Hamilton’s Caribbean community lost two women of strength and dedication this year. Beatrice McLean and Evelyn Musgrave, who both passed away in November, contributed immeasurably to the city they adopted as their own.
McLean was born in Jamaica, where she worked as a teacher. Next stop was Scotland, where she trained and worked as a nurse before landing in Hamilton permanently. Known as an indomitable spirit who wouldn’t take no for an answer, McLean was a founding member of the Afro-Canadian Caribbean Association, which now serves about 20,000 people in Hamilton, and spent a decade as its president.
It was under her leadership that the association bought buildings for its offices and a community centre. In the 10 years after retiring from nursing, McLean was an active and ever-present volunteer at the centre, encouraging the preservation of cultural identity as part of the broader Canadian identity. She worked doggedly and persuasively with a range of organizations to ensure issues facing Caribbean youth were considered in policies and programs. She worked hard to develop a strong youth corps within the Afro-Canadian Caribbean group.
Musgrave became the local cultural ambassador for Dominica, the lush, volcanic island in the eastern Caribbean that she left four decades ago. She and her husband, Denrick, raised four daughters in Hamilton.
Musgrave, long a poet and playwright herself, promoted cultural expression through the arts. She established the Dominican youth performers, a group that performed at functions all over the city. She created a range of artistic platforms through which young men and women could express themselves. A happy, optimistic person, Musgrave was deeply committed to her family and her Christianity. She was also a dedicated volunteer with the Dominica Association of Hamilton, a cultural organization with an annual presence at It’s Your Festival.
In 2006, Musgrave received the Rev. John C. Holland Award for Community Service in recognition of her work in community building and civic engagement. Her work has added abundantly to the cultural vitality of our city.
The contributions made to the fabric of Hamilton by both McLean and Musgrave cannot be underestimated. We are all better for having had them in our midst.