Gospel concert raises funds for student memorial award

The fatal shooting of York student Chantel Dunn in February 2006 brought many friends, family and members of the community closer together in the wake of tragedy. Five years later, that sense of unity was still in evidence at a gospel benefit concert at Trinity Temple Church of God on Feb. 12.

Some 150 people attended the concert at the Black Creek community church that paid tribute to Dunn’s memory with uplifting gospel, steel pan and spoken word performances from local talent including York students Helen Yohannes, Amed Saleh and Nayo Sasaki-Picou. York humanities Professor Andrea Davis delivered the keynote address “A New Paradigm for Thinking about Black Community”.

Right: Chantel Dunn

The concert raised more than $5,000 to contribute to the Chantel Dunn Memorial Bursary fund at York University.

“I am so pleased to see that the years have not diminished Chantel’s memory in the community,” said Rahel Appiagyei (BA ’09) who helped out with the concert organized by Dunn’s grandmother, Uda Samuels. “She was a wonderful human being with a bright future and it is important that we continue to celebrate her life.”

Dunn was only 19 and in her second year in York’s Business & Society program when she was gunned down while picking up her boyfriend at Northwood Community Centre following a basketball game. She is remembered as a hardworking student who dreamed of becoming a lawyer.

At York, Appiagyei had never crossed paths with Dunn, however, only three years apart in age, the news of her senseless shooting struck a deep chord. “The more I learned about Chantel, the more I realized that her story could have been mine – she worked hard, studied hard at school and had a boyfriend just as I did,” she said.

After reaching out to the Dunn family, Appiagyei decided to help rally the community to raise funding to establish a bursary in memory of Chantel. Support has now reached $12,500 thanks to large and small gifts from the Greater Toronto Area. Reaching the $12,500 threshold, when combined with matching funding from the Ontario Trust for Student Support (OTSS), will create an endowed award at York in Dunn’s memory.

“It was important that her death not be in vain,” she said. “This scholarship will enable others in the community to finish what Chantel started at York and achieve their dreams.”

In 2007, a commemorative bench and plaque were placed on the York Commons and dedicated in her honour.

Those who wish to make a donation to the Chantel Dunn Memorial Bursary can do so online at the York University Foundation or contact Corrine Rahman at crahman@yorku.ca or 416-650-8467.

Those who wish to establish an OTSS fund or contribute to an OTSS fund to double the impact of their gifts, should contact Rahman. The deadline to take advantage of this year’s matching opportunity is March 31.