New fund for slave trade descendants

$12,000 donated to new Robert Sutherland fund

A new scholarship opportunity will soon be available to student descendants of the North Atlantic slave trade.

As part of a Black History month event Feb. 22, the J’Nikira Dinqinesh Education Centre, an Ottawa-based organization that promotes black history in Canada, recently gave Queen’s a $12,000 donation to go towards establishing a Robert Sutherland fund.

Robert Sutherland was the first person of colour to graduate from Queen’s, and one of its great benefactors.

The amount, which was raised by the centre, is intended to replicate the amount given by Sutherland when he died in 1878.

June Girvan, the education centre’s chief volunteer, said the $12,000 Sutherland donated was enough to keep Queen’s afloat for a year, and save it from bankruptcy and absorption into the University of Toronto.

“Queen’s was founded on very strong moral principles, and it is this moral foundation that we applaud,” she said. “If it was not for [this moral foundation], Sutherland would not have been allowed in.”

The scholarship will be available to students who are descendants of the North Atlantic slave trade.

“Every black person who is not a recent immigrant of Africa is a descendant of the slave trade in North America,” Girvan said.

Theresa Alm, associate University registrar of student awards, said the specific criteria and value of each award are still being discussed.

Queen’s will add money to the $12,000 donated, but Vice-Principal (Academic) Patrick Deane said the University isn’t yet sure how much each award recipient would receive and when the award will begin to be awarded.

“It takes time to establish funds of this sort,” he said, adding that in two months, the criteria will be available.

The University offers both an entrance bursary and a prize named after Sutherland. The bursary was established by the Afro-Caribe Community Foundation of Kingston and District, and is awarded to a student demonstrating financial need, good academic standing and “involvement in and/or contribution to the African or Caribbean communities in Canada,” according to the JDUC’s website.

The Sutherland Prize is awarded to a graduating student who is a self-defined racialized minority, with “proven leadership ... especially in the area of fostering diversity and anti-racism initiatives,” according to the AMS website.

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