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Buddy Daye's scholarship legacy

Community-driven fund rewards mix of activism, academics, fitness

by Katie Ingram

Jerome Downey receives the first Buddy Daye Scholarship in 2003. (Photo Contributed by Jerome Downey)
Jerome Downey receives the first Buddy Daye Scholarship in 2003. (Photo Contributed by Jerome Downey)

There are many places that carry the name of Delmore “Buddy” Daye, but there’s only one scholarship that embodies the late activist’s community values. 

Daye, who passed away in 1995, was involved in many organizations and causes within Nova Scotia. These included the Black Learners’ Advisory Committee, the Black United Front, the Mental Health Association, the Company of Young Canadians and the Halifax Athletic Commission. He was also the first African Nova Scotian to be appointed to the position of Sergeant-at-Arms for the Nova Scotia Legislature.  

An endowment in Daye’s honour was established in 1994 by the Province of Nova Scotia to mark the first International Day to End Racial Discrimination. The endowment was later used by his family to establish the Buddy Daye Scholarship Fund. 

“We felt if there were people who were exhibiting some of the traits my father had, in wanting to make the community better, that would be something we could measure and consider when selecting the most appropriate person [for the award]” says Daye’s son Gilbert, who is the fund committee’s chair. 

It’s these characteristics, civil and human rights activism and other community-benefited activities, which inspire Jerome Downey. He was the first recipient of the award and received it after graduating high school in 2003. 

“I'm personally very appreciative for the acknowledgement and opportunity to have my name associated with the award,” says Downey. “It was great for my confidence and meant a lot at 18 years-old to know that the community supported me … and to this day I try to honour the honour that was bestowed upon me.” 

Downey went on to study at Mount Allison University and is now a Principal Consultant at DMF Energy Inc., a consulting and general contracting social enterprise firm. 

When establishing the scholarship the committee, which is made up of Daye’s family and community, members wanted to ensure the amount given would help young African Nova Scotians pursue higher education. 

“We want to show that the goals they are trying to achieve are appreciated by our committee; when it comes to education the cost is so high and every little bit helps, especially in the first year,”” says Gilbert Daye. “The award will hopefully help them contribute to and keep their community at the forefront of their minds.” 

This is exactly what it did for the 2010 recipient Chika Chiekwe.  

“Being the oldest of four, finances were always a factor to consider,” says Chiekwe, who completed an undergraduate degree at Acadia University. “The Buddy Daye scholarship helped subside mine and my family's financial stress.” 
Chiekwe also attributes the Daye scholarship and other awards she received to helping her beyond the undergraduate level. 

“With proper planning and the aid of scholarships, including the Buddy Daye, I was able to pay for my first year at Acadia,” she says. “In the long run this helped, as I am now pursuing a Juris Doctor at Dalhousie’s law school.” 

 Along with a scholarship, there is a street named after Daye as well as the Delmore ‘Buddy’ Daye Learning Institute in Halifax. However not all the recipients knew of his work and activism prior to receiving the award. After researching him, many of the awardees were honoured to have been selected. 

“I did not know who Buddy was at the time, but looked up the scholarship afterward,” says Chiekwe. “I am grateful that there are and were people like Buddy who were role models for the youth in society, showing that with hard work and dedication you can make a change.” 

For others, it was Daye’s accomplishments as an African Nova Scotian that made the award important, among other things. 

“I did not know who he was until after I heard about the award, but was impressed with his achievements and that he was the first African Nova Scotian in his field of work,” says 2014 recipient Aletta McDonnell, who studied at Dalhousie University. 

“I also believe that it is an important scholarship throughout the whole province because it allows African Nova Scotian students to strive for high education.” 

Community involvement isn’t the only criteria for the award. Recipients also have to show a degree of athleticism. Daye was an accomplished boxer who won 82 out of his 88 career fights. He was later inducted into both the Canadian Boxing Hall of Fame and the Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame. He also helped out boxing organizations and fellow boxers, which included becoming a trainer and coach at the Creighton Street gym. 

“A big part of it [the award criteria] is encouraging youth to take care of their bodies by being active,” says Gilbert Daye. “Healthy bodies contribute to active and healthy minds and active and healthy minds help contribute to the community.” 

There is also an educational component that looks at a person’s grades from the previous year. Recipients don’t have to have the highest marks in their class, but they do have to be dedicated to improving themselves through education. 

“We want to see that people are going on with their education and are working hard towards those goals,” says Gilbert Daye. 

In a way, the scholarship also helps contribute to Daye’s legacy. By bearing his name, it helps keep him, his goals and his achievements alive.  

“Buddy Daye is symbol of progress, leadership and commitment, a voice of reason, respect and dignity,” says Downey. “His contribution to the community at large was invaluable and the spirit of his legacy continues to benefit those within the community today.” 

In order to be considered for the $500 award a person must be nominated by someone within their community, such as a teacher, church member, or coach. They also need to be a resident of Nova Scotia, aged 14 to 24 and be continuing with their education in the following year.   

Since 2009, the award has been administrated by the Community Foundation of Nova Scotia.  

More information on the Buddy Day Scholarship Fund can be found on the Community Foundation’s website: http://www.cfns.ca/ 


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