Looking Back To Lead Forward with Irene Moore Davis
When I was interviewing Irene Moore Davis I realized that each column felt like a special opportunity to learn fascinating things about respected leaders. Davis is someone I have admired from afar and personally.
Her path to revered historian, educator, author, artist, community leader and mentor is inspiring and energizing. Davis attributes her leadership skills to generations of role models in her family who paved the way, making significant contributions to our community.
It is often said we cannot understand our future without knowing our past and Irene Moore Davis has made it part of her life’s work to document and bring to life the rich African Canadian story and the rich history of the Black settlements in the Windsor/Detroit area.
Her family has been here since the mid-19th century and she is a proud member of generations of renowned path-makers, innovators, entrepreneurs and community leaders such as her hero and great-aunt, Mary Ann Shadd. Shadd was North America’s first Black woman newspaper publisher, right here in Windsor.
Davis believes that “History is not just about facts from our past, it is the lessons we derive from our experiences, and the mistakes and improvements we can make that determines our present and future success and development.”
She further adds, “Young people need to see how we came to be, it is important they see role models they can identify with to inspire them.”
Her advice to youth is to “seek out leadership experiences and learn by observing. Watch how leaders run things and volunteer to gain leadership experience and find your passion.”
Her dedication to mentoring and giving back is evident by her service as President/Founding Member of the Essex County Black Historical Research Society, Amherstburg Freedom Museum, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. (mentoring programs), Leadership Windsor/Essex, “BookFest Windsor” and “Sister to Sister: Women Inspiring Success and Excellence.”
She was also a long-time member of the group, Executive Women International Detroit (scholarships for low income women), and is involved in Women Inspiring Action, a Windsor organization that raises other women up.Davis, a university graduate of Queen’s (M.A.), Western (B.Ed) and Windsor (B.A.) is involved with the African-Canadian Roads To Freedom Project, which helps schools integrate African-Canadian into the history/social science curriculum.
She provides leadership to the Continuing Education Department, as well as the English language program, at St. Clair College.
“I am inspired daily,” Davis states. “I witness challenges and barriers our students face, supporting their families while improving their lives.”
She was involved in the Underground Railroad Monument Committee responsible for the Tower of Freedom Monument in Windsor. With two other women, she hosts a literary podcast, “All Write in Sin City.”
Davis has greatly contributed to recording the history of Windsor Essex, and her work on Canadian Black settlements is included in “Fluid Frontier: Slavery, Resistance, And The Underground Railroad In The Detroit River Borderland.” She has also penned “The Long Road Continues to Our Own Two Hands: A History of Black Lives in Windsor” (coming out this year.) a continuation of Charlotte Bronte Perry’s book about African Canadians in Essex County, which includes the Caribbean population and immigrants from Africa.
Davis collects books for the South West Regional Detention Centre Library stressing “It’s never to late to free one’s mind.” She has been recognized for her work with the University of Windsor History Department Community Heritage Medal and Leadership Windsor/Essex “Alumni of Distinction.”
Her favourite quotes to always remember, reflect her advice to young leaders — “We lift as we climb” and “Service is the rent we pay for existing.”
Both of these are relevant and evident in her life of selfless service. I really think that someone should be writing a book about her. Hmmm . . . author is still on my bucket list.
Sherrilynn Colley-Vegh is an award winning leadership consultant and former Director of Leadership Windsor/Essex, Principal, Chief Communications Officer and business owner with over 30 years of experience in education, administration, mentoring, consulting and community leadership. If you know a leader in the community to profile here in this column, please email: [email protected]