Saturday, 22 September 2018

Jamaican Candidates Gear Up for Municipal Elections in Ontario


By Neil Armstrong

Photo contributed.  Carleen Blissett is running for councillor of Whitby's East Ward 4.


With just over a month before municipal elections in Ontario several Jamaican candidates are campaigning to become the councillor, regional councillor or school board trustee of their cities.

Carleen Blissett is running to be councillor of Whitby’s East Ward 4, Jermaine Chambers for Brampton’s Wards 2 and 6, Allan Jones for regional councillor of Wards 2 and 6 in the Region of Peel, and Kathy McDonald, the incumbent Peel District School Board trustee for Wards 3 and 4 who wants to retain her position.

The Ontario municipal elections will be held on October 22.

Blissett thought about running in the municipal election for years and decided to do it this year because there is no incumbent in Whitby’s East Ward 4.

“There is a need for a change and I feel that I can represent the changing diverse demographic in Whitby,” she says, noting that her work as a municipal standards officer at the City of Toronto gives her an understanding of how municipal government works.

When residents call into the city or to their councillor she goes out, investigates and resolves their problems.

“I have a strong understanding of the bylaws of the city and also the inner workings of government. With that experience I think that I am able to do a good job on council. I’m able to be a strong voice for the east ward here in Whitby,” says Blissett who is also a paralegal and therefore able to advocate on behalf of residents.

She has knocked on thousands of doors since her campaign started and the number one concern of residents is safety in the community.

“People are concerned that the traffic here, especially in our Ward 4, is becoming increasingly dangerous to the point where there is a lot of speeding. There is a lot of young families here and there are also a lot of senior citizens and schools.”

Property tax is also a concern, says Blissett, noting that there are many seniors who have been living in the community for most of their lives and as property tax increases they may have to choose whether they can afford to stay in their homes.

A resident of Whitby for sixteen years, she wants to ensure that it continues to be a “vibrant and livable city for everyone.”

Originally from from Moores, Clarendon, Blissett migrated to Canada in 1986 to join her mother and siblings.

Photo contributed. Jermaine Chambers is running for councillor of Brampton's Wards 2 and 6.


Chambers currently serves on the inclusion and equity committee of the City of Brampton and notes that this gives him a good view of some of the things that happen in the city.

“Being a resident I’ve seen some areas of development that are needed and I’ve had some concerns,” he says, noting that it is one thing to help as a volunteer and another “to get things done when you are a decision maker.” 

He thinks as a decision maker he will be able to move things forward for all the residents of Brampton and therefore decided to offer himself to them as an option for city council.

Chambers’ election platform includes addressing high property tax in the city, which he says has increased to more than 16 per cent over the last four years.

“I think one of the things that has contributed to that is our spending pattern. Brampton, I think, has a serious spending problem and these career politicians have gotten into the business of taxing and spending.”

He believes that his background in finance as someone in banking for over thirteen years has given him a good vantage point for understanding “how you manage people’s money on their behalf.”

One of his ideas is to have a two-year freeze on further tax increases to get spending under control and give residents a break.

Chamber said snow removal is a disaster in the city as during the winter the service is poor and needs to be improved.

He is also advocating for more recreational facilities because many sports teams within Brampton have to travel outside the city to hold some games due to the lack of good amenities in the city.

Identifying crime as an issue, Chambers is organizing an annual anti-violence, anti-gun, anti-drug march because he believes that “as a city we have to get everyone onboard on the same page to take an active stance against violence in our city.”

He also notes that over forty per cent of calls to the Peel Police have to do with mental health issues and cited Hamilton as having a similar situation but that city piloted a program in which mental health professionals responded to some of these calls.

Chambers said this reduced the number of police officers who were dealing with those cases and diverted their attention to fighting crime. 

He is also concerned that Peel Region has less police per 100,000 residents than other regions around Ontario. He wants to increase the number to 188 officers per 100,000 – the average for most regions -- instead of the existing 130 officers in Peel.

Chambers, who is from Montego Bay and immigrated to Canada in 2010, thinks the city needs active neighbourhood watch programs that have the support of city hall and the police.

Kathy McDonald, Peel District School Board trustee, Wards 3 and 4 is seeking re-election to the position.


McDonald was first elected as Peel District School Board (PDSB) trustee for Wards 3 and 4 in 2014 and wants to continue the work that she started.

“I think that I have made an impact I think being there my first term.  I think as a result of me being at the board table some very exciting changes have occurred and I want to continue them.”

She said there is still much that the board needs to do and even though she is optimistic about the direction in which things are going she still thinks “we can’t say, oh great, everything is perfect in Peel.”

Among the changes have been the PDSB admitting that there has been systemic discrimination against black students – something she describes as a huge step.

