Amherstburg Freedom Museum hosts first-ever “Freedom Summit”



By Ron Gifu


The Amherstburg Freedom Museum gave students and youth a chance to speak out on a number of societal issues last weekend as part of its first-ever “Amherstburg Freedom Summit.

The summit was held last Friday and Saturday on the museum’s grounds and included roundtable discussions, demonstrations, performances and other forums to discuss issues of the day. Keynote speakers included award-winning Canadian playwright Trey Anthony and former Canadian Football League (CFL) player Arjei Franklin.

Award-winning Canadian playwright Trey Anthony was one of two keynote speakers at the Amherstburg Freedom Summit.

The summit aimed to provide an opportunity for young people from Windsor-Essex County in Grades 11,12 and first year college/university to discuss current issues with other students and facilitators through a series of workshops to introduce solutions for positive change focusing on four key issues. Those issues included “Young, Gifted & Racialized,” “The Power of the 99%,” “Freedom in the 21st Century” and “Empathy & Solidarity.”

Dr. Lorene Bridgen, assistant curator at the Amherstburg Freedom Museum and one of the planners of the summit, said it was very productive to hear what the students had to say.

“A lot of us had ideas of what the kids were going to say,” said Bridgen. “We were surprised by the kids’ answers. We weren’t the ones teaching them, they were teaching us.”

Roundtables with Amherstburg, LaSalle and Windsor police services were held as part of the first Amherstburg Freedom Summit.

Students came in from General Amherst, Kennedy, Herman, Westview Freedom Academy, the Public Alternative Secondary Schools (PASS) as well as the University of Windsor.

Bridgen said the summit was to find out what is challenging students, brainstorm positive solutions and show them they were not alone. Some of the topics discussed included economic issues with people learning how to budget while police issues were also covered with representatives of Amherstburg police, LaSalle police and Windsor police.

Monty Logan, president of the Amherstburg Freedom Museum’s board of directors, told attendees at the Saturday portion of the summit, that the dialogue needs to continue.

“We are committed to moving this forward,” said Logan.

While the museum plans to hold summits every two years, he said the discussions and workshops won’t stop in the interim. He told the audience at the start of the summit Friday morning that they want to engage with youth and want to hear what their issues are.

“We want open and frank discussions,” he said.

“It doesn’t end here,” added Bridgen. “The summit is more than just a two-day event.”

Dr. Andrew Allen speaks during the Amherstburg Freedom Summit.

Bridgen added the museum wants to be a place where people can talk about and get positive change on their issues.

Dr. Andrew Allen, one of the second day speakers, believed racism was an issue of power and said he not only fights that, but other matters based on discrimination such as sexism, classism and other areas where people discriminate based on religion, gender, sexual orientation or other reasons.

The Amherstburg Freedom Summit was a free event, with transportation and meals provided through the Ontario150 Community Celebration Program, sponsorship from TD Canada Trust and through generous community support and donations.

The Ontario150 Community Celebration Program is a one-time, application-based program to support communities and community organizations across the province in commemorating and celebrating Ontario’s 150th anniversary in 2017.


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