Initially supported by the Canadian National Railway, the group began to look elsewhere for funding. After successful negotiations the NCC was accepted into the Council of Social Agencies in 1928 and received its initial funding from the Financial Federation of Montreal in the Fall of 1929.
Moving from various rooms to rented halls in the St. Antoine Street district, in 1930 the NCC took over space in the basement of Union United Church, at 3007 Delisle. Initially, the founders and friends of the organization ran the programs; however, when the complex task of administrative duties became overwhelming the Board agreed to hire an Executive Secretary.
During the early years, there was a close identification of the Center's program with national events sponsored by Blacks in the United States. Most of the NCC's activities were geared toward children and youth and due to the lack of space the centre was forced to hold many of it's activities at Royal Arthur School. In 1949, the Board incorporated the NCC to enable them to acquire adequate property under its control.
That same year, Mr. Stanley A. Clyke, trained in social work, began to incorporate principles of progressive social work into the programming thrust of the NCC. During his tenure, age-specific activities were developed, and health and welfare services were inaugurated to fill the gaps existing in the total welfare scheme: an employment service, school lunch program and a dental clinic, etc.
By the end of the Second World War, a large number of Blacks began to move out of the immediate area and participation in the children's program diminished. This did not mean however, that overall participation was down; in fact there was a concurrent increase in applications by non-Blacks for membership.
In July 1955, with a serious need for space, the NCC moved into the Iverley Community Centre at 2035 Coursol and merged its 90% Black membership with the 100% white membership of the Iverley. At the same time, the centre encouraged the participation from Blacks living outside the neighborhood. In just one year participation soared to 65,000 visits.
Between 1955 - 1957 about $50,000 was donated to improve the building and a gym was built on the fourth floor. While still maintaining its strong youth program, the NCC in 1958 received government funding for citizenship education, for adult programming and local public affairs issues. The NCC had evolved into a full service community centre, serving a multi-ethnic clientele of all ages.
In 1965 at the Annual General Meeting, the Iverley Community Centre, presented the deed of 2035 Coursol to the NCC board. From that point onward, the Negro Community Centre owned the building. Urban renewal had forced hundreds of Blacks out of the area which affected levels of participation. There was also ongoing concern about meeting the needs of both the increasing immigrant population and the old community members now living outside the immediate neighborhood. By the early seventies Blacks in other districts were served through satellite offices of the NCC.
In 1987, a portion of the exterior wall collapsed. Fundraising began almost immediately to rebuild the crumbling back wall. The reconstruction did not finish until over a year later. This created a crisis that would lead to the eventual closure of 2035 Coursol. Many programs could not operate within the building and were moved out or closed down. The lack of programs and reduced activity within the building itself precipitated an operating crisis.
By March 1988, the situation at the centre became critical as Centraide advised the board of the NCC that they could no longer continue funding because their programming had been severely curtailed. The NCC began talks on renewing the structure of their organization. This long-term planning included new staffing needs, programs, and even an architectural program. Most importantly, the board met regularly to determine a new vision for a renewed community centre. As the board continued to deliberate the issues, slowly key functions of the building shut down. After exhausting all financial resources, staff was released and the doors closed on Wednesday, November 15, 1989.
Annual reports of the NCC between 1989 and 1994 show a trend towards fewer programs, building deterioration and concerted efforts to tap into the new needs of the changing composition of the Black community. During this period, such programs as Christmas basket distribution, day camp, the Little Burgundy Festival and French classes were continued with the assistance of volunteer staff, and personnel and programs financed through rentals, donations and designated government grants. All of the energies gradually focused on fundraising to match government allocated funds, but the monies failed to meet the require figure. Efforts to keep the building up to public safety standards were hampered by lack of funding, forcing all NCC programming to cease in 1993.
In June of 1994, the Negro Community Centre was informed that their institution had been chosen by the Federal and Provincial governments to receive a grant under a program called Canada/Quebec Infrastructure. The centre submitted a renovation projection of three million dollars based on the needs assessment of a Task Force. It was accepted under the provision that the NCC would share equally with the two governments and raise its share of one million. The NCC worked extremely hard to achieve success with the project, however, a number of unanticipated obstacles as well as misunderstandings and constraints due to the repayments terms delayed progress and eventually curtailed the implementation of this project in 1997.
A new NCC board in 1998 looked at the mission of the Task Force to "develop activities and services designed to bring an Afrocentric orientation to the Black community...through the promotion of Black art, history and culture." The challenge to realize this vision underlies the mission of the present NCC board revitalization project.
In October 1998, a new board was created for the NCC/Charles H. Este Cultural Centre. They made a presentation to the City of Montreal Mayor's office, which endorsed the project. The essence of this revitalization project was presented to other Black community association leaders in July of 1999, who gave their support of the vision.
On December 9, 1999 a meeting concerning the NCC was convened by the City of Montreal to discuss the focus and practical steps for the revitalization of the building at 2035 Coursol street as a museum and cultural centre. Representatives of the City of Montreal Service for Sports, Leisure and Social Development, Service for Disadvantaged sectors, Heritage Canada, The Quebec Ministry of Culture and Communications for Montreal, Building Services of the City of Montreal, Intercultural Affairs
and the Mayor's office met regularly to assist in the clarification of the mandate and vision, protocol and budgetary reality for the project. Finally, during Black History Month 2000, Mayor Pierre Bourque officially announced a feasibility study, to be funded by the City of Montreal. The study would include recommendations from a project manager, a museum designer and an architect as to preliminary engineering studies and costs. This would comprise the first phase of the project.
In May of 2004 a new Membership Blitz and Fundraising Drive was launched under a new and revitalized directorship.
Housing the spirit of the Negro Community Center and the determination, identity, pride, ingenuity and tenacity that have shaped the face of today's Montreal Black Community.
In 1927, in the living room of Reverend Charles Este, eleven members of the congregation of Union United Church met to create a community centre. The Negro Community Center's purpose was "to alleviate social and economic conditions among Blacks in Montreal".
The Center is located at 2035 Coursol Street at the corner of Canning and Coursol Streets in the Little Burgundy neighborhood of Montreal. Until our building's repairs are completed, please use the following contact information.
NCC/Charles H. Este Cultu
The Charles H. Este Cultural Center will house something much larger than the confines of its walls. It will house the spirit of the Negro Community Center and the determination, identity, pride, ingenuity and tenacity that have shaped the face of today'