The We Rise Together initiative to support marginalized black male students was created as a result of this but McDonald says it is not perfect and there is a lot of work to be done.

“People looking from the outside might say it’s all talk, what’s happening. It’s a huge system and a lot of it takes time and I’m hoping to sort of speed it up along because I myself am impatient with the rate of change. I understand that I don’t expect everything to be solved overnight but I think it’s a work in progress and we have to keep the board, and the public needs to keep us accountable and keep the fire under us to make sure that we’re doing our jobs properly and change is occurring.”

McDonald is also proud of the Poverty Indicators report published in February 2018 that is the result of a request she made to the board in August 2017 to examine what was happening to students in poverty and to see if the board had an action plan to support them.

She said the disaggregated data was very shocking and showed the great discrepancy for kids in poverty vis-à-vis kids from high-income families with regard to the gifted program.

The school board trustee also pushed for equity in the hiring of teachers by the PDSB so that Indigenous, South Asian and Black teachers are hired to reflect the population of students.

McDonald says she liaises with many community partners and has advocated for an increase in the SciTech program at Centennial school because she thinks it is important to prepare students for the future in robotics, electronics and computer technology.

She also brought the Hammer Band music program -- that originally started out of Regent Park, Toronto for kids in disadvantaged neighbourhoods – to schools within and outside her wards to expose kids to art and music.

McDonald is from Mandeville and migrated to Canada in 1988 where she attended McGill University in Montreal and subsequently relocated to Ontario in 1992.

Photo contributed. Allan Jones is running to be regional councillor of Wards 2 and 6 in the Region of Peel.


Jones had an urge to run for a long time but kept putting it off until now when he realized that he was getting older and thought “some great man had said if not me, who, and if not now, when.” 

A resident of Brampton for nineteen years, he sees a lot of potential in the city and says he wants to make it a better place for “us all to live.”

“I think as a community, my personal community, we need representation in Brampton. We haven’t had it for quite some time and it’s quite unfortunate that even people who represent us as part of their ward are not bringing forward our concerns.”

Jones is of the view that it is bad if someone has to belong to a particular ethnic group to receive representation from an elected politician. 

“I’m here not only to represent the Black community but just about anybody who lives in my ward and beyond, whether they live in Brampton, Mississauga, Caledon – that’s part of the whole region.” 

He wants Brampton to be a healthy city – its economy and residents – “because if you’re not healthy, if you don’t have health you cannot participate in the economic wealth of the city.”

Jones said the medical officer of health reported that the Region of Peel has one of the highest diabetes rates in the country and Brampton, specifically, has a very high rate.

He attributes this to the makeup of the city; South Asians make up about 44-per cent of the population and African Canadians about 14-per cent, a total of 58-per cent.

Describing this as an epidemic and a devastating disease, Jones said many people in and about Brampton are not able to participate fully in the city because they are ill.

He said the city can start a campaign in common places where people meet like bus sheds, on the big screen of the Rose Theatre in downtown Brampton and in restaurants. 

Jones said most of the effort around diabetes is focused on when a person already has the disease but not enough emphasis is placed on preventative approaches. 

Eating the right meal in schools, exercising at facilities across the city where there can be competitions between different regions to get people in a competitive spirit to remain healthy are some of the ideas that he thinks can be implemented.

Jones wants to stabilize or minimize increases in taxes and restrict “runaway labour costs as Brampton’s population continues to grow.”

He said there is a big downtown reimagined project that is to come into fruition in about two years or so where common spots for people to walk will be provided in a park atmosphere.

“I’ve always seen Brampton where you can allow people to park elsewhere and have a transit system that brings people into the downtown core. And have it at flexible times so that when people leave activities there’s no problem with them getting back to their vehicles as there is a restriction in parking downtown.”

He said there will be a lot of spinoffs from the establishment of Ryerson University in downtown Brampton.

Jones said he is all for compromising, reasoning and talking things out where bringing Light Rail Transit (LRT) to the city is concerned.

Jones, who is from Rockfort in Kingston, immigrated to Canada in January 1981.

Some other Black candidates running in the municipal election are: for City of Brampton councillor – Princess Boucher, Wards 1&5; Charmaine Williams and Karla Bailey, Wards 7&8; for regional councillor, Brampton – Everton Dwight Campbell, Wards 2&6 and Michelle Shaw, Wards 9&10; David Green, Peel District School Board trustee, Wards 1&5, and Alex Battick for school board trustee, Wards 2&6.

In Ajax, the incumbent Durham District School Board trustee, Patrice Barnes, is seeking re-election to represent Wards 1&2 and Kenroy Wilson is running for councillor in Ward 2; in Toronto, Felicia Samuel for Ward 44 Scarborough North and Tiffany Ford for Ward 7 York West; and in Vaughan, Fitzroy Gordon for Ward 1 and Charline Grant for York Region District School Board, Wards 1&2. For a more extensive list of candidates, visit the Instagram page of Operation Black Vote Canada. 

