Thursday, 21 September 2017

Jamaican Choreographer Teaches Dancehall at Canadian University


By Neil Armstrong
Judy Madarasz and Mikhail Morris of Ketch Di Vybz at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia.  Photo contributed
Jamaica-born, Vancouver-based dancer and choreographer, Mikhail Morris, has embarked on a new venture – he’s teaching a new course on Jamaican dancehall at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia.
The university is hoping that the course will attract members from the black community to its arts programs.
Morris, 28, is teaching “FPA 120: Introduction to Dance Forms: Contemporary and Popular Subject: Dancehall History and Fundamentals” during the fall semester, September -December 2017, at the Vancouver campus.
Raised in Kingston, Morris is a graduate of Edna Manley School of the Visual and Performing Arts and co-director of Ketch Di Vybz, a company he co-founded with Judy Madarasz in 2015.
The course is a combination of theory and dance.  Morris created the curriculum to teach the socio-historical factors that inspired the creation of reggae and dancehall music and culture.
“Through an overview of this history, students attain a better understanding of Jamaican culture and living experiences expressed through the actual music and dance. It is in this way that when the students begin to learn and practice the dancehall dance steps and listen to the music that they can contextualize the lyrics, vybz, and concepts for the steps,” notes the course description.
Morris says this is the first time that a curriculum is created whereby dancehall is the subject taught and graded in a top university in North America.
However, Henry Daniel, professor of dance and performance studies at SFU’s School for the Contemporary Arts, says this is a new development in the university’s program but it is by no means a new thing to schools such as theirs across North America.
“What is new to our program is that we are able to offer in the same semester studio courses in Jamaican Dancehall, Hip Hop, and Bhangra on our three Vancouver/BC Lower Mainland campuses. These three cultural forms reflect the growing interest that our students have in alternate dance techniques...alternate in the sense that they differ from the regular mainstream contemporary/modern dance techniques that are usually offered.”

He said SFU has been teaching Hip Hop and Bhangra for quite a few years and the response has been extremely enthusiastic. 
Henry Daniel, Professor of Dance and Performance Studies at Simon Fraser University's School for the Contemporary Arts. Photo contributed
Professor Daniel said they asked Morris to teach there “because he has been offering this movement form to dancers in the Vancouver area to great acclaim and I estimate that the same will occur in his classes for the students in our university.”

“Finally, I asked Mikhail to apply to teach this course in our program because I believe we could attract members from the black community to our arts programs, a community that I believe could offer a great deal to the cultural life of Vancouver as a whole,” he said.
Madarasz, a graduate of SFU and co-director of Ketch Di Vybz is the course assistant.
"I'm really proud of him and what this means for dancehall and Jamaica, as well as his career. I am grateful to have witnessed and supported his amazing journey and work ethic.”
She said this is pushing her “knowledge and skills as a dancer and teacher to higher levels."
Using dancehall vocabulary as a foundation, Morris said he grew up around dancehall culture and has seen how people fought to celebrate it.

A dancer for 17 years, Morris said he wants to create opportunities for others to tell their story through their culture, history, technique and style.

He has performed with several Toronto-based dance companies, including Ballet Creole, COBA, KasheDance, Newton Moreas, and Nafro.

Simon Fraser University was established in 1965 and has campuses in British Columbia’s largest municipalities – Surrey, Vancouver and Burnaby.
SFU says it has become Canada’s leading comprehensive university with deep roots in partner communities throughout the province and around the world.
[This story has been published in the NA Weekly Gleaner, Sept. 21-27, 2017 issue.]

Children's Author to Receive Honourable Mention at Awards in Washington, D.C.


By Neil Armstrong

Nadia L. Hohn, author, musician and educator.        Photo contributed

Toronto author, musician and educator, Nadia L. Hohn, is excited that her first picture book, “Malaika’s Costume,” will receive an honourable mention at the 2017 Americas Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature organized by the Centre for Latin American Studies.

