Brown honoured for work on racial inclusion
A Bermudian grandmother committed to diversity is to be honoured with an award for her work for racial inclusion by a Canadian university.
Judith Brown, formerly from Pembroke, was said to be a “longtime champion for change” in her adopted home town of Kingston, Ontario, as well as at Queen's University.
Now she is to be given the Jim Bennett Award from the school's alumni association to mark her “outstanding achievements”, which include decades of mentoring students.
Ms Brown said yesterday: “I was simply shocked when they called to tell me. Everybody's saying, ‘Judi, you deserve it because you do so much'.
“When you do these things, you simply do them because you believe in them; you don't do it to get awards.”
The Queen's Alumni website said that the honour was presented every two years by the Kingston branch of the association to recognise “outstanding achievements in careers, sport, the arts, or volunteer endeavours, contributing to the betterment of Queen's or Kingston”.
It added that Ms Brown, a retired teacher, was picked for the honour for her outstanding service.
The website said: “The award is being presented for her role in advancing ethnic and racial inclusion and for being a longtime champion for change in Kingston and at Queen's.”
The grandmother of five, whose maiden name is Wellman, was pleased by the accolade because of a personal connection to the man it commemorated.
She explained that Dr Bennett had been her neighbour and had led a committee to compensate people whose homes were damaged in a 1998 ice storm.
Ms Brown said: “This Jim Bennett called me and asked me if I would serve on that committee.
“Kingston is pretty well a white city so for this man to call me and ask me, I just felt validated.
“I thought, he knows about diversity and inclusion. It really gave me warm feelings towards him.”
Ms Brown, a former teacher at Francis Patton Primary School in Pembroke, started a psychology and English degree at Queen's University in Bermuda when a link-up meant lecturers from the university visited the island to teach.
She said it was a course requirement to spend a year on campus in Canada and Kingston became her long-term home.
Ms Brown was involved in efforts that encouraged greater inclusion and took part in workshops to combat racist language in a teaching career that lasted more than 30 years.
She considered retirement when she hit 55 but instead took teaching posts in Egypt and then China, where she stayed for seven years.
Ms Brown said: “When I came back to Kingston I was still hearing things about how black people were being discriminated against. This was about 2011.
“I thought, this is ridiculous, so I took up the cause again.
“I began giving talks and prodding people. I became involved in doing black history work; this became a hobby of mine and it led to so many things.”
Now in her seventies, she was recently elected to represent the public on the Limestone District School Board of Trustees because she thought more non-white people were needed in influential roles.
Ms Brown said: “I've lived here almost 50 years. I just don't see enough diversity involved in making plans and making decisions for the city.
“As they say, if you want to be a part, you've got to be at the table.”
The Queen's Alumni website said her “tireless work supporting Kingston's black community is one of the reasons she was named this year's recipient of the Jim Bennett Award”.
It explained that Ms Brown was nominated by the university's Black Alumni Chapter's leadership team “in recognition of her decades of mentorship to students”.
She will be presented with the award at a gala dinner next Wednesday.
John Hindess, a member of the Bermuda alumni association, said he hoped congratulatory messages from friends and family on the island could be presented to Ms Brown at the ceremony.
• Messages can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to John Hindess at Marshall Diel & Myers, 31 Reid Street, Hamilton, HM 12