The first National Black Women’s Congress was established in 1973 to provide a national forum to address the concerns of Black women. The vision focus from the beginning was to assist black women and their families with issues of concern that affect them and to bring improvement to their lives. The woman who was the driving force behind the first National Black women’s Congress was Kay Livingstone.
- To provide a network of solidarity for Black Women of South-Western Ontario and to be a united voice in the defense and extension of human rights and liberties of Black Women of Canada.
- To foster a climate in which it is acceptable for Black Women to openly examine the issues which affect them and their families.
- To plan and implement a program of service and action geared to the needs of Black Women of South-Western Ontario
- To provide a dynamic forum for the Black Women of South-Western Ontario to discuss those issues that are relevant to them and to develop the situations to bring about constructive change.
- To constantly re-examine objectives and purpose, and adjust our efforts accordingly.
The Congress of Black Women of Canada London chapter (CBWCL) was established in 1989 by the first president , the late Gwen Jenkins. The CBWCL’s mandate is through a program of education and services:
- To motivate black women to participate in the life of the community in which they live;
- To clarify and bring due recognition to the role of black women in Canadian society; and
- To improve the welfare of black women and their families in their communities, and in all matters pertaining to black women in London, Ontario
Mrs. K. Livingstone, founder, Congress of Black Women of Canada 1971.Kay’s ancestors came from Cayuga and settled in the Chatham/London area during the early 19th century. Her early education and training was in the city of London and in Toronto, where she excelled in Drama and Speech Arts at The Royal Conservatory of Music, and later at the Ontario College of Music in Ottawa.
Her father, James Jenkins, an Assistant Judge of the Juvenile Court in London and a leading figure in the local black community, and her mother Christina, instilled in her a concept of community awareness. One of the Province’s earliest black newspapers, The Dawn of Tomorrow founded by Kay’s parents had a great influence on her interest in black history and the contributions of black people in North America.
After leaving London, Kay worked as a civil servant in Ottawa, where she met and married George Livingstone of Antigua. During this same period, she hosted her own radio show, The Kathleen Livingstone Show, featuring poetry and music. At this time, she also became an accomplished horsewoman. Kay and George established their home in Toronto, where George founded his own contracting firm, and they raised a family of five children. She continued to be actively involved in performing arts appearing as one of Canada’s leading black actresses, receiving very favourable reviews, in the amateur and professional stage, and television and motion pictures. In addition to her interest in the performing arts Kay was concerned with promoting Canadian understanding of black people and their contributions. She also hosted The Kay Livingstone Show on CBC, CKEY, and CFPL (London), dealing with the traditions and cultural activities of black peoples of the World.
Gwen was the first president of the London chapter of the Congress of Black Women of Canada (CBWCL). Gwen was passionate about lifelong learning which helped shaped CBWCL’s focus on education. She believed in empowering women, especially black women and was a major voice on women’s issues.