Amherstburg Freedom Museum

Council approves $33,595 in grant requests as part of ’18 budget deliberations



By Ron Giofu


The 2018 town budget is ready for council’s adoption and it included $33,595 in grants to community organization.

Among the grant requests approved in principle were $5,000 for Amherstburg Community Services (ACS), $1,500 for Amherstburg Food and Fellowship Mission, $6,500 for the Amherstburg Freedom Museum and $8,500 for the Park House Museum. Grant requests for the Cat Assistance Team (CAT) and SNAP for Cats will be addressed after administration comes back with a report.

Kathy DiBartolomeo, ACS’ executive director, outlined the list of the 20-plus services the agency offers and pointed out they expanded their bus service to include driving students to and from St. Clair College. Their Meals on Wheels covers not only Amherstburg, but also LaSalle and Harrow as well.

DiBartolomeo noted they don’t receive enough government funding to cover all costs so they look for outside grants and revenue streams.

Mary-Katherine Whelan, curator at the Amherstburg Freedom Museum, pointed out Amherstburg’s contribution as a chief entry point on the Underground Railroad. She pointed out the museum has hosted Emancipation Galas, Ribs and Ragtime events and other programs and events promoting Black history. They recently held their first Amherstburg Freedom Summit.

Whelan said they have seen a 35 per cent increase in visitors over 2016 and have attracted visitors from as far as Ghana and Singapore.

Park House Museum curator Stephanie Pouget-Papak noted their role as a community museum, pointing out they will be hosting an archeological exhibit in 2018. She said their $8,500 request was “conservative” and noted visitor levels have steadily risen though many people come on free admission days.

The Park House has taken advantage of summer student programs with that program being beneficial for both sides, she suggested, adding that it is tough to find historical-related jobs in Amherstburg. Pouget-Papak also said there is “donor fatigue” in comparison to past years.

Tim Stocker and Karen Lloyd from SNAP for Cats and Renée St. Pierre and Carla Leardi from the Cat Assistance Team (CAT) both appealed for funding, with both groups asking for $5,000. CAO John Miceli asked whether the town’s voucher program would assist the groups.

Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale wondered if it was possible for the two groups to collaborate.

“It’s starting to cost the town a lot of money,” DiPasquale said during Tuesday’s budget deliberations. “Not that I’m against it, but people have to work together.”

Town council also agreed to waive $12,095 in rental fees for Rose City Gymnastics as the non-profit group is bringing the four-day Ontario Provincial Artistic Gymnastics championships at the Libro Centre next spring. Miceli said it isn’t a direct financial contribution, but the town would be forgoing other rental opportunities.

The move to waive the fees for the gymnastics championships has raised the ire of existing user groups, especially in light of the town’s decision to stick with its own option for Libro Centre surcharges. The user groups suggested all three principal users to contract ice hours at a minimum100 hours per year. The principal rate user surcharge would have been $4 per hour to all hours rented on all ice surfaces from Sept. 1-April 30 annually and $10 per hour for all pads from May 1-Aug. 31.

For Amherstburg resident users that book ice rentals for a minimum of 12 hours per month would be set at $6 per hour for all pads. Casual non-resident users would pay a surcharge of $13 per hour of ice rentals.

Under the town’s proposal, Renaud said it would translate into a $21.82 cost per AMHA player and $13.50 for every Skate Amherstburg participant. Under the proposal he presented, Renaud said the numbers drop to $14.54 per player in AMHA and $9 per Skate Amherstburg participant.

The town’s option calls for a $6 surcharge for user groups to help build a reserve fund to maintain the seven-year-old facility. User groups have expressed concern on the impact that will have on rates they will have to pass on to registrants.

The town did not concur with grant requests from a pilot project known as “The Garrison” with that request being $25,000. Council also did not agree to fund The Addolorata DeLuca Leadership Scholarship with that request being $10,000, though proponent Cessidia DeBiasio said it could be paid out over two years.

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.


Public Alternative Secondary School students tour local historic sites



By Ron Giofu


Students from Public Alternative Secondary School (PASS) students from Amherstburg, Windsor and Leamington got a chance to experience local history.

As part of the schools’ “History in our Backyard” program, about 40 students from the three PASS sites toured Fort Malden National Historic Site and the Amherstburg Freedom Museum.

Caitlyn McClure and Katie Davidson tour Public Alternative Secondary School (PASS) students through Fort Malden National Historic Site of Canada.

“It’s an experiential learning program. You learn through experience,” explained Darina Sleziak, a department head with the PASS site that is located within General Amherst High School. “We’re getting private tours. We’re learning the history of the Fort and the history of the town. We’re learning about the Underground Railroad.”

Sleziak said students are also obtaining course credits for participating in the day. They hope to have a series of similar events and include Windsor and Leamington sites.

“When you group them together, it’s a special program we’re doing this year,” she added. “We’re growing the program for this year and for down the road.”

Will Sampogna, a PASS student from Amherstburg, said he was “a little nervous and excited” to participate in the program. He said he was eager to learn about history and what has happened in his hometown “before we used to live here.” He said he knew about the historic sites, but hadn’t previously visited them.

“It’s always something that’s been in my hometown but never actually visited them,” said Sampogna. “I think this will spark my interest to visit some of the other sites.”


Emancipation Gala presented by Amherstburg Freedom Museum



By Ron Giofu


It was a busy weekend for the Amherstburg Freedom Museum and it got underway with the Emancipation Gala Friday night.