She will be flying to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. for the ceremony which will be held on Sept. 22, during Hispanic Heritage Month at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

The book, written by Hohn and illustrated by Irene Luxbacher, an artist and author, won the Helen Isobel Sissons Canadian Children’s Story Award in 2016.

“In Nadia Hohn’s touching and timely picture book, we are introduced to Malaika, a young girl living at home with her Grandma in the Caribbean while her mother is working far away in icebox-like Canada to provide a better life for her family. Told in distinctive Caribbean patois, Malaika’s voice genuinely rings out to the reader, as she describes both her excitement about the upcoming Carnival celebrations, and her feelings of sadness and disappointment in missing her mother on this special holiday,” note the organizers.

“Accompanied by colorful collage-style illustrations by Irene Luxbacher that bring Malaika’s island home alive, the reader is introduced to the costumes and characters of Carnival. There are also numerous significant visual details to catch a young reader’s eye, such as drawings presumably from Malaika herself that provide a window into her emotional state throughout the story. Moreover, Luxbacher does a magnificent job of displaying tender emotion in the expressions of Malaika and her Grandma, adding an even deeper richness to the story.”

Heaping praise on the book, they note that: “We watch Malaika, with her Grandma’s support, transform an old dusty costume into a bright and beautiful peacock costume. In the process, we witness her emerge as a “shiny and proud and strong” version of herself in the Carnival parade. Hohn demonstrates a deft, expert touch in handling challenging topics such as family separation and immigration in a way that speaks sincerely to young readers while presenting a tale of vibrant strength, ingenuity and spirit. (Grades K-3).”



Hohn, who was born in Toronto of Jamaican parentage, wrote the book in 2010, and in 2014 was inspired to do a sequel, “Malaika’s Winter Carnival,” when she asked the question: “What if this happened?” 

She thought of placing Malaika in Quebec because she spent time there studying French and working there.

“How do you take this very sunny, warm, girl who loves carnival, island girl, and drop her in the middle of this winter wonderland and how does she fare. That’s basically what happens to a lot of immigrants, especially from the Caribbean.”

She is hoping that young readers will see a child, like themselves, and identify her resilience and resourcefulness in themselves, see the value of family, and that “despite the distances, families can still remain intact and loving.”

“Malaika is a very funny character in the sense that she just calls it as she sees it and she’s feisty. She’s got that little edge to her, but she’s also resourceful, smart and creative.”



Hohn is also the author of “Music” and “Media Studies,” part of the Sankofa series, which won the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award for Multicultural Non-Fiction. 

She’s working on a biography about Harriet Tubman and trying to adapt the Malaika books to a play, among other things.

“I actually just made a list today because the thing is I always have lots of ideas. I jot down the ideas and it maybe years before I come back to them or I start writing them because I’m doing other things. I’m teaching and what not, I don’t always get to finish them off the bat.”

Hohn is also working on a biography of Louise Bennett Coverley and was hoping to have been in Jamaica during the summer for research.

Her plans changed when her brother died, however, she hopes to go in early 2018.

“I think I’m much closer with the picture book manuscript. I’ve written many, many, versions of it but I feel like it’s heading down the right path. So that’s the first one. As I was doing all my research, I said there’s a second book here so that one will be more of a non-fiction biography. I don't know if it’s going to be a novel, I don’t know what form it will take but it will be for an older audience.” 

Her deadline to have the book out is during 2019 – the 100th anniversary of Miss Lou’s birthday.
She also has two novels in the works and also plans to do a memoir based on her travels.

Last year, she taught music in Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

Hohn was to go to Vietnam to teach but reconsidered after reflecting on a number of things that have happened in her life over the last few years. She decided to refocus and to do some personal things here.

Hohn taught French, music and the arts at the Africentric Alternative School but during this school year will be supply teaching and hopes to do schools and libraries visits.

Over the past year, including during layovers, Hohn has travelled to France, Italy, England, Egypt, Kuwait, Sri Lanka, Portugal, Spain, Germany, Barbados, Trinidad, Saint Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

While growing up the only book she recalled seeing where a child looked like her in the contemporary Toronto was “Harriet’s Daughter,” written by Marlene Nourbese Phillip and published in 1988.

