Kathleen Livingstone was the first president of CANEWA. In recognition of the significance of self respect and self esteem to Black people, CANEWA’s chief goal was to expand Black consciousness in Canada and beyond. CANEWA’s members hosted and participated in various events that impacted the Black community. One which continued throughout the group’s existence, was the provision of scholarships to deserving Black students.
The Calypso Carnival, the brainchild of CANEWA–and a fore-runner to Caribana–was one of the first public celebrations highlighting Black and Caribbean culture. Other events included: The First Negro History Week (1958), which later grew into Black History Month; the 1962 Martin Luther King’s Speech at Holy Blossom Temple, Bathurst Street; Coretta Scott King’s performance at Massey Hall; the 1994 Picketing/Protesting outside Maple Gardens, against Alabama’s Governor George Wallace’s speech. CANEWA’s members also engaged in registering their objections to press reports that dared to portray Black people in a negative light.
Kathleen Livingstone organized CANEWA’s most public success, the first National Congress of Black Women, which was held in Toronto from April 6 to 8, 1973. The event brought together 200 women from across Canada. Workshops were held on subjects such as education, single parents, and senior citizens, and resolutions on many subjects were passed. The Congress inspired delegates to maintain close ties with each other, leading to further conventions at Montreal in 1974, Halifax in 1976, Windsor in 1978, and Winnipeg in 1980 when the organization became the Congress of Black Women of Canada.
Through her political activities and participation in a wide range of advocacy and volunteer organizations, Kay Livingstone worked tirelessly to break down prejudice and to promote the equality of individuals of diverse origins, contributing to the development of a more tolerant society. Among Kay’s notable accomplishments were interests in Women’s issues, racial issues, music, horseback riding and devotion to raising a family. Kay was well loved and respected by individuals from all walks of life.
She served as president of the United Nations Associations, as regional chair of the National Black Coalition, as a moderator for Heritage Ontario and as a member of the Appeal Board of Legal Aid. Mrs. Livingstone is credited with first using the term “visibility minority”. In 1975 she was working as a consultant for the Canadian Privy Council, helping to organize a national conference for visible minority women. Kathleen Livingstone died at a very early age in 1975.
In March 2011, the Historical Sites and Monument Board of Canada designated Mrs. Kathleen Livingstone a person of National Historical Significance. On September 24, 2017 a plaque in recognition of that status was unveiled at a library in Toronto. This plaque was installed at the Bedford Parkette in North York where Mrs. Livingstone and her family last resided.
Picture: Parks Canada