Lana Talbot remembers walking down McDougall Street as a child, saying hello to each neighbour as she made her way through the close-knit community.
If she failed to acknowledge one of her elders, she could be sure word would have already reached her parents by the time she got home.
While many Black families were displaced from the area in the 1960s through post-war urban redevelopment, Talbot still lives in the neighbourhood house where she was born and raised. She shared her memories Thursday to a crowd assembled in Alton C. Parker Park to mark the start of a $235,000 project aimed at preserving the stories of Windsor’s McDougall Street Corridor.
“This project is so beautiful,” said Talbot, heritage director at Sandwich First Baptist Church. “We all lived here and we were a family,” she said. “We need to pull out our pictures and bring out our history.”
The project, funded by the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario and administered by the Canadian Urban Institute, will create signage and a free app that can be used for self-guided or narrated tours.
It will build on a research project by Willow Key, a UWindsor Master’s student in history. In research funded through the UWindsor Anti-Black Racism Student Leadership Experience, Key worked with Leddy Library’s Heidi Jacobs and Sarah Glassford, and Irene Moore Davis of the Essex County Black Historical Research Society to collect the stories of the McDougall Street Corridor, a community hub for Black families in Windsor.
Key said it was fitting that the project announcement was held at Alton C. Parker Park. Parker was Windsor’s first Black police officer and the first Black detective in Canada. He was a president of the Central Citizen’s Association, a Windsor civil rights group that addressed systemic problems like racial discrimination in housing and employment.
“Contributions like Alton Parker’s are what we hope to capture through this project,” Key said. “We want to impress upon residents of Windsor that Black Canadians are here, have been here, and have fought to make Canada a more free and fair nation.”
Together with lead organization the Windsor Law Centre for Cities, Parallel 42 Systems is providing technical leadership on the project, one of four locally under the federal My Main Street Community Activator program.
At Thursday’s event, Windsor-Tecumseh MP Irek Kusmierczyk announced the funding.
Law professor Anneke Smit, director of the Windsor Law Centre for Cities, said the beauty of the project is how it builds and strengthens partnerships: “We aim to build collaborative teams like this one.”
The project received support from the UWindsor School of Creative Arts, Department of History, and Office of the Vice-President, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion; the City of Windsor; the Greater Essex County District School Board; the Windsor Public Library; the Black Council of Windsor; Hackforge; Wyandotte Town Centre and Downtown Windsor business improvement associations; and Windsor Eats.
In addition to educational opportunities for school and community groups, Dr. Smit said she hopes the project will draw visitors to Windsor for scooter and walking tours, with spinoffs for local businesses.
To contribute photos or stories to the project, contact Key at firstname.lastname@example.org.