 “I started reading probably before I really should have been reading Alice Walker. I was reading Alice Walker in elementary school; in grade 7, those African American writers – Walter Dean Myers, Rosa Guy and Rita Williams-Garcia. I was just so hungry for black stories, African American stories, stories of people who look like me.”

Hohn started making picture books when she was a child, always making characters that look like her.

As she got older she started writing for her school’s newspaper and also kept a journal over those years. 

“It wasn’t until years later, in my 30s, just before the Africentric school opened I had this book idea. Its changed shape so many times but the main character was a black Rastafarian boy and I worked on that story for years. It’s changed so many ways but at the start of a brand new school and wanting to have my classroom reflect my kids -- the students I’d be teaching -- I went on a hunt for black books at A Different Booklist, Knowledge Bookstore, the local bookstores, and then I went to the US and I bought a lot of books there too.”

Hohn said she realized that there weren’t many books that mention Canada. 

“We’re here. I realized I’ve always had this love for black culture and black stories. Even when I was doing “Iced in Black,” this film festival in 2000 to 2003, I realized I just showed films because they were so important to legitimize and to say yes, this is our stuff -- this is us. It’s not American; it’s us. It’s born right here so I realize now I want to be – I am -- one of those pioneers. I want to be present for our kids who need to see authors that look like them. We are not far and removed from their reality,” she said.

[A shorter version of this story has been published in the Weekly Gleaner, Sept. 14-20, 2017 issue.]

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

CaribbeanTales Film Festival Opens with Documentary about Machel Montano


By Neil Armstrong

Machel Montano at the Canadian premiere of the film, "Machel Montano: Journey of a Soca King," at the Royal Theatre on Sept. 6, 2017.    Photo contributed

The 12th annual CaribbeanTales International Film Festival opened in Toronto with a stellar lineup of special guests, including renowned Trinidadian soca singer, actor, record producer and songwriter, Machel Montano.

He is the subject of the documentary, “Machel Montano: Journey of a Soca King,” directed by Bart Phillips which had its Canadian premiere on Sept. 6 at the Royal Theatre.

Also attending the event were:  Barbadian Alison Hinds dubbed the “Queen of Soca,” Joseph Marcell of St. Lucia and the UK, best known for his role as Geoffrey in “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” and Trinidadian Nickolai Salcedo – all actors in the short film, “Battledream Chronicle – The Series,” which had its world premiere that night.

“Machel Montano: Journey of Soca King” chronicles the soca artist’s growth from a child star to his reign as the world’s soca monarch, collaborating with Grammy Award-winning songwriters and producers like Angela Hunte and Diplo.

Cherrone Mokund, acting consul general for the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago in Toronto, presented a plaque to Montano in recognition of his contribution to the culture of his country and the Caribbean.

Montano underscored the significance of Caribbean culture and the importance of “telling our stories.”

“Battledream Chronicles is an animation pilot voiced by Caribbean stars. It tells the story of Syanna, a young slave in a futuristic world where plantations are video games.

She and her team of rebels must hack the system to gain their freedom.

Marcell plays arch-villain Zeus Thunderking, while Jamaica’s “queen of stage and screen,” Leonie Forbes voices Kerberia, the computer generated servant.

Salcedo is the rapacious Torquemada, Hinds plays Leto, Syanna’s mother, and Jamaican Sheldon Shepard is the charismatic teacher.

Talented Guyanese newcomer, Nuriyyih Gerrard plays the central character, Syanna.


“We have a legacy. We’re building something that has sustainability. And when Canada is celebrating 150 years of its story, we in the Caribbean are celebrating hundreds of years of our stories. Like the story of Toussaint Louverture who built an army and took on the trained troops of Napoleon’s army and won and created the first independent black republic in the world – one story,” said Frances-Anne Solomon, CEO of CaribbeanTales International Film Festival.

She also referenced the story of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara who “kicked out the Americans, kicked out the capitalists and created a communist country in America’s armpit that survives till this day – free, independent, healthcare, the best healthcare in the world, great filmmakers – one story.”

