentioned [Sutherland] and many of the students didn’t know … I’ve made it part of my mission, to spread this legacy. He saved Queen’s. Think of what Kingston would be like with no Queen’s.”

Brown said the African & Caribbean Students’ Association have many events scheduled.

“The students I work with love to keep it a surprise,” Brown said. “They reveal the event throughout the month. But I know there will be different forums and workshops with some of the profs from Queen’s University, but I’m not certain of the exact dates.”

At the launch on Sunday the Ontario president of the Black History Society, Nikki Clarke, was featured. Brown also spoke and gave a shoutout to Canada Post for creating Black History Month stamps since 2009. The evening also featured musical performances from local artists.

Brown said the events will be similar to last year, but with different topics. She anticipates the recent inauguration of United States President Donald Trump will be discussed in some fashion.

“My golly, you cannot overlook that and the effect that it’s having already,” Brown said. “It is an issue for sure … All through his lead-up to the election, he kept throwing out things that showed he had no respect for people of colour. It impacted particularity on minority groups, he was after women of colour, he was after Spanish-speaking people, it just dashed your hopes when you saw how much [President Barack} Obama respected us.”

Another topic likely to be discussed is the announcement that Viola Desmond will be on the Canadian $10 bill in 2018.

“How amazing is that for spreading some of Canada’s Black History?” Brown said. “Yes, I did cast a vote for her to be the one and was completely surprised when her image was chosen.”

More information on Black History Month can be found at the Afro-Caribe Community Foundation of Kingston website,, or the Kingston African Caribbean Collective website, Information can also be found on the African & Caribbean Students’ Association’s Facebook page:

Judith Brown, president of the Afro-Caribe Communty Foundation, at the Calvin Park library on Saturday. (Steph Crosier/The Whig-Standard)

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