Sherri Borden Colley to be awarded honorary doctorate at the Black Cultural Centre

Sherri Borden Colley to be awarded honorary doctorate at the Black Cultural Centre

King’s will host a historic ceremony at the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia this month, to honour the legendary journalist Sherri Borden Colley, BJ(Hons)’97, with a Doctor of Civil Law (honoris causa). The event marks the realization of a long-awaited moment for the community: Borden Colley’s selection for this honour was originally announced in 2020, but due to the pandemic it has not been possible before this moment to confer the award.

Since she was a journalism student at King’s in the 1990s, Borden Colley has been telling stories that matter to Nova Scotians. Over the course of her career, she’s amassed a remarkable portfolio of work, filing more than 3,000 stories for print and broadcast mediums. Strong personal convictions and a commitment to reporting excellence have led Borden Colley time and again to write about issues involving justice, race, culture and human rights. Her work consistently demonstrates the power of journalism to do good.

During 21 years with the Chronicle Herald newspaper, Borden Colley reported on lawsuits, plane crashes and wrongful convictions, plus she carved out her niche: giving voice to African Nova Scotians. She tells stories that wouldn’t otherwise be told, making all her subjects feel represented and heard. She personifies the power of one to make a significant difference in the lives of many.

From 2016 to 2019 she was an active reporter with CBC Nova Scotia and she is currently on long-term disability. Her deep understanding of local history and social conditions has allowed her to dissect complex problems with confidence; her unwavering professionalism, fairness, and compassionate, caring nature mean that people want to work with her. Borden Colley has a strong sense of responsibility. She’s amassed a deep well of contacts and has built a reputation for reporting with integrity, treating all subjects equally and fairly. For that, she’s gained respect and access, evidenced by the fact that people continue to call her with story ideas.

Since graduating with an honours Bachelor of Journalism degree from King’s in 1997, Borden Colley has given back to the university in multiple ways. She’s taught a course called News Media and the Courts in journalism and acted as a valued member of the journalism school’s (now the School of Journalism, Writing & Publishing) advisory board. Consistent with her giving nature, her King’s colleagues praise Borden Colley’s dedication and generosity with students, faculty and staff.

A long-standing member of the Canadian Association of Black Journalists, Borden Colley understands the necessity of diversification in the journalism profession, and today serves as a role model for the next generation of African Nova Scotian journalists. While an active reporter, Borden Colley regularly connected on a very human level with many young journalists over coffee or a meal, boosting their confidence and imparting valuable advice that propelled them forward. Plus it was not unusual, colleagues say, to see Borden Colley at work with a teenager trailing her, one of the unofficial interns she quietly took under her wing to mentor.

It was Borden Colley who, more than 60 years later, resurfaced the story of Viola Desmond’s civil rights action in 1946. Desmond’s story had largely fallen from the public consciousness until Borden Colley interviewed Wanda Robson, Desmond’s sister, in 2010 and wrote a series of articles about Desmond. In the wake of those articles, Desmond was posthumously pardoned by Lieutenant-Governor Mayann Francis, a Halifax-Dartmouth ferry was named after her, and her image was eventually selected to appear on the Canadian $10 bill. Borden Colley was recognized for her contributions to Viola Desmond’s renaissance by receiving a Canadian Association of Journalists Award nomination in 2010.

Borden Colley’s commitment to community extends beyond the newsroom. She is active in the New Horizons Baptist Church where she has directed the children’s choir, is a member on the Board of Management and serves as Communications Chair. She’s also a member of the Nova Scotia Mass Choir, a culturally diverse gospel choir spreading messages of acceptance and racial harmony, and she has served as their media representative. Formerly, she was a facilitator with the Community Justice Society Restorative Justice Program.

“It is tremendously satisfying to know that the moment has arrived when we can celebrate Sherri’s deeply impactful career and the many contributions she has made to her field and the country,” says King’s President and Vice-Chancellor William Lahey. “Her commitment to telling the stories of African Nova Scotians has done so much to raise awareness about the province’s historic African Nova Scotian communities and their deep cultural significance. For this same reason, I’m thrilled that we will hold this ceremony at the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia, a historic event and the direct result of King’s and BCCNS’s new partnership. As Canada’s oldest museum of Black culture and history, BCCNS has led the way on researching and telling the stories of African Nova Scotians and of Black Canadians. As a journalist, Sherri has pushed that same mission forward.”

For covering so many of the most important stories in Nova Scotia’s recent history with clarity and dedication, journalist Sherri Borden Colley will receive a Doctor of Civil Law (honoris causa).

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