New hope for reopening black cultural centre
Historic Little Burgundy centre has been closed since 1989
Volunteers in Little Burgundy who have worked hard to reopen the Negro Community Centre say there is new hope for the project.
The city of Montreal has put up $500,000 and promises another $2 million if the province and the federal government come up with the rest of the $7 million that's needed to reopen the historic centre, says Shirley Gyles, president of the centre's board of directors.
"So we are just waiting to hear from [them]. In the meantime, we are selling bricks, we are selling T-shirts, we are still doing our fundraiser, trying to get everybody, the whole community, involved," Gyles said.
The community centre first opened its doors in 1927, but was forced to close in the 1980s.
It had been the cultural hub of the mostly black neighborhood and a hang-out for the likes of jazz legends Oscar Peterson and Oliver Jones.
Jennifer Thompson is a Little Burgundy resident who grew up with the Negro Community Centre.
She says the centre kept her and her brothers and sisters off the streets.
Thompson says the community needs this centre.
"If you walk through this community on any given day you will see the break down of the community. You will see what has taken place within the community. And I will say that this centre is needed. It's badly needed," Thompson says.
Gyles also grew up with the centre.
She took piano lessons there and learned about black history.
In 1989 it closed, and the building still sits vacant, boarded up to keep squatters out.