On October 1, Operation Black Vote Canada and partner organizations – Ontario Black History Society, Black Health Alliance, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Black Business and Professional Association, Generation Chos3n and Tropicana Community Services -- will hold the Black Community Mayoral Debate 6:00-8:30 p.m. at Tropicana Community Services, 1385 Huntingwood Drive in Scarborough, Ontario. The Toronto mayoral candidates participating are: Mayor John Tory, Jennifer Keesmaat, Saron Gebresellassi and Knia Singh. The moderator is Garvia Bailey. Register at Eventbrite.

A few days later on October 5, 6:30 p.m.-11:00 p.m., 1st Fridays will present its ‘Municipal Election’ edition featuring mayoral and councillor candidates at the BBPA Centre for Excellence, 180 Elm Street in Toronto.

[A shorter version of this story has been published in the North American Gleaner, Sept. 20-26, 2018.]

Friday, 14 September 2018

Jamaican Professors Create New Study Programs at Universities


By Neil Armstrong

Photo contributed    Lillian Allen, professor in the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences, OCAD University in Toronto, Canada.


Students pursuing postsecondary studies at two universities in Toronto will be able to select new programs spearheaded by Jamaican professors this academic year and the next.

Andrea Davis, Chair of the Department of Humanities, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies at York University and Lillian Allen of the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Graduate Studies at OCAD University have been instrumental in developing these areas of study.

In 2016, Davis, with the support of colleagues in her department, worked hard to create a new certificate program in Black Canadian Studies.

The Black Canadian Studies Certificate is being launched this month, the start of the 2018-19 academic year.  The program will be available to students concurrently enrolled in an undergraduate degree.

This is a unique certificate program in that it examines questions of black people’s experiences from a humanities perspective and not social science.

“A lot of existing courses at York that seem to address these questions are really courses about race and racism, which are really to me, questions about how other people perceive and relate to black people, and kind of re-educated them,” said Professor Davis when she was named the 2017 recipient of the President's University-Wide Teaching Award in the senior full-time category.

This certificate will focus entirely on black people’s cultural production, literature, film, music; black people’s voices, cultural expressions, and histories.

She said it's a pretty narrow but focused curriculum, the idea is to keep students together as a community so they’re likely to be in classes together at the same time and to build wraparound support programs.

The certificate will be working with the Jean Augustine Chair in Education and the Harriet Tubman Institute.

The Jean Augustine Chair in Education has committed to provide graduate students with workshops to help support their writing.

The Harriet Tubman Institute will help them to organize and host undergraduate student conferences where students can share their work, and opportunities to go out to community groups and share the work they’re doing in the university.

They are also developing a practicum course that would place certificate students in the offices of local government to see how those offices function.

The hope is that this will expand eventually to the graduate level and possibly that these students from the certificate program will go into the graduate programs in black studies, and come back eventually into the university as faculty.

“So that the diversity at the undergraduate level extends all the way up and then begins to produce a critical mass of new faculty in the university,” said Davis.

Photo contributed    Andrea Davis, chair of the Department of Humanities, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies at York University in Toronto, Canada.

Meanwhile, Allen, a professor in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences and the creative writing specialist at OCAD University, is leading the development of the Bachelor of Fine Arts in creative writing with the slogan “the degree with attitude.”

The application process for the four-year undergraduate degree starts this month but the program will actually begin in the 2019-2020 academic year. 

Allen said she wanted to do this this because “coming to writing is also coming to voice” and what is missing from the literary terrain are the voices of younger BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) folks.

She says they do not have to wait until they are 50 or 60 to take up the writing practice and to get published.

“It is changing and has been changing for over the last decade, maybe two decades in this country where you’re having more and more of these people. But if you look around where are the stories that we know, for example, where are the stories that would be set in Jamaica Day or the mystery set in a Caribana Parade. How amazing that would be even for film.”

The university says the degree is a dynamic hands-on, studio-based approach to the study and practice of writing as artistic creation. Unlike any other creative writing program in Ontario, it enables students to hone their craft while exploring multiple art and design practices.

Allen said the key thing for her is that the spoken word movement, which she has opened up, led and developed, has produced and given permission to these young people to come to voice – something they do in a poetic short narrative.

She said they just need a few strategies to be able to build stories, in the sense of time, setting; character development, and “some of those other strategies that we love when we read.”

Professor Allen noted that they have strong point of views and can change the writing ecology in this country.

“We want to hear from people with attitude, we want to hear from the loud ones, we want to hear from the ones who are fighting against the system. We want to bring the ones who are fashionable out there, who are counter-fashion, we want to bring that attitude and we want to wrestle it to story and poetry to the page,” said Allen in explaining the program’s slogan. She said this makes for good and exciting writing.