Prompted by a member of the audience, Solomon also mentioned Marcus Garvey, a Caribbean man “who created the concept of Pan-Africanism and created the idea that we, as people of African descent would build and be profitable on our own efforts.”

“Those are just the tip of the iceberg of the stories that we have to tell as Caribbean people,” she said.

Solomon said everyone has stories to tell and “this is our time to tell our stories.”

This year’s festival, which closes on Sept. 21, presents 14 feature films and 30 short films from eighteen 18 countries.

On Sept. 14, the feature presentation will be “Pimento and Hot Pepper – The Mento Story,” directed by Rick Elgood, a documentary which explores the origin of the Jamaican music, mento, and where it is today.

Two Jamaican short films, “Shoot the Girl” directed by Natalie Thompson and “A Broken Appointment” by Kaleb DAguilar will also have their Canadian premiere at the festival.

“Shoot the Girl” is about 12-year-old Trench Town tomboy, Likkle, who is schooled in urban survival skills by her father, Sting, and uses them to outwit the area don who kills her father.

Set to the backdrop of “Epilogue,” a poem by Kei Miller, “A Broken Appointment” explores the dynamic of closeting within a young gay relationship, and how “hiding in the dark” may lead to a destructive end.

“However, Miller’s poetry attempts to offer some optimism for the ability of queer Caribbean relationships to rise again after an unfortunate end,” notes the synopsis of the film.

The CaribbeanTales Incubator Program’s 2017 projects include Jamaican productions: “The Agency,” a 13-part comedic drama by Rick Elgood and Paul O. Beale, and “TRANScribe,” a 13-part travel documentary series that visually explores and celebrates Caribbean and Caribbean diaspora writers.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Some Events Happening in September and October 2017 - Greater Toronto Area


CaribbeanTales International Film Festival 2017, Sept. 13-21. Film screenings will be held at the Royal Theatre, 608 College St., Toronto from Sept. 13-20. The Closing & Awards Night will be held on Sept. 21 at Scotiabank Theatre Toronto, 259 Richmond St. West, Toronto. www.caribbeantalesfestival.com

The Gala Opening of the 12th annual CaribbeanTales International Film Festival at the Royal Theare in Toronto on Sept. 6, 2017.

United Achievers’ Club presents its 33rd annual Scholarship & Recognition Awards on Saturday, Sept. 16, 6pm at the Courtyard by Marriott Hotel, 90 Biscayne Crescent, Brampton. Keynote speaker: Dr. Everton Gooden, Chief of Staff, North York General Hospital. Call 905-796-1916/905-459-1942

JCA 15th annual Scholarship Awards will be held on Saturday, Sept. 16, 7pm at the Jamaican Canadian Centre, 995 Arrow Rd., Toronto. Keynote speaker: Dr. Gervan Fearon, president & vice-chancellor, Brock University. Call 416-746-5772

A Different Booklist Cultural Centre launches BIGGER.BETTER.BOLDER fundraising campaign with “Planting the Seeds” a Live Stream-A-Thon on Sunday, September 17, 7:00am-10:00pm, 777-779 Bathurst St., Toronto.

 A Different Booklist Cultural Centre: The People’s Residence will host “Planting the Seeds”, a modern day stream-a-thon campaign to raise funds for the centre’s community and education programs. This event aims to raise $300,000 to support the organization’s mission.



Akoma Learning Centre presents: “Working While Black: Effectively Combatting Anti Black Racism in the Workplace” on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 9:30am-4:30pm at 65 Wellesley St. East, Suite 501 (at Church St.), Toronto. [See attached flyer]




Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention’s annual general meeting will be on Thursday, Sept. 21, 6pm at 20 Victoria St., 4th Floor, Toronto. Call 416-977-9955/info@black-cap.com

The Word On The Street, Canada’s largest outdoor book and magazine festival, will be held on Sunday, Sept. 24, 11am-6pm at the Harbourfront Centre, Toronto. A free event. B. Denham Jolly will discuss his memoir, “In the Black: My Life,” at 1:30pm and 4pm at the Toronto Book Awards Tent.

