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Brenda McCurdyBrenda McCurdy will be on hand for the launch of an autobiography of her late husband Howard McCurdy, Thursday, Feb. 29, in the Essex CORe Atrium.

Book shines light on life and legacy of late professor and activist

Depending on your age, you may not be familiar with the tremendous life of the late Howard McCurdy — but around Windsor, you’ve almost certainly heard his name.

Dr. McCurdy’s wife, Brenda, hopes his book Black Activist, Black Scientist, Black Icon: The Autobiography of Dr. Howard D. McCurdy will introduce the next generation to the trailblazer.

“There’s a whole generation that’s coming behind him who don’t know what he’s accomplished and what he did,” Brenda explained. “And so, if they can learn about that in the book, wonderful. They might learn something about a great Canadian, a lot of people probably don’t know a lot about.”

McCurdy, a microbiologist, was a professor at the University of Windsor where he became the first Black person to hold a tenure-track position at a Canadian university. He joined the faculty in 1959 and served as the head of the biology department. He worked at the University for 25 years.

“He enjoyed being there, the students loved him,” Brenda said.

“When he was active in Parliament, we’d come back to Windsor for local events. And somebody would always come up to him and say, ‘Oh, Dr. McCurdy, I was in your class. Oh, you were a good professor.’ They really liked him. And they enjoyed his teaching.”

McCurdy started his career in politics in 1979 as a Windsor city councillor — called an alderman at the time. He then moved on to become Canada’s second Black member of Parliament when he was elected in 1984 — and the first for the New Democratic Party, which he has been credited with naming.

During his career, McCurdy worked toward the advancement of civil rights, co-founding the National Black Coalition of Canada, the Guardian Club, a local civil rights organization, as well as the Windsor and District Black Coalition.

His legacy at the University of Windsor is part of the reason it was chosen as a location for the launch and signing of McCurdy’s autobiography.

Brenda, as well as Geroge Elliot Clarke, who edited the book and was a close friend and colleague of McCurdy, will be at the event on Thursday, Feb. 29, in the Essex CORe Atrium. Other events have been held at the School of Creative Arts during BookFest, the Amherstburg Freedom Museum, as well as stops in Toronto and Halifax.

Before McCurdy’s death in 2018, he selected Clarke, a Canadian Parliamentary Poet Laureate and professor at the University of Toronto, as his editor. After McCurdy’s death, Brenda got his book together and passed it along to Clarke, knowing it would be in good hands.

“He said, ‘I made this promise to you and Howard, and I’m going to keep my promise.’ And he said, ‘Nothing gives me more pleasure than knowing that I'm doing something by Howard.’ He worked for Howard for several years in Parliament. And those two had such a strong bond together,” Brenda said.

To get the book off the ground, Clarke would send Brenda chapters to review to get her opinion and see if McCurdy’s mood and voice were appropriately captured and conveyed to the audience.

She said the book is very comprehensive, starting with his birth and ending with his death.

“It goes through his whole life,” Brenda explained. “The whole book — childhood, university life, his political activity, work on city council — it’s all there. I think people will really enjoy reading it.”

Brenda said she hopes the book will offer readers the chance to understand the man her husband really was.

“I think people had a certain impression of him, but he was quite down to earth. I think people maybe saw him as being grumpy sometimes — and he was,” she said with a smile. “But he would snap out of it pretty quickly. But it’s because there are issues that he was very passionate about. And when he felt that passion, he spoke out about it, whether people liked to hear it or not. He spoke the truth. And I think that’s what I admire about him.”

The autobiography, Black Activist, Black Scientist, Black Icon, is available for purchase in the Campus Bookstore, as well as online. Those interested in attending the launch are asked to RSVP by Friday, Feb. 23.

Bukola SalamiBukola Salami’s transformative journey from neuroscience to nursing underscores her dedication to improving healthcare access and delivery for Black, migrant, and underserved populations.

Nursing alumna pays it forward as health-care inequities expert

During Black History Month, the Faculty of Nursing is featuring pioneers and difference-makers in the profession, past and present. A series published on its website shares their stories of determination, resilience, and humanity.

A famous author and minister once said, "Change your thoughts and you change your world."

That mindset resonates with UWindsor nursing alumna Bukola Salami (BScN 2004). Dr. Salami recalls events that led her to a different and rewarding career path in health sciences.

While still at high school in Toronto in 1998, she remembers job shadowing a nurse during a Black youth mentorship program, an experience that would prove pivotal in her life’s work.

With aspirations of attending medical school, Salami applied for neuroscience and received offers from universities.

“But I kept thinking about that mentorship,” she says. “It was instrumental in my decision to move from neuroscience to nursing and that’s when I enrolled at UWindsor.”

