Written by: Matt Johnson for Sask Sport
Athletics holds a special place in the heart of Carol LaFayette-Boyd. Not only has she competed in the sport, but it helped her to the position she holds today — the executive director for the Saskatchewan African Canadian Heritage Museum.
The idea of the museum came about in 2002, when various African-descent groups were hosting Black History Month events and saw a need for and the importance of creating an organization to share that history throughout the province.
Without artifacts, the groups decided a virtual museum was the best medium for recognizing, honouring and sharing the stories of African Canadians with Saskatchewan connections. The website profiles and documents a wide variety of individuals, from early Black settlers in Saskatchewan —including Carol’s grandparents Lewis and Lillie LaFayette— to those who have made an impact in education, public service, sport and more.
Among LaFayette-Boyd’s projects was a collaboration with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, highlighting and recognizing players such as George Reed, Matt Dominguez and Don Narcisse who lived in the province following their careers through a series on Access Television. She notes that it’s one that she hopes she can continue with the wives of former Roughriders.
Other Saskatchewan athletes honoured in the museum include current University of Saskatchewan Huskies basketball player Chan de Ciman and his brother Joe and sister Phoebe. As well as fellow Regina hoop stars Kai and Jamal Williams, among others.
“It’s just all really exciting,” said LaFaeyette-Boyd.
One can even find an entry into the museum on LaFayette-Boyd, documenting her many contributions and accomplishments, especially in athletics.
After growing up in rural Saskatchewan, LaFayette-Boyd and her family moved to Regina in 1956 when she was only 14 years old. She attended Sheldon Williams Collegiate, where she was the only Black student at the high school. It was her participation in many different sports at the school, but specifically athletics that helped LaFayette-Boyd to fit in.
“I was just another human being there at the school. I think I was appreciated because when we had a track meet, I would be a part of the team that would finish first. So I think that I was accepted just as another human being there,” she said.
And while she took a break from participating in athletics for many years, at the age of 50, she competed in a masters track event in Regina and has been breaking records and reaching new accolades ever since.
The three-time Sask Sport Masters Athlete of the Year and inductee into the Regina Sports Hall of Fame and Canadian Masters Sport Hall of Fame has had an extremely decorated track and field career. She holds provincial and national records in her age group in races from 50m to 400m, as well as long-jump, high-jump and triple-jump. And she’s not done yet, with plans to compete at the 2022 World Masters Athletics Championships in Tampere, Finland this summer.
“I want to go to Finland and then break some records over there,” said LaFayette-Boyd.
And while she has competed all around the world, it’s here in Saskatchewan where she attempts to have the most impact. LaFayette-Boyd hopes people can take away from the museum and Black History Month as a whole, believing it all comes back to education and taking the opportunity to learn and access information.
One of her primary goals at the moment is to have African history included as part of Saskatchewan’s education curriculum.
“A lot of people don’t know that people of African descent have been here since the 1800’s,” said LaFayette-Boyd. “I don’t blame anybody for not knowing about it, but I think it’s important to see the diversity that’s been here for many, many years in Saskatchewan.”