By the end of their degree, each student will complete a body of work, book, recording, performance, installation piece, broadcast, or digital work suitable for ‘publication’ to launch their career to the public. 

[This story was published in the NA Weekly Gleaner, Sept. 13-19, 2018.]




Friday, 7 September 2018

Some Upcoming Events Celebrating Books and Authors in the Greater Toronto Area



B. Denham Jolly signs a copy of his autobiography for Valarie Steele of the Black Action Defense Committee at A Different Booklist in Toronto.


The Word On The Street Toronto Book and Magazine Festival at the Harbourfront Centre on Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018. 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.

SOME AUTHORS TO CHECK OUT AT THE WORD ON THE STREET

Andrea Bain, Single Girl Problems. Audible Presents Great Books at 10:45am-11:45am

David Chariandy grew up in Toronto and lives and teaches in Vancouver. Author of his debut novel, Soucouyant , and second novel, Brother, which won the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. [No time given.]

Julene Chung, founder of CuratedLife.ca. Canadian Magazines at 1:00pm-2:00pm

Jamil Jivani, Why Young Men. Vibrant Voices of Ontario at 3:00pm-3:30pm

B. Denham Jolly, In The Black: My Life. Toronto Book Garden at 11:00am-11:30am

Didier Leclair, Le Bonheur est un parfum sans nom. La scene francophone Viamonde at 1:30pm-2:20pm

Rabindranath Maharaj, Ajacentland. Sculpting New Reads at 11:00am-12:00pm. Vibrant Voices of Ontario at 3:30pm-4:00pm

Naomi Moyer, Black Women Who Dared. TD Children’s Literature at 1:20pm-1:40pm

Blaise Ndala, Sans capote ni kalachnikov. La scene francophone Viamonde at 1:30pm-2:20pm

Sarah Raughley, Siege of Shadows. Fantasy/Sci-fi. Teen Spirit at 12:15pm-1:15pm

Karl Subban, How We Did It: The Subban Plan for Success in Hockey, School and Life. Amazon.ca Bestsellers at 12:00pm-12:40pm

Karl Subban, author of How We Did It:The Subban Plan for Success in Hockey, School and Life with Itah Sadu, co-owner of A Different Booklist.


Melissa Vincent, editor of A.Side. Canadian Magazines at 3:00pm-4:00pm




Create, Participate, Share. Roots and Branches Dance at Knowledge Bookstore on Sunday, Sept. 30, 12:00-3:00pm at 177 Queen St. W., Brampton. www.rootsandbranchesdance.com. Culture Days, Sept. 28, 29, 30. Culturedays.ca




Arts and Culture Jamaica Inc. presents A Literary Evening with three authors: G. Barton-Sinkia, By the Next Pause; Jermel Shim, The Long Road to Progress for Jamaica; and Esther Tyson, Ah Suh Me See It, Ah Suh Me Say It on Thursday, Oct. 18 at the Consulate General of Jamaica, 303 Eglinton Avenue East, Toronto.

Toronto International Festival of Authors, Oct. 18-28, at the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto. ifoa.org

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Jamaican Educator Passionate About Inclusivity in the Classroom


By Neil Armstrong

Photo contributed   Andrew B. Campbell (Dr. ABC), author of The Invisible Student in the Jamaican Classroom published in July 2018.

A Jamaica-born educator in Toronto, Canada has written a new book that he hopes will lead to more inclusive classrooms for LGBT students in Jamaica.

In “The Invisible Student in the Jamaican Classroom,” Andrew Campbell, a researcher and lecturer of diversity studies in education shares the experiences of gay males in Jamaica on their formal schooling experiences through reflection.

Campbell, a graduate of the University of Toronto with a PhD. in educational leadership and diversity and inclusive studies is passionate about “preparing educators and all stakeholders to increase their cultural competence so that no child is excluded from the teaching and learning process, and our schools become truly inclusive spaces.”

“There’s a lack of LGBT literature that focuses on the Jamaican experience,” says Campbell, noting that he teaches four online courses in Jamaica and Canada on issues that deal with inclusion and diversity.

He says LGBT is just one of those issues and like any other topic there is a lack of literature on such matters, including disability, sex education, and others.

“As an educator, I’ve always believed my advocacy is part of my work and so I always say what can I do with it. I have to use it to further the work. And so for me, I want to create books.”

Campbell says this is the first of several books that he will be writing that will focus on LGBT issues in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean.

He says when he was growing up in Jamaica there was no literature and everything that he googled was of the American experience so this is the reason the book is necessary.

Another reason for the book, says Campbell, is the lack of a counter-narrative and he is working on another book that will examine how the media in Jamaica portray the stories of LGBT people.

