Saluting a 'Leading Lady'
'Leading Lady' just might be the perfect way to describe the late Geraldine "Gerry" White.
The Amherst woman was one of six being honoured by the provincial government for African Heritage Month for their contributions to the success of their community and its members.
The Leading Ladies are featured on a colourful 2010 African Heritage Month commemorative poster, with photos and brief biographies, and photos prominently displayed on event brochures.
For years, White, who passed away in 2001, was a dedicated member of the Amherst Y's Menette club, while her husband Jack was one of the Y's Men, and she was always busy with YMCA activities.
She was also a member of the Highland AME Church choir, and served on the church's missionary society.
But most impressive was how she opened up her home to local youth for use as a youth centre, according to her friend Theresa Halfkenny. What started at the church soon expanded to her home, which served as a place for children to go on Friday and Saturday nights.
"It was great back at that time to give the kids some direction and motivate them, to take concern and want to really do something," said Halfkenny. "We all know that, on Friday and Saturday nights, kids can get in a lot of trouble, so she kind of took that initiative on to do that, and she continued to do it."
One of those youths participating in the group was Elizabeth Cooke-Sumbu, who is now the executive director of the Cumberland African Nova Scotian Association (CANSA.)
She recalled taking part in the group activities when she was around 12 to 15, with memories including a colourful quilt they made together out of their own artwork, and getting to see a performance by the Bermuda Strollers at the local King Lam Restaurant.
"I don't know where Geraldine would have met them in her travels, but she wanted to take the kids to the King Lam to see them perform," she said. "They had a special room set up for us in the back, away from the bar, and the group came in and ate and talked with us, then we got to see them sing.
It was fantastic," she continued. "We were only kids, we weren't used to going to things like that, but we were given that opportunity."
The group was known as the T.K. group (Team Kids.)
"We did have a lot of fun," said Cooke-Sumbu. "It was one of the few things that was available to us at that time. We didn't have a group in the evening at church we could attend, so we went and were able to mix and mingle with our peers."
Halfkenny recalled her friend's pride in her family and their accomplishments, and her love for the game of Scrabble, which she would play with the youngsters, realizing its educational value.
"She was always caring, always wanting to do the best she could, and always willing to help people," she said. "Sometimes maybe she had a little bit of an attitude, but we all have that right?"
The Town of Amherst, along with CANSA, kicked off African Heritage Month on Friday by signing a proclamation and hosting a luncheon.