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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Life and times of Howard McCurdy celebrated at book launch to start Black History Month




by Greg Layson

  Though “Black Activist, Black Scientist, Black Icon: The Autobiography of Dr. Howard D. McCurdy” is the title of a new book about one of Canada’s most influential people, to capture the essence of everything McCurdy accomplished in his celebrated 85-year lifetime would take a title two or three times as long.

  He helped name the New Democratic Party. Was Canada’s second black MP, elected in 1984 to represent the riding of Windsor Walkerville. He walked with Martin Luther King. Spent time with the Dalai Lama. And once met the Queen — and had the courage to complain to her about the time her visit to London, Ontario led to his childhood hideout being demolished so a stage could be built for her.

  And yet, McCurdy was, as his widow, Brenda, described him on February 1 at the launch party of his new book on the first day of Black History Month, a man of the people.

  Brenda told of how she had to be at Windsor International Airport on time every Friday night to pick up her husband as he returned from Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

  There were dinners to be had, events to attend, fundraisers and family, all crammed into a weekend at home. There was never a dull moment.

  “He was there for the purpose of being with his constituents and sharing with them, things that were going on in Ottawa,” Brenda said. 

  And at the book launch, it was again, about the people.

  Brenda said the book “tells everybody who will pick it up and read it, what he was like as a man.”

  “I'm very pleased and very proud that this now has come out and people can sit and read and know all about Howard McCurdy, the man,” Brenda said.

Leslie McCurdy, one of McCurdy’s four children, told an audience of about 50 at the book launch hosted at the Amherstburg Freedom Museum that her dad was always there, despite the heavy workload. She recounted the time he showed up at a track, on crutches. 

  McCurdy, who was a biology professor by trade, finished the book before he died from complications of cancer in February 2018. But it needed editing. Enter George Elliott Clarke, McCurdy’s longtime constituency and media relations liaison and dear friend.

Clarke called McCurdy a scholar, a creator, a motivator, and a mentor.

  Clarke, who is now an English professor at the University of Toronto, said McCurdy was “everywhere, where it was necessary to try to bring about desegregation.”

  He did that at golf clubs, country clubs, beaches, and schools, Clarke said.

  “He should be better known, and he should have been even better known in his lifetime,” Clarke said. “But this is one reason why we have Black History Month.

  “We cannot allow people such as Howard to disappear into the sands of time. We have to make sure that they are ever present, so that their achievements and accomplishments can continue to inspire new generations.”

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