BRIEF HISTORY OF ACOW
People of African descent have lived in Canada since 1600s. According to Heritage Canada, many Blacks came to Ontario seeking freedom and equality. In Ontario, they settled in Amherstburg, Chatham, London, Oro, Woolwich and Windsor. Ever since, Black people established new lives and strong, resilient communities that contributed to the development of the province and Canada. Some of their notable contributions in Windsor included the establishment of two newspapers: “the Voice of the Fugitive” by Henry and Mary Bibb in 1851, and “the Provincial Freeman” by Marry Ann and Isaac Shadd in 1853.
It is noteworthy that people of African descent came to Windsor through various forms. Some come as enslaved laborers; others came to explore the area. Another category of black people came seeking freedom from enslavement, as immigrants and most recently, as refugees and particularly, as immigrants selected abroad under Canada’s Point System.
Just as Henry and Mary Bibb work stirred the Black audiences to dream of a better life and helped newly arrived Blacks to start new lives once they got here, recent immigrants of African descent have strived to build upon that legacy by bringing the African People together under one leadership. It is with such vision and, in solidarity with those who have been here before them, that ACOW was founded in 1989. There were few Africans at in Windsor at that time. However, the goal was to ensure Africans who came to Windsor had an organization to which they could refer for support as they settled in the community. ACOW was officially incorporated two years after its creation in 1991. Since that time, the organization has been headed by different administrations and underwent serval changes.
The organization is composed of African country members represented in Windsor-Essex. Each African country whose citizens are represented in Windsor has its own leadership and membership. It is difficult currently to state how many members ACOW has since membership is not automatic. To be a member of ACOW, one must register with the organization and pay a membership fee. Nonetheless, the organization speaks for, and represents, all Africans living in Windsor-Essex. The exact number of Africans living in Windsor-Essex is unknown, since not everyone has registered with the organization or his/her countries of origin. It is estimated that there are nearly ten thousand Africans or African Canadians in Windsor-Essex. However, Data from Statistics Canada may provide us with much more accurate information.
The ACOW board has two branches. These branches have thirteen members in total: eight members of the executive and five board members. The members of the executive include the president, the vice-president, the secretary and the vice-secretary, two public relations officers (French and English), the treasurer and the social officer. The two branches make up the board, with the former entrusted with the day-to-day administration of the affairs of the organization, reporting to the board for general consensus on major decisions to be taken.
ACOW organizes events throughout the year to commemorate important events such as the Black history Month, Christmas and New Year, and other activities such as Summer picnics for youth and families, as well as fundraising events. In respect for its member countries, ACOW participates to different countries’ Independence Day commemorations and fundraising events.
Recently, the Organization has organized two visits by the former Minister of Citizenship and Immigration of Canada, Immigration and Legal Aid Clinics as well as worked in collaboration with and participated in all events organized by the Windsor West Indian Association. These events and activities have played a major role in bringing together people of different backgrounds (social, cultural and economic). As well, ACOW works in partnership with Child Protection Institutions on cases involving African families. This partnership has been very vital in restoring trust that Black/African Canadians have lost vis-à-vis these institutions.
Similarly, ACOW engages in collective action when the rights of its members are infringed. Recently (on October 5th, 2019), the organization called for a demonstration to protest against an act of racism of which children of one of its members were victim. The demonstration took place in Southfield Park (town of Tecumseh), where many members of ACOW attended, the media, the city mayor and other members of the city council, as well as schoolboard trustees and some members of political parties.