Seminars4u in association with Gems House of Jerk presents... Mutabaruka Live in Concert (Toronto) on Sunday, September 24 inside the Jamaican Canadian Association, 995 Arrow Rd., Toronto.

Sistah Claudia - will speak on Mindfulness & Meditation.
Ubuntu Dance and Drumming - will provide the edutainment
Spoken Word poet - Dwayne Morgan, Up From The Roots ( Greetings)
Sistah Thandiwe - All African People's Revolutionary Party (Greetings)
Global Afrikan Communities Network - Welcome and Greetings
SankofaInCipher - Marketing and Promotions

MC:       Delroy G, G 98.7 FM
Music by: DJ Corey & Mutabaruka (After Party)

Vegan and Vegetarian meals provided by: V's Restaurant
Natural Juice provided by: Humble Heights Creations Juice & Tea

For vendors: please contact Brother Sankofa at 647.995.2624/ 647.380.2573.  He has limited early bird tickets for $25 until September 15. [See attached flyer]




A Jamaica 55 panel discussion organized by Professor Carl James, Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community & Diaspora, will be held on Friday, Oct. 6, 5:30-9:00 p.m., at York University, 4700 Keele St., Toronto. Panelists: Juliet Holness, MP for St. Andrew East Rural, Jamaica; Avis Glaze, education consultant; and Professor Daniel Coleman, English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University. Moderator: Professor Andrea Davis, Chair of Humanities, York University.

A-Supreme Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides care and support to community seniors, will be hosting “A New Era of Care Grand Gala” on Saturday, October 7, 7-10pm at the International Plaza Hotel in Toronto.

The gala is designed to benefit and further improve the organization’s critical contributions to providing subsidized homecare for seniors in need. The event’s keynote speaker will be Juliet Holness, MP for East Rural St. Andrew, and wife of Jamaica’s Prime Minister, Andrew Holness.


International Festival of Authors, Oct. 19-29, 2017, Toronto’s Festival of Words & Ideas featuring over 150 authors in 11 days of readings, interviews, panel discussions and book signings. Among the authors featured will be Andre Alexis, Drew Hayden Taylor, Lee Maracle, and others at the Harbourfront Centre, 235 Queens Quay West, Toronto. Ifoa.org. 416-973-4000

The Heritage Singers Canada presents “Reflections…A Walk Down Memory Lane” to celebrate its 40th anniversary on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2pm and 7:30pm at Toronto Centre for the Arts, 5040 Yonge St. (Yonge & Sheppard area). Box Office: 416-250-3708. Heritagesingers1977@gmail.com


Operation Black Vote Canada presents GENERATION NEXT Black Youth Political Summit, for youth 16-24 years on Saturday, Oct. 28, 1:00-4:00pm at Toronto City Hall, Community Room 1, 100 Queen St. W., Toronto.
Sponsored by Councillor Michael Thompson, Ward 37

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Educator Underscores the Role of Education in Confronting Anti-Black Racism


By Neil Armstrong

Natasha Henry, educator and historian.  Photo contributed
 
Educator and historian, Natasha Henry, says education is a transformative tool that can address anti-black racism.
She says education plays a crucial role in combating the racism faced by African Canadians.

Based on her work as a historian and curriculum consultant, Henry advocates for a history education that mandates the inclusion of the experiences of African Canadians in public schools through the direct inclusion of learning expectations in the Ontario curriculum, including the racial discrimination they faced and a history-based anti-racism teaching approach, supported by required teacher training in anti-racism

Henry was a presenter at the two-day Faculty of Education Summer Institute (FESI) 2017 held at York University on Aug. 23 and 24.

Under the theme, “Relationships to Canada 150: Paradoxes, Contradictions and Questions,” the event brought together educators, teacher candidates, parents and community members to engage in critical discussions about the purpose,
impact and quality of education and social outcomes since the birth of
Canada and what the next 150 years look like in these areas.

Henry’s presentation was entitled “Black Canadian Citizenship in the Time of Canada 150: A Retrospective and a Call to Action.”

