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David Shelton, who is on the organizing committee to reopen the centre, said it once served members of the Black and Irish communities, and seniors from both groups still socialize today.

“The centre allowed the different races to grow up and develop friendships together,” he said. “Now the neighbourhood has changed, and there are Bangladeshis, and North Africans, and blacks, and whites. This centre was a place where people of all backgrounds came together. We want to resurrect that.”

The march culminated with speeches and performances at the park, and a plea to support the organizing committee in its efforts to revive the centre for the good of the entire community.

“The roots of the black community in Montreal go back to the first days of the official founding of the city, and even before, and the NCC has become a symbol of its existence, and of the community’s resistance against racism and all kinds of negative forces,” said Fo Niemi, executive director of the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations, who helped to organize the event along with the Côte-des-Neiges Black Community Association.

“So it’s so important for the community to have that home, and in the hearts and minds of many in the Black community, that is their home.”

Participants listen to speeches as they take part in the Long Walk Home as part of the Emancipation Day celebrations in Montreal, on Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020.
Participants listen to speeches as they take part in the Long Walk Home as part of the Emancipation Day celebrations in Montreal, on Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020. Allen McInnis/Montreal Gazette

With the Black Lives Matter movement, there is increased interest in supporting initiatives that to aid cultural communities, Niemi said. He mentioned the BlackNorth Initiative that brought together more than 200 CEOs in late July in Toronto to support ways to dismantle anti-Black systemic racism. This kind of interest could lead to financial or other support for the centre, he said.

rbruemmer@postmedia.com

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