York University Libraries | Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections online exhibits

Congress of Black Women of Canada

Jean Augustine discusses the Congress of Black Women of Canada.


“Let Black Children Talk” and that was the “Congress of Black Women of Canada”. Well, maybe I should do this one first because the Congress of Black Women of Canada was the national organization. And so we had chapters all across the country and we had regional meetings, of course with our vision statement and our mandate and we knew exactly as women where we wanted to go with the organization. And it’s still alive, there is the foundation that raises funds for scholarships and other things and one of the interesting things is that we had a theme or a motto or whatever it’s called and it was we, the vision of black women [is] almost like the cactus; that the cactus is a very hearty plant and the cactus will grow even if nobody is planting or nurturing the soil and that the cactus despite whatever hardships at the end springs this beautiful flower and we considered ourselves almost like the cactus. And this was basically a little bit of a fundraiser we had when we sold this button.

Jean Augustine discusses the Let Black Children Talk conference button.

This is from the Montreal chapter. And the Montreal chapter of the Congress of Black Women, so it would be the Toronto chapter of the Congress of Black Women, I think right now the Mississauga chapter is still alive, so there were several chapters across the country. And the was a conference that was held in Montreal focusing on the issue of what today we would call black youth, those days we talk about black children. And I remember Rosemary Brown was a speaker at that conference, so was I a presenter at that conference, and it was “Let Black Children Talk”, and there were several in the series that they held where they would work with the schools, bring young people in, the young people will discuss their situation and then of course as the adult that would be part of the advocacy, we would move on behalf of our children.

Jean Augustine discusses the On the Move Forward conference button.

So this was a conference in Vancouver in 1987, the CBWC on the move forward together. And again, if you notice these themes for black folks we’re always talking about how we can work together, because there’s quite diversity as you know in the black community. We are from island, we are from different continents. So you have the Africans, the Americans, you know, and for us the challenge was always how do we come together? So you’d see everywhere the issue of unity, the issue of on the move forward together, and that was in Vancouver in 1987 and that was the election at this conference I became the national president of the CBWC, May the 16th and the 17th, 1987.

Cherry, Z. (1973, April 06). After a fashion. The Globe and Mail (1936-Current).

Hill, L. (1996). Women of vision: The story of the Canadian Negro Women's Association, 1951-1976. Toronto, ON: Umbrella Press.

Small, S., & Thornhill, E. M. A. (2008). HARAMBEC! Quebec black women pulling together. Journal of Black Studies, 38(3), 427-442. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0021934707306584