Mary M. Alward
was an actress, mother, volunteer worker and an enforcer of
minority rights. She was born in London , Ontario in 1918. Her
parents, James and Christina Jenkins were leaders in the Black
community and founders of the newspaper, “Dawn of Tomorrow.”
At an early
age Kay took an interest in the performing arts. She studied
at Ottawa College of Music and the Ontario Conservatory of Music
Kay met and married George Livingstone. She worked for the Dominion
Bureau of Statistics in Ottawa during WWII. Kay later hosted
the “Kathleen Livingstone Show,” on radio. When she moved to
Toronto , she hosted several shows for the Canadian Broadcasting
Corporation.(CBC) She also displayed her talents as both an
amateur and professional actress.
Kay became involved in the Canadian Negro Women’s Association.
(CANEWA) She started a new organization, became its first president
and encouraged members to commit to service projects. They raised
funds to provide scholarships to young Black students who showed
promise. The group also formed the Calypso Carnival, which was
a forerunner to today’s Caribana Festival that is held each
year in Toronto .
to 1953, Kay served as President for CANEWA. She initiated CANEWA’s
greatest success: The First National Congress of Black Women.
The group first met in Toronto in 1973. Two hundred women from
across the country attended the gathering. Workshops on single
parenting, education and seniors were offered. The focus of
the Congress was to encourage Black women to form close personal
relationships. The first meeting of this group lead to other
conventions. These were held in Montreal , Halifax , Windsor
and Winnipeg . The Winnipeg convention saw the Congress of Black
Women become and official group.
life, Kay also held positions with the United Nations Association,
Heritage Ontario , the YWCA, the National Black Coalition of
Canada, the Legal Aid Society and the Canadian Council of United
Churches. Kay worked as a consultant for the Privy Council of
Canada during the last years of her life. She traveled from
coast to coast preparing a conference on visible minorities
in Canada . She coined the phrase, “black minority rights.”
On one of
these trips Kay met Carrie Best, who formed the Kay Livingstone
Visible Minority Women’s Society after Kay’s death in 1975.
The Society continues to offer educational funding for promising
young women of Canada ’s minorities.
Kay Livingstone Award is presented to black women in Canada
. The mandate of the award is to encourage black women in this
country to improve the lives of other women of color and their
the chairperson of the London , Ontario chapter of the Congress
of Black Women of Canada stated: “Our congress feels it’s very
important to meet and help black women. We share a feeling of
togetherness and sisterhood. We rejoice in our blackness.”
behind a legacy when she died. Many young minority women have
realized their dreams because of her influence and the funding
of the organization that carries her name. Kay has taught these
women that there is no mountain so high that it cannot be conquered.
Women: Profiles of Black Women in Canada – Rella Braithwaite
the Way: Black Women in Canada – Rosemary Sadlier
Vision: The story of the Canadian Negro Women’s Association.
M. Alward is a freelance writer from Ontario, Canada.