Other workshop and keynote presentation topics included: Indigenous perspectives
on violence against Indigenous women and girls; Indigenous experience in
education; Chinese exclusion and Indigenous dispossession; the queer
experience; and challenging Islamophobia, among other things.

Henry said social studies curriculum and instruction generally avoids controversy and complexity while providing one-dimensional renderings of historical people, groups, and events.

“It is important for students to learn, to help develop a critical understanding of Canadian history and to better understanding the legacies of racial discrimination that persist today,” she said.

This correctly locates people of African descent on the Canadian landscape as part of the national narrative and offers an explanation as to why blacks are not represented or seen in some spaces (e.g. cottage country).
It also provides the necessary context to what’s happening today to what people observe but might not be able to name/ articulate, she said.

Henry called for the development of a critical historical consciousness, learning new ways of thinking about the past; linking the past, present and future; and to motivate students to become active in change.

This would educate and increase awareness in learners, and by extension, society and is important for both black and non-black students, said Henry.

“We must deconstruct its colonial, imperial, slave past as part of our efforts to address the human rights injustices that continue to plague African Canadians and agitate their full and equal participation in Canadian society.”

In her presentation, Henry shared a brief history of anti-black racism in Canada in slavery, immigration, civil service, military service, nursing, real estate and housing, surveillance, policing, and black resistance, activism, and organizing in Ontario and Canada.
Turning her attention to education, she noted that African Canadians were denied education when enslaved, excluded from some public schools, and the Separate Schools provision was manipulated to support the practice of segregated schooling.

School taxes were collected from black property-holding residents to help pay for public schools, even though their children could not attend them.
Black students excluded from certain programs and black students were viewed as ‘less than,’ she said.
“In education, how have these traumas and divisions, the beliefs and attitudes that created these historical circumstances been forwarded throughout the years to today?”

Henry emphasized that there were concerns from the first race report for Toronto District School Board in 1979, “Towards Race Equity in Education,” a report by Professor Carl James and others, and what was heard from students and parents.

“What is evident from these few examples is that citizenship did/does not translate into equality. Some voices, in this case Black Canadians, remain systemically silenced and gaping inequalities persist.”
She is calling for the inclusion of black-focused content/ representation in the curriculum and for the removal of systemic barriers, among other things.

“There’s a lot of work to do to create the Canada we want, to ensure that all Black Canadians have full and complete rights and freedoms; we need to follow in the footsteps of black men and women who agitated for justice and equality and continue their work,” she said.

[This story has been published in the NA Weekly Gleaner, Sept. 7-13, 2017.]


 


United Achievers Club and Jamaican Canadian Association Offer Scholarships to Postsecondary Students


By Neil Armstrong

Dr. Everton Gooden, Chief of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery at North York General Hospital. Photo contributed

Even as the new Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) offering free tuition for more than 210,000 students in postsecondary education starts this new school year, two community organizations continue to grant scholarships to students of Caribbean heritage.

The United Achievers Club based in Brampton, Ontario and the Jamaican Canadian Association in Toronto will hold their presentations on Sept. 16 where 51 students will receive scholarship awards.

The United Achievers has been doing this for 33 years, and the JCA for 15 years.

In March when the government announced the new OSAP, Deb Matthews, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development, said the biggest change was free average tuition for postsecondary students from many low- and middle-income families, and more grants for most students.

“But we have also heard from current students that navigating the OSAP application can be difficult. With our new, user-friendly application, as well as our handy OSAP calculator, students now have the tools in hand to better plan for their future education and career paths,” she said.

Mitzie Hunter, Minister of Education, said one of the things the government wanted to ensure was that it removed barriers to postsecondary education.

Every year, both Caribbean organizations highlight the achievements of high school graduates who are embarking on their tertiary education.

Kathy McDonald, education officer of United Achievers’, says there has been an increase in the number of scholarship recipients – 16 in total – and she is extremely happy with getting black males to apply this year.

She said the students are not only focused on academics but are more world savvy about social justice and international issues.