In his discourse analysis, he has already collected over 130 newspaper articles from 2002-2018 and less than “five per cent is written by LGBT people so the narrative is always negative.”

He says there are a lot of stories to be told and he is encouraging others to tell their stories.

He wants his book to “affirm, inspire LGBT young people to say hey, what I’m going through is not new, somebody went through it and this person came out and this person handled it.”

He said the 121 people whose quotations are featured in the book are success stories who still have their struggles.

Chapter 11 is dedicated to educators because the Mico Teachers College-trained academic wants them to understand “that these students are in your class and your job is to engage them, and engaging is more than math and writing. Engaging is getting to know who the students are.”

An educator for 22 years, Campbell says teachers have to understand that they have a job to engage all children.

He hopes that as a result of publishing this book there will be opportunities to speak at conferences, to educators and the ministry of education about how to be more inclusive and to grow in cultural competency and diversity.

Campbell said he included questions in the book to challenge the thinking and practice of educators.

He teaches teacher training and two courses on diversity online for the University of the West Indies and says when he started in 2011, students pushed back against topics such as disability, gender and mental health.

Seven years later, he has seen a change in how teachers respond to those courses so he has hope in the Jamaican education system and in “the capital and cultural competency of our teachers to educate our LGBT students.”

His research focuses on LGBT issues in Jamaica, teacher performance evaluation, culturally responsive and relevant pedagogy, social media in education, and online education.

Campbell says his book is not just about gay people but he is calling on all teachers to be inclusive, generally, and to raise their level of inclusion.

He thinks there should be a review of the concept of guidance in school and how it is done with a view to guidance departments helping all students.

“The Invisible Student in the Jamaican Classroom,” which is self-published, was launched on August 2 at the Faculty of Law, University of the West Indies during a conference of Pride JA, an annual celebration of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Jamaica.

[This story was published in the North American Weekly Gleaner, Aug. 30-Sept. 5, 2018.]

Plans to Memorialize Miss Lou in Film, Book and Apparel


By Neil Armstrong
 
Photo contributed   Left to right: Nadine Miller, producer/coordination; Ian Xun, director/cinema photographer; Fabian Coverley, executive director; Suzanne (Zan) Coy, producer; Clayton Coverley, producer and Pearl Anderson, administrator with a portrait of Miss Lou by Judy Geller, a friend of the Coverley family.


There are plans to celebrate Jamaica’s premier storyteller, poet and cultural icon, Louise Bennett-Coverley, popularly known as ‘Miss Lou,’ like no one has seen before – by the celebration of her 100th birthday in September 2019.

Imagine experiencing Miss Lou in film, a coffee table book with an Augmented Reality feature, and apparel influenced by her famous greeting ‘Walk Good.’

Fabian Coverley, son and co-executor of the estate of Louise Bennett-Coverley, and his son, Clayton Coverley, one of Miss Lou’s three grandsons, are part of a team working to share the legacy of Miss Lou in multiple creative forms.
Miss Lou Say So (Walk Good)” a 90-minute theatrical feature documentary aims to remind the world of “the power of Jamaican culture that was embodied in the singularly important icon that is Miss Lou.”
It reanimates Miss Lou's classic stories, poems and songs using three different narrative modes: performance, interviews, and animation. 
Renowned Jamaican artists such as Oliver Samuels and Mutabaruka will narrate animated retellings of Miss Lou’s Anansi stories.
 There are plans for famous Jamaicans, like Freddie McGregor, Beenie Man, Bounty Killer, Lennox Lewis and international stars like Russell Peters, Adele, Sting, Drake and others will “render snippets of Miss Lou’s folk songs as a tribute to the influence that Jamaican culture has had on their lives.”
The performances and stories will be intercut with interviews of people who knew her, and those who studied her work. Archival footage of Miss Lou will be interwoven in the narrative of the film.
An “Eric and Louise Bennett Coverley” coffee table book will be produced as a companion to the film.
“This impressive publication will be entertaining and educational featuring beautiful rare images of Louise Bennett (Miss Lou) and Eric Coverley, (Mass Eric) in their public and family lives. The book will utilize Augmented Reality to bring the characters and story to life in full motion on mobile devices,” say the Coverleys. 
The Augmented Reality feature of the book will allow the reader to use a tablet or phone to hover over images in the book and view videos of Miss Lou and other artists performing. 

