The campaign for York’s Jean Augustine Chair draws a crowd in Montreal

The campaign to mount a Chair in the name of MP Jean Augustine for York’s Faculty of Education took to the road with a spirited benefit concert in Montreal on Dec. 2. Performers at the benefit included harpist Denise Llewellyn, the People’s Gospel Choir of Montreal, jazz musician and composer Eddie Bullen and his 15-year-old son, pianist Quincy Bullen, and the 18-year-old tap dance phenomenon, Justin Jackson.

Right: Jean Augustine

The event, organized by a Montreal volunteer committee, and held at the Gésu Théâtre, was created to raise funds for the proposed Jean Augustine Chair in Education & the New Urban Environment at York University. The Chair will be occupied by a professor whose work focuses on the links between schooling and the community. According to Paul Axelrod, dean of the Faculty of Education at York University, “everything from poverty to peer relations, child rearing to daily diets, from urban space to Myspace, race and class, to culture and religion will engage the new Chair-holder.” In his remarks to those gathered for the fundraiser, Axelrod said, “Sustainability is the new benchmark of the 21st century. We seek sustainability of Jean Augustine’s name, and of the work that can be done in her name.”

Augustine migrated to Canada in 1960 from Grenada and worked as a domestic and shoe clerk before becoming a teacher and later a principal in Toronto. She was the first black woman to be elected to the Canadian Parliament, and among many postings, served as secretary of state for multiculturalism and the status of women. She is a former member of the York University Board of Governors, and she chaired the Metro Toronto Housing Authority. In 2006, she was appointed Ontario’s first fairness commissioner, an office which advocates for internationally-trained professionals in the province. She has donated her papers and commemorative items, including her parliamentary robes and chair, to York ‘s Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections.

Left: Pianist Eddy Bullen

The concert was emceed by Montreal Global Television reporter Elysia Bryan-Baynes and Travis Knights, one of Canada’s premier tap dancers. The show began with Grenadian native Denise Llewellyn’s serene harp playing and was followed by a rousing performance from the People’s Gospel Choir. Eddie Bullen’s son, Quincy, brought the audience to its feet with his spectacular piano work, as did tapper Justin Jackson, a Montreal student who has won every major Canadian and American dance competition which he has entered.

The chair of the Montreal Volunteer Committee, Bertha Pitt-Bonaparte, who taught school with Augustine in Grenada, thanked the audience, the contributors to the Jean Augustine Chair, and York University for its vision and work on behalf of the project. Committee members include Gemma Raeburn-Baynes, John Cruickshank, Arlene Wilson, Anne Faray, Lennox Charles, Bernard Baynes, Delores Sandy, Brenda Rowe and Rev. Everton Bagot.

Right: Tap dancer Justin Jackson

Greetings were conveyed to the audience from York President  & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri, Quebec Premier Jean Charest, Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay, Stéphane Dion, leader of the Official Opposition in Ottawa, Marlene Jennings, MP for Notre-Dame de Grace-Lachine and Yolande James, minister of immigration and cultural communities.

Donations to the Jean Augustine Chair in Education & the New Urban Environment can be made by phone or mail. For information or assistance please contact the York University Foundation at (416) 650-8210. Donations can also be made online by following this link, selecting “other” as your gift allocation and specifying the Jean Augustine Chair in Education in the New Urban Environment.

Submitted by Anderson Coward, communications officer, Faculty of Education.