From reading their application packages, she discerned that they were more deep, compassionate, mature and inclusive in their outlook on life, dispelling the belief that young people are not engaged.

One of the things she plans to do in the future is to organize workshops to help students applying for other scholarships available in tertiary education.

McDonald said postsecondary education is extremely important, regardless of the path that students take as it allows them to integrate with others when they leave home and move into university/college residence.

“It’s a rite of passage into adulthood,” noting the path that she took from being a scientist to a Peel District School Board trustee where she is applying the value of her postsecondary education.

Jamaican, Dr. Everton Gooden, Chief of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery at North York General Hospital and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto, is the keynote speaker at the United Achievers’ event.

He is a director of the North York General Hospital Foundation Board of Governors.
Dr. Gooden began his career at NYGH in 2001 and has served in a number of senior leadership positions including chief of staff, chair of the Medical Advisory Committee, president and vice president of the Medical Staff Association.
He has served as chair of a number of other important hospital committees and continues to chair the NYGH Foundation Physicians Campaign, which raised more than 250 thousand dollars last year.
Dr. Gooden continues to volunteer his time towards a number of community organizations and recently received the 2017 Harry Jerome Trailblazer Award.
Since 1984, United Achievers’ has awarded 370 scholarships and thanks its long-standing partners, like the Kiwanis Club of Brampton, for sponsoring a total of $109,000.

Adaoma Patterson, president of the Jamaican Canadian Association, says the JCA is proud to host its annual scholarship awards that “recognizes and supports young people who are going beyond the ordinary and reaching for the extraordinary.”

“I salute this year's recipients and their families who have worked hard and made sacrifices to pursue education. These award recipients exemplify the excellence and perseverance that are the cornerstone of our communities.”

She thanked the donors for understanding “the importance of creating a village for our youth.”

Thirty-five students will receive scholarships this year. This will bring the total to over $546,000 awarded to approximately 540 students in 15 years.

Dr. Gervan Fearon, President and Vice-Chancellor of Brock University. Photo credit: Francine Buchner

 Dr. Gervan Fearon, who assumed the new position of president and vice-chancellor of Brock University on Aug. 1, will be the keynote speaker at the Jamaican Canadian Centre.

Previously, he was president of Manitoba’s Brandon University from 2014 until the end of July 2017. Before that appointment, he served as provost and vice-president (academic) when he arrived at Brandon in 2013.

Dr. Fearon was dean of the G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education at Ryerson University.

[This story has been published in the NA Weekly Gleaner, Sept. 7-13, 2017 issue.]

Saturday, 26 August 2017

African Canadian Legal Clinic Refutes Reasons Given to Defund it


By Neil Armstrong

Left-right: Rawle Elliott, Chair of the Board of Directors of the African Canadian Legal Clinic and Margret Parsons, Executive Director of the ACLC, receive a community award from Pamela Appelt, Chair of the Jamaica 55 Committee at the Jamaican Canadian Association/Jamaica 55 Independence Gala on Aug. 5, 2017 at the Jamaican Canadian Centre in Toronto.    Photo credit: Francine Buchner

The African Canadian Legal Clinic (ACLC) is fighting back against what it describes as an attack by Legal Aid Ontario (LAO), one of its major funders.

LAO is an independent but publicly funded and publicly accountable non-profit corporation established to administer the province's legal aid program.

On Aug. 16, David Field, its president and CEO, said the clinic committee of LAO’s board of directors “has decided, under its dispute resolution process, to withdraw LAO’s funding of the African Canadian Legal Clinic (ACLC) effective September 30, 2017. Every dollar of funding currently provided to ACLC will be redirected to a new organization to provide dedicated services to the Black community.” 

“LAO’s priority is addressing the legal needs of a very vulnerable segment of our population—members of Black communities who need our help. We have work to do to meet those needs. LAO is committed to doing that work through hearing directly from members of the Black community, working with an advisory committee comprised of community leaders and investing additional funding to improve access to justice for members of the Black community.”

Field said the committee found that ACLC’s board and management have engaged in financial mismanagement and that there has been a lack of board oversight. 