“You will be able to virtually sit in on a performance, or watch interviews with Miss Lou and company. The moving image content for this project will be sourced from original content created for the documentary, and motion pictures from the archives at the National Library of Jamaica (NLJ), the Coverley Collection, plus McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario in Canada.
On the matter of lifestyle, Clayton notes that “Jamaican life is often one full of style, with the most music produced, most athletes, most churches, and the most dressmakers per capita,” and “this would have to be a place to find that rare style mixed with heritage. Walk Good Apparel doesn't disappoint!”
Photo credit: Clayton Coverley        The 'Walk Good' logo that adorns apparel.
 “Miss Lou used to say, "Walk Good and may good duppy follow you"  -- this proverb of hers meant to be good on your life journey and may blessings and good favour follow you always,” says her grandson.
Meanwhile, father and son are planning to be in Jamaica next month for the unveiling of the Miss Lou statue and the dedication of a square in Gordon Town which will be ready by September 7, 2018 – the 99th anniversary of her birthday.
In the meantime, the Jamaican Canadian Association (JCA) is planning a trip to Jamaica in September 2019 to celebrate the opening of Ms. Lou Square in Gordon Town.
The special recognition is a legacy project of Jamaica 50th celebrations in Toronto and spearheaded by Pamela Appelt, a former Canadian citizenship court judge and co-executor of the estate of Louise Bennett-Coverley.  
September 7, 2019 will mark the 100th anniversary of the birthday of the celebrated Jamaican folklorist, cultural ambassador, storyteller, poet and author.

“JCA’s trip, tentatively scheduled for September 2019, will allow members, especially those who having been living in Canada for more than forty years, to experience some of the country’s cultural spaces and reflect on Jamaica’s evolution. Day trips to Devon House, National Gallery Jamaica, the Bob Marley museum and Maroon Town are some of the proposed sites.  In addition, we will give back to our beloved country during a day of caring,” says
 Adaoma Patterson, president of the JCA, whose co-chairs for the trip are Michelle McKenzie-Dolly and Audrey Campbell.
Bennett-Coverley lived in Toronto for almost twenty years and died on July 26, 2006 at the age of 86. She was predeceased her husband, Eric “Chalk Talk” Coverley, in 2002.
Anyone seeking more information about the film or the limited edition coffee table book can visit missloujamaica.com, and www.walk-good.com for the WalkGood Apparel.
[This story was published in the North American Weekly Gleaner, July 26, 2018 on the twelfth anniversary of the passing of Miss Lou.]

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Bromley Armstrong Made it His Mission to Right the Wrongs


By Neil Armstrong

Photo credit: Eddie Grant      Bromley Armstrong presents the Bromley L. Armstrong award, initiated by the Toronto &York Region Labour Council, to retired trade unionist, Herman Stewart, on May 30, 2014 in Toronto.


Bromley Lloyd Armstrong was fearless, outspoken and a strong fighter against injustice and racial discrimination.

The veteran civil rights and human rights leader, community organizer and trade unionist passed away peacefully at Centenary Hospital in Scarborough, Ontario on August 17, 2018 at the age of 92.

Growing up in Jamaica in the 1930s, he considered trade unionist, Alexander Bustamante, who later became Jamaica’s first prime minister in 1962 “a role model and hero of mine.”

“When I left school and went to work for R. Hanna and Sons, I did everything possible to emulate “Busta,” as he was called, by trying to effectively represent the interests of the thirty-five workers in my department,” says Armstrong in his autobiography “Bromley: Tireless Champion for Just Causes” written with Sheldon Taylor.

That concern for the working class would underpin his early involvement in the labour movement after he left Jamaica for Canada in December 1947, starting with his first job as a factory worker at Massey Harris (later named Massey Ferguson), a multinational corporation.

He was concerned about the poor working conditions there and became active in the United Auto Workers Union, Local 439 from 1948-1956, and was a member of the Toronto and District Labour Council from 1949-1956.

“Bromley Armstrong was a dedicated civil rights activist who fought not just for his fellow Jamaican-Canadians but for everybody who was discriminated against because of race,” says Ruth Lor Malloy whose work with Armstrong is documented in the National Film Board of Canada film, “Journey to Justice,” directed by Roger McTair and “Welcome to Dresden, a film directed by Esery Mondesir.

“I had the honour to work with him in 1954 on the Dresden restaurant discrimination cases, along with Hugh Burnett, and the Joint Labour Committee on Human Rights. He was very bitter about the racial slurs he experienced in Canada but instead of just feeling sorry for himself, he made it his mission to right the wrongs. He will be sorely missed,” she said.

Their efforts tested the effectiveness of the Fair Accommodations Practices Act passed by the Leslie Frost government in 1954. They were keenly interested in Chapter 28, section 2 and 6 which stated that: "No persons shall deny to any person or class of persons the accommodation, services, or facilities available in any place to which the public is customarily admitted because of the race, creed, colour, nationality, ancestry, or place of origin of such person or class of persons."

Speaking of their test of the law, Lor Malloy said: "Our group did some testing and as a result of our test and a later one we did, the restaurant owner was fined."

