rosalind hampton: Empowering Montreal’s black community

Posted on Wednesday, February 9, 2011

rosalind hampton and her student Iyiola, with Iyiola's artwork.

By Pascal Zamprelli

rosalind hampton is a cultural worker whose career has involved four inter-related fields: social services, community work, art and education. For 25 years, she has worked as a youth and family worker in both institutional and community settings and as an art educator. Since 2007, she has worked in Montreal’s anglophone black community, is a trustee and educator of the Alfie Roberts Institute, and is currently a graduate student and teaching assistant in Concordia University’s Department of Art Education. She will participate in a panel discussion, Empowerment through Expression in Community Work, at Black Histories, Black Futures, a conference hosted by McGill’s Social Equity and Diversity Education Office on Saturday., Feb. 12.

Q: What are some of the most common challenges facing Montreal’s black community? Have they changed over time?

Well, first I should say that my work has been in the English-speaking black communities in the western part of the city, so I can’t speak from much experience about the Francophone communities in the northeast. On this note, a significant challenge is the distance and disconnect between English- and French-speaking blacks in Montreal. Like the rest of the city’s population, the black community is largely divided by language and geography. As of 2006, just over 12 per cent of Montreal’s black community spoke English only, and 42 per cent were unilingual Francophones. But rates of bilingualism are increasing, and on a positive note I have noticed that more and more adolescents and young adults seem to be moving comfortably within and between the English- and French-speaking black communities.

Another prominent and recurring challenge that I have experienced in black community work is under-resourced community organizations. Again and again, studies demonstrate the seminal roles that community organizations can play in the social, economic and cultural development of the community and yet organizations constantly struggle for sustainable funding and structural stability. The most tragic example of this that I have seen was the closure of Black Star Big Brothers Big Sisters of Montreal; a black community mentoring organization for English speaking blacks in Montreal from 1994 until its funding was withdrawn in 2009. My experiences as the Program Co-ordinator and Caseworker of Black Star (2007-2009) taught me about the tremendous strength and potential of the families and mentors in our community, and inspired my current work.

At the conference, you will participate in a panel discussion titled Empowerment through Expression in Community Work. What do you mean when you talk about “emancipatory community art?”

Emancipatory Art Education is what I have called an emerging approach to black community art education that I situate among African Diaspora traditions of ‘education for liberation.’ It is an approach to art education that is centred on shared authority and learning through collective problem-posing and dialogue, toward developing an ethno-culturally rich community art practice. I am interested in working with other members of the community in order to explore how inter-generational community art practice might contribute to our collective social and cultural development.

What can you tell me about plans for a black community artist collective?

My current research involves a participatory photography project with a Caribbean-Canadian family of four in the community. We are studying how collaborative art making and art-informed inquiry might affect their lives, and hope to formulate recommendations for other familial art projects in our community.

For my proposed PhD work, I would like to expand and continue this work in two stages. First I would like to visit several community groups for focus group discussions and art workshops, to gauge community sentiment around and responses to inclusive art education informed by critical multiculturalism. I then hope to form an inter-generational group of 10-12 adults to work together as an artist collective for 10 months, exploring art history, criticism and production in relation to such issues as the role of community art, the role of the artist in society and specifically of the role of the black artist (historically and within contemporary culture), race and representation, critical multiculturalism in art education, inter-generational learning, black learners (of all ages) and community education. This research will inform future theory and practice, and ideally will result in the development of a sustainable black community art program.

As a trustee and educator of the Alfie Roberts Institute, can you tell me a little bit about the institute?

The Alfie Roberts Institute (ARI) is a not-for-profit community education and research centre. ARI’s mission is to use diverse and creative methods to facilitate the capacity of individuals and groups, particularly in communities of African and Caribbean descent, to positively shape the futures of the communities in which they live and function. The Institute offers a variety of workshops and classes, and organizes conferences, film screenings, lectures and other events.

You can find out more at

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