Community engagement key for Congress of Black Women of Canada

Once a month, in a staff room at Holy Spirit Catholic School, the Scarborough chapter of The Congress of Black Women of Canada meets. Its goal is to motivate black women to participate in and contribute to the communities in which they live.

At Thursday’s meeting the women focused on their upcoming community projects.

A project that is particularly important to Joan Impraim, the chapter’s secretary, is helping those who are unable to read and write.

About the Congress of Black Women of Canada

  • Started by the late Kay Livingstone in 1973.
  • Livingstone was an actress, volunteer worker and a fighter for minority rights.
  • Livingstone had a vision of organizing and uniting black women.
  • Group was spurred by the rising of black consciousness in 1951 and 1976.
  • Non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of black women.
  • Chapters in Alberta, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Quebec and Ontario.
  • Scarborough chapter formed in 1985.
  • Membership is for black women over 16 years old.
  • Meets on the fourth Thursday of each month.
  • Some focuses of the Scarborough Chapter: human rights, housing, health, education and racism.

Source: Congress of Black Women of Canada

“Last year our regional representative came by and we discussed how we could get involved in the community,” she said. “One of the things mentioned was the adult literacy program that is offered at the library, so I pursued that. I’m waiting for Malvern library’s coordinator to call me as soon as she gets somebody that I can teach.”

The Congress of Black Women of Canada was founded in 1973 and has chapters in Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Quebec and Ontario. The Scarborough chapter — one of the nine located in Ontario, was formed in 1985.

Ditty Young, chapter treasurer, said the Scarborough chapter used to be the largest in Ontario, but members lost interest or moved away.

“For this small group we’re doing wonderful,” Young said. “I’m proud of us.”

Though their numbers are modest, the congress still manages to raise money to help youth pay for part of their education. Chapter president Luenda Joseph says it is one of their main focuses.

“We give out a scholarship,” Joseph said. “We just gave one to a student from L’Amoreaux Collegiate Institute.”

Young said that in order to qualify for the scholarship, students must complete certain prerequisites.

“We send a request to the principal of the school and say ‘these are the requirements,’” Young said. “The student has to do volunteer work, be academically inclined and must be progressing into post-secondary education.”

Young said the congress’ goal is to raise as much as they can for the scholarship based on the chapter’s income. For now, that goal is $500. The women hope to eventually increase that sum to $1,000 and perhaps split it between two students.

The congress receives their money through donations and fundraisers, and plans to raise the money for the scholarship at their annual luncheon, on Apr. 15.

The women meet monthly from September to June, excluding July, August and December.