Photo contributed 
Alan Borovoy, Ruth Lor and Bromley Armstrong on June 15, 2012 at a meeting of the Ontario Human Rights Commission which marked the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Ontario Human Rights Code. The Ontario Human Rights Commission was established in 1961 as the successor to the Ontario Anti-Discrimination Commission (established 1958). Borovoy was the Canadian lawyer and human rights activist best known as the longtime general counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA).




Armstrong was born in Kingston, Jamaica on February 9, 1926 – the fourth of seven children to Eric Vernon and Edith Miriam Armstrong (nee Heron).

He became the youngest member of the Negro Citizenship Committee in 1951 which organized a delegation, led by community stalwart, Donald Moore, to Ottawa in 1954 to urge the federal government to change Canada’s immigration policy which discriminated against people of colour.

June Veecock, a retired director of human rights at the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL), says Armstrong made the greatest contribution in fighting racial injustice, starting at Massey Ferguson working with trade unionist, Dennis McDermott.

She said although Armstrong left the labour movement many years ago he maintained that spirit of activism fighting injustice.

“I would say that Bromley had my back while I was in that position because it wasn’t easy. We were trying to get our affiliates to come onboard with OFL policies against racial discrimination – discrimination of all forms.”

Veecock said she could always rely on Armstrong to give her a historical perspective in terms of the early efforts of the labour movement in fighting racism and discrimination.

She was honoured to be the first recipient of the Bromley L. Armstrong Award established by the Toronto & York Region Labour Council in 2004 to “commemorate
the courage, dedication and outstanding service of Bromley L. Armstrong to the
Labour and Human Rights Movement in Canada.”


Herman Stewart, a former president of the Jamaican Canadian Association (JCA) and a retired trade unionist, and Marie Clarke Walker, secretary-treasurer of the Canadian Labour Congress, have also been recipients of the award.

“I got involved in the Black community in Canada because of Bromley,” says Stewart noting that his first encounter with Armstrong was back in 1981.

Stewart was appearing before the Ontario Labour Relations Board as a union organizer and Armstrong was a member of the tribunal hearing the case.

As soon as the meeting was adjourned for lunch, the elder trade unionist went over to talk with Stewart.

He did two things which typified the kind of man he was, said Stewart. “The first thing he said to me was, “It’s good to see you because there’s so few of you in leadership in union. I’m going to get you a list of the others and you guys must keep in touch, call them up, go meet for lunch because we need more of you in the labour movement.”

The second thing was that he needed people like Stewart to get involved in the community and the best way to do that was to join the JCA.

Armstrong, one of founders of the JCA in 1962, served as its third president from 1971-1972.

Stewart was a bit hesitant because he was involved in the New Democratic Party (NDP) and in the labour movement, but Armstrong pointed out to him that he was not doing anything directly with the community.

“He said we need that kind of voice that you have, meaning on the left, to balance things at the JCA and his argument was so powerful that I joined.”

Stewart said he quickly looked to Armstrong as his role model and mentor because he stood for things that he strongly believed in, such as social justice and “calling a spade a spade and not being afraid to rock the boat” thus becoming a “champion of the working class.”

He said Armstrong knew that his life might be in danger when he went to Dresden, “where they wouldn’t let black people sit in the restaurants” and he challenged them.

“When people could not rent apartments in Toronto, Bromley with the help of the Labour Council of Toronto went out and he challenged them. He exposed them and those are characteristics that showed me the type of person he was and I gravitated to him.”

Stewart continued: “Our community is richer for him because today we can go in any restaurant to eat, if we have the money. We can go and rent any apartment if we want. Back in 1947 when Bromley came here they had parks downtown that had signs that said ‘No Blacks Allowed.’ Today, we can go in any park and sit down and relax. We did not have any human rights when Bromley started on this journey and today we have human rights. Whether it was human rights, whether it was accommodation, whether it was immigration, he was always there.”

He said Armstrong’s legacy has to be cherished. “Every time we think about all the things that have changed for the better in Toronto we have to associate that with his name because he was a leading voice.”

Armstrong helped establish the umbrella organization, the National Council of Jamaicans in Ontario, which eventually expanded to the National Council of Jamaicans and Supportive Organizations to include other Caribbean nationals. He served as its first president in 1986.

“He pushed for the credit union that the JCA had because he thought that financial independence would empower our community. He was very disappointed when we lost that and that was one of his hopes – that we would some day get that credit union back up.”

Photo credit: Eddie Grant   Bromley Armstrong presents the Bromley L. Armstrong award to the 2014 recipient, Herman Stewart, accompanied by Marie Clarke Walker, left, and June Veecock -- both have been recipients of the annual award.


Clarke Walker describes this moment as bittersweet -- “It’s bitter, obviously, because we all want our mentors, our icons to be around forever.”

She says Armstrong was someone she would take advice from because he knew the movement and knew her from the time she came to Canada.