According to museum curator Mary-Katherine Whelan, upwards of 185 people attended the event at the Caboto Club in Windsor. David Van Dyke, vice president of the museum’s board of directors, said he recalled relatives talking about Emancipation Day celebrations and now that tradition is continuing.

Van Dyke pointed out on Aug. 1, 1833, the Slavery Abolition Act was signed by the British government and enacted the following year.

Amherstburg Freedom Museum board members Philip Alexander and Tom Hurst join Windsor-Tecumseh MP Cheryl Hardcastle and Windsor-Tecumseh MPP Percy Hatfield in presenting a Mac Simpson Award to Justice Elliott (centre).

Amherstburg Freedom Museum board members Philip Alexander and Tom Hurst join Windsor-Tecumseh MP Cheryl Hardcastle and Windsor-Tecumseh MPP Percy Hatfield in presenting a Mac Simpson Award to Justice Elliott (centre).

“Essentially, what it did was spark interest in the south,” he added. “In the south, slavery was still the law of the land.”

From there, slaves became escaping to what is now Canada from the United States via the Underground Railroad. Communities such as Dresden, Buxton, Amherstburg, Puce and Windsor were formed with the aid of Black people, he added.

“Emancipation evokes happiness. Emancipation evokes freedom. Emancipation evokes the feeling of doing what we want to do,” said Van Dyke.

Van Dyke noted the Amherstburg Freedom Museum houses over 40,000 documents and work is being done to digitize them. He said the museum is a place of learning but a place to have fun as well.

Another Mac Simpson Award was presented to Shaniece Peters (centre). With her is WIndsor-Tecumseh MPP Percy Hatfield, Tom Hurst, Windsor-Essex MP Cheryl Hardcastle and Philip Alexander.

Another Mac Simpson Award was presented to Shaniece Peters (centre). With her is WIndsor-Tecumseh MPP Percy Hatfield, Tom Hurst, Windsor-Essex MP Cheryl Hardcastle and Philip Alexander.

Eric Griggs, district vice president with TD Canada Trust, said the bank is a proud sponsor of the Emancipation Gala and touted TD Canada Trust’s efforts in not only supporting the Black community, but also developing the TD Black Employee Network in order to assist Black employees in advancing.

There were two Mac Simpson Awards handed out, with high school students in the region eligible to write a poem, essay or make a presentation. Justice Elliott and Shaniece Peters were this year’s recipients.

Guest speaker Kenn Stanton, a former curator with the museum, outlined several of his choices for local heroes. He cited several civil rights activists, along with newspaper publishers, teachers, politicians and more including Mary (Miles) Bibb, Mary Ann (Shadd) Cary, James L. Dunn, Alvin McCurdy, George McCurdy, Dr. Henry D. Taylor, Alton Parker, James Watson, Mac and Betty Simpson and Oshiomogho Atogwe.

“There are many others,” Stanton told the audience, “but time doesn’t permit.”

The Amherstburg Freedom Museum also presented the Walter Perry Golf Classic Saturday afternoon at Fox Glen Golf Club in McGregor.

Roughly 200 people attend “Ribs & Ragtime” at Amherstburg Freedom Museum



By Ron Giofu


The Amherstburg Freedom Museum presented the annual “Ribs & Ragtime” event Saturday night with a large crowd there to enjoy the evening.

Approximately 200 people sat under tents in the front of the museum and enjoyed ribs, chicken and the music of the band “Straight Ahead.” Monty Logan, president of the museum’s board of directors, was happy with the sunny sky and warm temperature the event enjoyed.

“It’s a beautiful day,” he said. “It’s awesome.”

The Detroit-based band “Straight Ahead” performed again this year at the Amherstburg Freedom Museum’s “Ribs & Ragtime” fundraising event. It was the first event in a busy season for the museum.

The Detroit-based band “Straight Ahead” performed again this year at the Amherstburg Freedom Museum’s “Ribs & Ragtime” fundraising event. It was the first event in a busy season for the museum.

Logan added recent construction work in front of the museum was finished with that being covered by a recent Ontario150 grant.

“The courtyard is complete just in time for Ribs & Ragtime,” commented Logan. “We’re glad to see everyone here having a great time.”

The event is one of the Amherstburg Freedom Museum’s largest fundraisers, raising about $5,000 annually for the museum.

Darryl Hogan, the museum’s vice president, also pointed out that “we’re so lucky to have great weather.”

Hogan said that “friends, family and friends of the museum” turned out Saturday evening.

“It’s great to see people from the community come out and support us,” said Hogan. “We want to become a more significant part of Amherstburg.”

The band “Straight Ahead” came from Detroit again this year with Hogan stating organizers went with that band again because of how popular they were from previous Ribs & Ragtime events.

Those who attended Ribs & Ragtime, including this table, had a good time Saturday night.

Those who attended Ribs & Ragtime, including this table, had a good time Saturday night.

“The summer is very busy for us,” Hogan added, noting the Emancipation Gala and the Walter Perry Emancipation Golf Classic are also on the horizon. The latter events are Aug. 4 and 5 respectively.

“This year, we’re hoping to get our (Amherstburg Freedom) summit up and running,” he added.

Hogan thanked the town for its support as well as those who came in from elsewhere to support the museum.

For more information on the Amherstburg Freedom Museum and its events, call 519-736-5433 or 1-800-713-6336 or visit They can be found on Facebook at or on Twitter at