Monty Logan

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 and they can be reached at 519-736-5433 or 1-800-713-6336. They can also be found on Facebook at or on Twitter at

Ribs & Ragtime rocks Amherstburg Freedom Museum


By Jonathan Martin


The Amherstburg Freedom Museum’s (AFM) ninth annual Ribs and Ragtime garden party got more than 170 people out to enjoy history, food and tunes.

The evening featured a performance by Detroit jazz group Straight Ahead, a rib and chicken dinner and tearful birthday song for the mother of AFM board chairman Monty Logan.

The event spilled out into a blocked-off King St., where passersby paused to listen to Straight Ahead’s syncopated rhythms.

Jazz vocalist Kymberli Wright blasts out a high note at the Amherstburg Freedom Museum’s 2018 edition of its annual Ribs and Ragtime garden party.

AFM curator and administrator Mary-Katherine Whelan described Amherstburg’s role in the development of the music the group was playing.

“Jazz music’s commercial beginnings, with a greater Canadian relevance, took place in approximately 1917 with Amherstburg’s own Shelton Brooks,” she said.

Brooks, who was born in Amherstburg in 1886, wrote the massively popular “Darktown Strutters’ Ball,” which would go on to be recorded by the Original Dixieland Jass Band in 1917.  The band is credited with making the first ever jazz recordings only a few months prior to taking on Brooks’ work.

Yancyy, a member of Detroit-based jazz band Straight Ahead, puts some soul into his music at the Amherstburg Freedom Museum’s annual Ribs and Ragtime garden party. The event was held last Saturday at the museum.

“Brooks moved into Detroit as a teen, where many of history’s greatest jazz hits were developed and where Straight Ahead is from,” Whelan said.

Straight Ahead received a warm reception, according to AFM board president Monty Logan, which bodes well for AFM’s upcoming programming.

“Events like this make up almost 80 per cent of our fund raising,” he said in a speech given just prior to Straight Ahead’s performance.  “Events like this allow us to continue to tell the stories of (the African-Canadian) legacy.”

Logan went on to take a “liberty” with his speech.  He wished his mother, sitting at a table just in front of the stage, a happy 70th birthday.  Event volunteers brought out a birthday cake while Straight Ahead played a “ragtimey rendition” of ‘Happy Birthday’ and the woman covered her eyes to hide her tearful smile.

According to Logan, 2018 was another successful year for the garden party and he looks forward to doing it again next year.


Amherstburg well represented among MP’s Canada 150 medal recipients



By Ron Giofu


Essex MP Tracey Ramsey recently awarded approximately 40 Canada 150 medals and Canada Sesquicentennial Pins to people from around the riding and Amherstburg was no exception.

Ramsey said the medals were to “incredible people of Essex (County) who have really inspired me. I knew they should be recognized for their efforts.”

Ramsey said that being the area’s Member of Parliament since 2015 has opened her eyes to all of the work taking place in the area.

Eleven-year-old Gabby Wilkinson of Amherstburg (left) was one of about 40 recipients of Canada 150 medals presented by Essex MP Tracey Ramsey.

“You can live here your whole life and not realize the work being done around us,” said Ramsey. “In the past two years I was able to meet and connect with incredible individuals who have inspired me. I have the wonderful opportunity to work with people in our communities who dedicate themselves every day by showing how much they care about their neighbours, making life better for all those around them.  I am honoured to be able to recognize them for their outstanding efforts to make our community a better place with these special symbols of Canada 150. I want to thank every recipient for their continued generosity of spirit that makes our riding of Essex and Canada the best place in the world to live.”

Essex MP Tracey Ramsey (left) presents a Canada 150 medal to ACS executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo.

Among the recipients was Gabby Wilkinson, a student at Amherstburg Public School. Wilkinson was six-years-old when she had problems in math class with patterns. She received help in making patterns and that led to her making bracelets.

From there, Wilkinson started selling the bracelets at an Alzheimer fundraiser in Windsor and raised $68. “Gabby’s Gifts” evolved out of that and the local youth continues to volunteer and sell treats, crafts as well as her bracelets for numerous local charities and causes, including helping the homeless.

Essex MP Tracey Ramsey (left) presents a Canada 150 medal to Amherstburg Freedom Museum board president Monty Logan.

“I was nervous and excited,” Wilkinson said about getting the award. “It was a nice surprise.”

Wilkinson is now 11-years-old and in her fifth year of helping others.

Amherstburg Food and Fellowship Mission Tim McAllister was another local recipient. Born in Barbados, McAllister came to Canada and attended St. Clair College and became a welder. The married father of four worked in that field for several years before an auto accident involving a drunk driver cut his career short.

McAllister started volunteering with the mission with founders Andy and Pat Gervais and would eventually become president, a position he has held for the last 17 years. He is also a board member at Matthew House in Windsor. He has also won other numerous awards for his efforts.

Essex MP Tracey Ramsey (left) presents a Canada 150 medal to Amherstburg Food and Fellowship Mission president Tim McAllister.

“As president of the Amherstburg Food and Fellowship Mission, I have found great pleasure in our motto ‘People Helping People’,” said McAllister. “I didn’t volunteer to receive this award but on behalf of my board of directors and volunteers, I do it with a humble and thankful heart. For all of those who volunteer and support the mission, I thank you.”

Kathy DiBartolomeo, executive director at Amherstburg Community Services (ACS), was another of the medal recipients. DiBartolomeo started volunteering with ACS in 2007 as a way to give back and to support the community. She worked her way up the ladder and by 2009, she had shown the skills and passion to become the executive director.

With DiBartolomeo at the helm, ACS is in the Amherstburg, McGregor, Harrow and LaSalle communities and assists thousands of people who are vulnerable, elderly or in need. She is also willing to volunteer her time to assist other organizations who need a helping hand.

“I am very honoured and humbled by this Canada 150 medal,” DiBartolomeo stated. “To be recognized for what you love to do is rewarding and gives me and my staff the encouragement to continue serving  our community.

Team Ontario – a group of Essex-Windsor EMS members who won back-to-back gold medals at the Ralleye Rejviz international paramedic competition – were honoured by Essex MP Tracey Ramsey (centre) with Canada 150 medals. Amherstburg native Lance Huver is second from left.

Monty Logan was also recognized with a Canada 150 medal and pin. Logan, president of the Amherstburg Freedom Museum’s board of directors, was elected to that position in 2012, after joining the board the previous year.

Logan has helped guide the museum through key strategic, infrastructure, programming and fundraising initiatives as well as a transformation from the former identity as the North American Black Historical Museum to the Amherstburg Freedom Museum. Two elements of the transformation are complete – the curated archive on the Underground Railroad and the Amherstburg Freedom Summit. The final component is the Amherstburg Freedom Institute, which will focus on promoting solutions to address social and economic challenges facing young people today.

“It’s awesome to be honoured for the work we do at the museum,” said Logan. “More importantly, it’s getting our name out there. It’s an honour to be recognized for the work we do.”

Several police officers were among the medal recipients, including Amherstburg police chief Tim Berthiaume. Berthiaume, who has spent his entire career in Amherstburg, was contacted by the RTT and he said he was happy to be recognized.

“I am honoured and humbled to be recipient of the Canada 150 Medal,” said Berthiaume.

Team Ontario, the group of Essex-Windsor EMS paramedics that won gold at the Rallye Rejviz international competition, was also honoured. EMS Team Ontario members Chris Kirwin, Shawn May, Lance Huver and Mike Filiault made up the 2017 team with Huver being an Amherstburg native.

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.


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