Historic Negro Community Centre given new life at Concordia archives
The centre, which was founded in 1927, was 'a vital hub' for Black Montrealers for decades
For decades, the 19th century stone building on a quiet Little Burgundy street bustled with the sounds of basketball games, dance lessons, and, sometimes, even Oscar Peterson at the piano.
Though the Negro Community Centre on Coursol was finally demolished nearly three years ago, a new archive at Concordia University is aiming to keep those memories from Montreal's Black community alive.
More than 100 boxes of material had been tucked away deep in Concordia's archives since the mid-90s, several years after the community centre was closed. But for years, they sat mostly untouched, until 2013, when the NCC officially donated the records to the Concordia library.
Now, in time for the NCC's 90th anniversary, the materials have been carefully sorted and catalogued and the archive will officially be open to the public.
Concordia history students pored over photos and documents in the archives to research specific aspects of the centre, such as its youth programs or its political activism.
"The fight against Apartheid, connections with the Civil Rights movement, or other social justice movements," said Rochat. "It's interesting because it's a very local history, but with international connections."
The archives harken back to brighter, more vibrant times for the centre.
The organization that owned the building filed for bankruptcy protection and the building was sold and demolished later that year.
Not all of the centre's treasures were salvaged.
Maureen Cant, a Concordia history student who researched the community centre's library says most of the library books, which focused on black history & literature, were lost.
"Stanley Clike, the former executive director, he was kind of passionate about the library," she said. "His philosophy was about informing the black Community about their own culture…to develop self-esteem, self confidence."
High hopes that members of the community will also contribute some of their own mementos from their time at the community centre.