Amherstburg Freedom Museum recognizes long-time member at Emancipation Gala

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

In recognition of Emancipation Day, the Amherstburg Freedom Museum held its annual gala Friday night.

This year, it was a special occasion for one particular member of the museum family.

Philip Alexander was presented a Lifetime Achievement Award for his involvement with the museum, which began as the North American Black Historical Museum. Though the museum officially launched in 1975, efforts to get it started date back over a decade prior to that with Alexander invited by founder Melvin “Mac” Simpson to help get the idea off the ground.

Alexander accepted the award but said he only did so to shine a spotlight on the museum rather than himself. He said he was contacted by members of the museum’s fundraising committee about wanting to honour him with the award.

“I tried to talk them out of it,” he admitted.

Once Alexander learned the award was going ahead anyway, he viewed it as a way to bring exposure and donations to the museum.

Alexander said Simpson tried to get the museum going in the 1960’s but ran into difficulty due to government regulations at the time. The efforts involved a church and there were laws against publicly funded bodies being affiliated with religious organizations.

While addressing the crowd last Friday night at the Caboto Club in Windsor, Alexander encouraged them to visit the museum and said they might find out more about their families by doing so. He praised those to “take the time, effort and raise money to keep the museum going.”

Amherstburg Freedom Museum board president Monty Logan listed the many accomplishments of Alexander, both professionally as an electrical engineer and volunteer-wise including his involvement with the museum. Logan pointed out that Alexander has held a variety of positions on the board with the board involvement itself spanning 33 years. When Alexander wasn’t on the board, he still stayed involved on various subcommittees and by helping in a number of different ways.

Philip Alexander
(centre) was honoured by the Amherstburg Freedom Museum with a Lifetime Achievement Award Friday night at the Emancipation Gala. Making the presentation are board president Monty Logan (left and Lt. Col. Lawrence Millben (right).

“It’s just a pleasure to work with you,” Logan told Alexander. “I truly appreciate everything you’ve done.”

Logan noted that Alexander is a fixture at museum events.

“If you come to one of our events and he’s not there, it’s because he’s sick,” said Logan.

Also as part of the evening, the museum presented the annual Mac Simpson Scholarship Award to Marlene Kombo. Kombo graduated from St. Joseph High School in Windsor and will be attending the University of Windsor in the fall.

Museum vice president David Van Dyke said they not only document the Underground Railroad era, but the stories that have come since then. He said the museum needs an “update” as certain infrastructure items such as windows need to be replaced.

Van Dyke added they want to upgrade the visitor experience and give people who come a “wow” factor.

“That’s what we’re aiming for,” he said.

The Amherstburg Freedom Museum is located at 277 King St. Their website is www.amherstburgfreedom.org and they can be reached at 519-736-5433 or 1-800-713-6336. They can also be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AmherstburgFreedom or on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Aburgfreedom.

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