“Although LAO’s dispute resolution process is internal, it is clear to me that there is an overriding public interest in what has occurred. Therefore, in the interest of transparency, I have directed that the decisions of the clinic committee and supporting documents be posted on LAO’s website,” he said.

The 103-page final clinic committee decision, dated Aug. 16, 2017, noted that LAO staff first became aware of concerns with respect to the financial management and governance practices at the ACLC in 2009.

But Margaret Parsons, executive director of the ACLC, says the targeting of the legal clinic by LAO is not based on the fiduciary mismanagement of public funds.

She said LAO has selectively focused on three main allegations: a ring charged to the clinic’s credit card, $39,000 from LAO funds paid for taxis, and the payment of what it calls staff overtime bonuses of $121,000 or $150,000.

At a community meeting held at City Hall on Aug. 24, Parsons provided a receipt of $780, dated July 20, 2012, as evidence that the money charged to the credit card was reimbursed.

She said it was not true that LAO funds were used to pay $39,000 for taxis. 

“The maximum annual amount paid by LAO funds for taxis is approximately $3,000 for 7 staff. This is much cheaper than paying mileage and parking,” noted a handout given to everyone attending the meeting.

Parsons also refuted LAO’s claim that ACLC staff received “overtime bonuses” of $121,000 or $150,000.

“Payment to staff for overtime hours worked is not a bonus. No employee, in particular, the executive director, has ever in the history of the ACLC received a “bonus.” The board authorized these stipends to staff for overtime work. Why does LAO think that Black lawyers should not be paid for the long hours they work?”

Parsons said it has been a difficult and trying time, a 23-year battle with LAO. She noted that this particular issue started on Sept. 7, 2009 and that it has been ongoing and relentless.
However, she said the outpouring of support, love and encouragement from the community has sustained her and the board of directors.

“Tonight, we want to get our story out, we want to get the truth out, we want to be held accountable by our community. We want to be accountable to our community, we want you to ask the tough questions because we have nothing to hide,” said Parsons to a full committee room.

“This controversy, at its essence, is an accusation of financial mismanagement leveled against the ACLC,” said Parsons.

She said Legal Aid Ontario issued 8 conditions, some of which had several elements, which it required the ACLC to comply with. There were 26 elements in total.

“However, only 2 of the 8 conditions are related to financial matters. All 8 conditions have been met. Not withstanding compliance, LAO is still moving to suspend the funding of the ACLC,” noted the clinic.

ACLC says the extensive scrutiny and longstanding public battle that has existed since the inception of the organization in 1994 has remained unresolved.

“It has now evolved to a place where LAO has decided to suspend funding. This decision will severely affect poor, vulnerable, and marginalized African Canadians who are directly served by the clinic while also adversely impacting on the lives and reputations of the dedicated staff and volunteers at the ACLC.”

But in his statement, Field said the LAO will ensure that there will be no interruption or delay to legal services to Black Ontarians. 

“LAO will immediately begin working with members of the community to establish a new community-based organization to deliver legal aid services to Ontario’s Black community. In the meantime, LAO will provide legal services through the Human Rights Legal Support Centre, members of the private bar, and LAO’s Test Case Program,” he said.

In its plan to take action against LAO’s decision, ACLC wants supporters to phone and email Premier Kathleen Wynne and Attorney General Yasir Naqvi urging them to overturn the decision.

Those in attendance were also encouraged to call their MPPs to express their concern about LAO’s decision to cut funding to the ACLC.

“The ACLC is a vital part of the Black Community’s fight against anti-Black racism,” notes the post card campaign addressed to the premier and the attorney general.

There is also an online petition at www.blacklawyersmatter.ca, and a social media campaign at #ACLC, #Black Lawyers Matter, and #Call a Spade a Spade.

“We are calling for Premier Kathleen Wynne and Attorney General, Yasir Naqvi, to conduct a thorough and independent investigation of LAO’s biased, unjust and racist decision to defund the ACLC. It is our hope that their findings will exonerate the ACLC,” says the ACLC in its handout subtitled “Let’s Call a Spade a Spade.”