Montreal Community CONTACT celebrates its 25th Anniversary with an 80-page publication covering the lives of the individuals, organizations and events that marked our place in Montreal, Quebec and Canada.
Twenty five years ago this month, Montreal Community CONTACT announced itself to the city, province and country, pledging to be another voice for a group that has been finding it difficult to have it stories told.
Back then, in staking out our place on the media landscape our aim was to provide good journalism to a community, and about a community that too often had been subjected to misrepresentations. In doing so, we realized how much The CONTACT was needed because mainstream media showed no inclination to delve beyond the surface or the stereotypes when presenting stories of us.
As a result, too many of us appeared to be marginalized or to be on the wrong side of the law too often, and our community lack proper identification because of our neighbours’ “tourist” perception of us.
Community Contact’s pledge was to offer a more realistic face of our community, one that shows more young people striving to take their place in society in areas of education, business and even politics. Also to let our fellow Montrealers and Quebecers see us for more than colorful events, music, and food with spicy pepper.
In so doing we have had an amazing vantage point to tell some amazing stories about some amazing people and events and we continue to be amazed.
The fact that we survived and flourished over the past two and a half decades is due in no small part to the unwavering support we have had from our readers and our supporters.
How moving it has been to see families coming to our offices with money put aside by loved-ones to ensure that their obituaries are listed in the pages of the CONTACT.
Today, 25 years later, the landscapes that define society, community and media have changed dramatically, creating an unforeseen for the CONTACT challenge to stay true to our mission and, more importantly, to stay relevant.
But it’s all-good, because in the face of all its ups and downs our community continues to be, as is The CONTACT.
Looking back at the pages of the first issue we saw a community that was on the move and The CONTACT ready and willing to be a vehicle of progress. Among the many features in that first publication were:
• Article on Black entrepreneurs making inroads
• Columns by Novel Thomas, Gloria Hinkson, Edina Bayne, David Edey, Reverend Horace Thompson, John Chandler and the late Richard Lord
• Article on Dayle King and Karen Lewis using a new concept to build their businesses
• Stories on Thelma (Johnson’s) House of Beauty and Spice Island Dynamic Dancers
• Features on cultural icons like Playboys Steelband, Westcan Folk Performers, Victor St. Martin, Howard Stretch Carr and
• A powerful story on the then-emerging boxing careers of the Grant brothers, Otis and Howard.
Today, as Montreal marks its 375th anniversary, it coincides with several milestone celebrations that reflect the true diversity and vibrancy of this city, including Canada’s 150th birthday and the 50th Anniversary of Expo 67, it presents us with an opportunity to reposition ourselves in the city and province.
With a history that reaches back to the founding period of Montreal, Blacks have been present throughout many of the defining events of the city and have helped to build the foundation upon which the future hinges. As such, their stories have always been relevant.
Over the past 25 years, the CONTACT has been occupying a privileged vantage point as we observed and documented the emergence of our community and shined a spotlight on our contributions to Montreal’s economic, social and cultural vibrancy.
Every two weeks our pages have been replete with stories of individuals, events and milestones that have helped to define our city. And it is in those pages that the first draft of the history of our community and the city is written.
To celebrate our 25th Anniversary, The Montreal Community CONTACT is preparing yet another draft of the remarkable history of our community, Montreal and Canada.
Our 76-page publication, which will be printed in full-color newspaper format, is meant to be a souvenir for homes and institutions, and a lasting repository of the recent history of the Black and Caribbean community in Quebec, featuring the individuals and events that have impacted society in areas such as education, politics, music, business, religion, cultural activities, sports, and community development.
Ten thousand copies will be printed and made available free of charge to all Montrealers as a constant reminder of the many hands that have participated in the carving out of the history of Montreal, Quebec and Canada. The publication will also be posted online.
It is a grand project the likes of which can only be tackled by an institution like Montreal Community CONTACT with the capacity to research, write and package the expanse of information that represents our community’s place in Montreal, Quebec and Canada reaching back to the beginning, as we have been doing over the past 25 years.
The call goes out to anyone who has something to contribute to this first draft of history to get involved.