A plaque commemorating the historical significance of the great ‘freedom movement’ was attached to the former Toronto Dominion Bank Building at the corner of Ouellette Avenue and Riverside Drive in Windsor. When the building was to be torn down in the mid 1990s the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada decided to rewrite the wording on the plaque and affix it to a new monument that would be constructed on the Civic Green. The Tower of Freedom as it would be named was dedicated on October 20, 2001 as part of the City of Detroit’s 300th Celebration of its founding, with a companion monument dedication being held directly across the Detroit River in Michigan.
The geographical location of the monument on the Civic Esplanade facing due south toward City Hall has been authenticated through the wording on a City Centre Heritage Interpretive Sign titled Windsor ‘s Underground Connection, which states that “Windsor became an important terminal on the Underground Railroad. Windsor’s earliest Black residents were housed in former military barracks on the present day City Hall Square.” T he sign further adds, “The Black community grew as the town prospered. By 1859 there were approximately 700-800 Blacks in a population of 2500 … most lived on what was then the eastern edge of town (between McDougall and Goyeau Streets.)”
Looking back, as the downtown Windsor neighbourhood continued to develop further and expanded geographically to include churches, schools and businesses, many of the Negro/Coloured community leaders distinguished themselves by actively participating in the political arena. As other ethnic groups be came residents in this unique neighbourhood, a co-operative environment prevailed.
When the City of Windsor embarked on several “redevelopment projects” during the 1940’s and again in the 1960’s, the stability of this neighbourhood began to disappear as affordable housing was torn down to be replaced by multi-family housing projects. Many of the commercial buildings were demolished and left vacant until suitable new land owners could be found, as evidenced by the Casino Windsor project and the expansion of parking for City Hall. These incidents continued to de-stabilize the essence of this neighbourhood as families and businesses moved to other areas of the city and county.
In 1998, a group of former residents of the McDougall Street Corridor canvassed current and former area residents to determine the level of interest in holding a neighbourhood reunion. There was a strong desire expressed, not only for a neighbourhood reunion, but also for the creation of an African Canadian Community Centre. The notion of creating a community centre had been discussed by individuals within the community for decades.
A community survey was distributed in the early months of 2003. As a result the African Canadian Community Centre of Windsor and Essex County (ACCCWEC) was established as a not-for-profit corporation in June 2003. The first annual McDougall Street Reunion was held in August 7 – 9, 2003, with events focusing on seniors, youth, families and heritage.
In May 2003, the African Canadian Community Centre of Windsor and Essex County became an established entity as a non-profit corporation. The overall goal was to unite the residence of Windsor and Essex County while fostering an appreciation of cultural diversity by creating a stable and secure environment for youth and adults to learn about their heritage, experience camaraderie and pursue personal choices.
In August 2003, the First Annual McDougall Street Reunion brought together people who have a familiarity with this unique neighborhood. Historically, this area was the hub of African Canadian community with humble beginnings during the mid 1800s as a terminal of the famous Underground Railroad. This celebration continues to be regarded as the anchor for fundraising efforts for the Northstar Cultural Community Centre (our new name).
On February 21, 2004 an office was opened in the Herb Gray Centre for Non-Profit Excellence, suite # 104.
In 2006, charitable status was granted under the name Northstar Community Centre. This gave us the ability to offer tax receipts to donors.
The overall goal of the Board of Directors and members is to establish a community resource and cultural centre to foster an appreciation of the contributions that African Canadians have made toward the development of our country, province and city. The centre provides an anchor for our community by creating a stable and secure environment for youth and adults to learn about their heritage, experience social awareness, purse educational options and participate in community development projects. A further mandate is to promote inter-cultural co-operation and an appreciation of cultural diversity.
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