Salami credits her professors and student support services for empowering her to excel academically. While living in residence, she met colleagues who shared similar challenges adjusting to university life; Salami learned to appreciate the value of compassion and how reciprocating help allows a person to experience fulfilment and growth as a human being.

“It paved the way for me, and I had always thought that after I was done, I would help others by paving the way for someone else.”

Today, most of her nursing practice, research, and advocacy, focusses on improving health-care access and delivery for Black, migrant, and underserved peoples, especially among the younger population.

Salami’s notable accomplishments include:

  • assisting in the creation of western Canada’s first mental health clinic for Black Canadian youths
  • providing expert testimonial to the House of Commons standing committee involving child health in Canada
  • establishing a Black Youth Mentorship and Leadership program
  • founding the African Child and Youth Migration Research (global) Network

Salami has also held several national advisory board positions and has been inducted into Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame as one of the youngest racialized representatives to receive this top international honour. She was also appointed Fellow of the Canadian Academy and American Academy of Nursing.

Black History posterThis poster by artist Robert Small is part of a prize package for a trivia contest on Black history.

Determine truth or falsity of Black history facts to earn prizes

The Black History – Black Futures planning committee has prepared quizzes to run through the month of February, offering as prizes a poster created by UWindsor alumnus Robert Small from his Legacy Collexion, along with swag from the University of Windsor Alumni Association.

Social work student Nikita Pattathil won the Feb. 12 entry after correctly identifying Mary Ann Shadd Cary as the subject of a new Canadian postage stamp, Lincoln Alexander as the country’s first Black Member of Parliament, and Thornton and Lucie Blackburn as the subjects of the documentary Across the River to Freedom.

To enter today’s contest, the second in the series, answer the true-or-false questions below. A winner will be selected at random from all correct responses received by noon Thursday, Feb. 22.

True or false?

  1. Pan-African and Black nationalist leader Marcus Garvey, founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, gave a talk in Windsor in 1937.
  2. Mary McCleod Bethune, notable Black American woman educator and activist, was turned away from a hotel in Windsor while here for 1954 Emancipation Day celebrations.
  3. Sharon Burey became the first woman and first Black senator from Windsor when she was appointed to the Senate of Canada in December 2022.

Contest is open to all readers of the DailyNews. Send an e-mail with your responses to aroc@uwindsor.ca.

Apply for a booth at EDID Week Fair

Promote your related project or organization related to equity, diversity, inclusion or decolonization by applying for a free booth at the EDID Week Fair, Friday, March 15 in the CAW Student Centre.

The fair, running 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., is an opportunity to actively engage with the university community and contribute to positive change.

To request a booth, fill out the application by Tuesday, March 12 — it’s open to everyone both on campus and off. Event organizers will review each application and respond by email.

Learn more about activities during EDID Week March 15 to 22 on the event website.

Paul Popescu leads a field of runnersDistance runner Paul Popescu and his track and field teammates will host the Ontario University Athletics championship tournament Friday and Saturday at the Toldo Lancer Centre.

Lancer Centre to host provincial track and field tourney

The Lancer track and field team will host the Ontario University Athletics championships this weekend at the Dennis Fairall Fieldhouse.

Action kicks off on Friday and continues into Saturday afternoon, so don’t miss out as the Lancers vie for a provincial title.

A two-day pass for the championship is just $18 for adults and $15 for youths and seniors. Tickets can be purchased in advance at goLancers.ca/tickets.

Click here to view the event schedule.

Mohit SharmaMohit Sharma, second from left, received an award for best student paper at an international symposium on circuits and systems.

AI advance earns award for computer engineering student

A faster way to optimize the placements of components on a digital chip earned notice for a graduate student of electrical and computer engineering.

Mohit Sharma’s poster presentation “Design Space Exploration in the Physical Design of an AI Processor at 12 nm using Relative Placement Methodology” was named the best student paper in the category Digital, Communications and Signal Processing Circuits at the IEEE International Midwest Symposium on Circuits and Systems in Arizona in August 2023.

Sharma proposed using Relative Placement Methodology to reduce the manual effort required to place macro cells on an artificial intelligence processor, making design space exploration iterations faster. The method is based on the idea that a rectangular object can be placed in 16 different locations around another rectangular object based on its length and width.

He found that it led to a 40 per cent increase in utilization and almost 30 per cent decrease in total power requirements.

Sharma has completed his master’s degree under the guidance of professor Mohammed Khalid and is currently working for an automotive embedded systems design company in Windsor.

“I am delighted that Mohit’s work has been recognized at one of the oldest and most respected IEEE conferences in circuits and systems,” says Dr. Khalid. “Students from all over the world had applied for this award.”

He notes that Sharma’s research was part of a MITACS- and industry-funded project that dealt with the design of a power efficient AI processor: “Mohit’s innovative ideas led to significant reductions in design cost and time for this state-of-the-art AI processor.”