“He was somebody I trusted. Why I say bittersweet is because everything that’s happening right now with 45[Donald Trump], the rise of the alt-right, the rise of hate, the rise of discrimination…he worked so hard to combat all of that and to see it now rearing its ugly head in the way that it is, I don’t think that he would want to be around to see,” she notes, indicating that after the stroke he suffered a few years ago she thinks he’s in a better place.

She said Armstrong’s public persona was the same as he was personally – he was kind, gentle and thoughtful.

“He talked about racism, discrimination out in the public; he talked about those things at home as well.”

She said after the stroke she went to visit him with her mother, veteran trade unionist Beverley Johnson, and although it was difficult for him to talk at times “he spent the entire visit talking about politics, politics of the trade union movement, politics of the country – that was his joy, that was his love and that was his passion.”

Clarke Walker said Armstrong read the newspaper everyday and if anyone called and asked for advice he would give it to them.

She said he never stopped talking about how proud he was of members of the community that spoke out and spoke up and that continued to challenge around racism and discrimination.

The CLC secretary-treasurer said one of the reasons she was able to get through the issues she faced in the labour movement was because of Armstrong who alongside another trade union leader Fred Upshaw constantly told her that they were proud of her efforts. They also provided her with constructive criticism.

“I think in the last couple of years we’ve lost a number of people in the Black community who truly believe in justice and were not about themselves.”

Lascelles ‘Al Peabody’ Small, a longtime friend, describes Armstrong as a pioneer who fought to get black people employed as operators of Toronto Transit Commission vehicles, not just as cleaners of the lines.

“A lot of things he fought for, he was respected on Bathurst Street; he was respected on Eglinton Avenue. He was highly respected.”

Small noted that Armstrong, then a commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, played a leading role in the demonstration held outside city hall in August 1978 after Nova Scotia-born Buddy Evans was fatally shot by a police officer at the Flying Disco Tavern in Toronto.

“I arrived at the Toronto city hall at 9: 00 a.m. along with Contrast newspaper publisher, Al Hamilton, entrepreneur Denham Jolly, and a few others. We joined those who had assembled. They were mostly young people, and together we marched around city hall,” writes Armstrong in his autobiography.

Photo credit: Francine Buchner       Karen Richards of TD Canada Trust presents the Lifetime Achievement Award to Bromley Armstrong at the 29th BBPA Harry Jerome Awards on April 30, 2011.


The community stalwart was a founder or founding member of numerous organizations, including the Urban Alliance on Race Relations, Black Business and Professional Association, and the first Caribbean Soccer Club.

He also sat on many boards and committees, including the Toronto Mayor’s Committee on Race Relations, Canadian Centre for Ethics and Corporate Affairs, the Gleaner Company (NA) Inc. and JN Money Services (Canada).

Armstrong was also the publisher of the Islander newspaper from 1973-1977 which chronicled “events affecting the various solitudes making up Canada’s 1970s’ Black community.”

In 1994, he was invested with the Order of Canada; in 1992, the Order of Ontario; and in 1983, the Order of Distinction, Jamaica.

Photo contributed   R. Roy McMurtry, chancellor of York University and Rhonda Lenton,  president and vice-chancellor pose with Bromley Armstrong who was conferred with an honorary Doctor of Laws on June 11, 2013.


On June 11, 2013, Armstrong received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from York University for his demonstrated dedication, passion and lifelong commitment to the battle against racism.

The longtime resident of Pickering, Ontario is survived by his wife, Marlene, his best friend for forty-seven years.

He was father to children, Lana, Linda (predeceased), Everald (Ada), Malcolm, Kevin (Andrea), Bromley Jr. (Jay), Anita, Desmond (Alice), brother to Monica (Frankie), grandfather to eighteen grandchildren, great-grandfather to seventeen great grandchildren, uncle and great-uncle to many nieces and nephews and a great friend to many.

Visitation will be on Tuesday, August 28, 4:00-8:00 p.m. at McEachnie Funeral Home, 28 Old Kingston Road in Ajax, Ontario.


A Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. at the Holy Redeemer Catholic Church, 796 Eyer Drive in Pickering, Ontario. Interment will follow from 12:30-12:45 p.m. at the Erskine Cemetery, North Corners of Fairport Road and Finch Avenue in Pickering.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to P.A.C.E. Canada (pacecanada.org/donate).

Photo credit: Francine Buchner 
Labour and human rights leader, Bromley Armstrong with then secretary-treasurer of the Canadian Labour Congress, Yussuff Hassan, recipient of the Bromley Armstrong award.  

Photo contributed
Bromley Armstrong and Ruth Lor in Dresden, Ontario at Uncle Tom's Cabin Heritage Site. They are with Steven Cook of the Heritage  Trust there.

Photo credit: Francine Buchner
Paul Barnett, entrepreneur and Bromley Armstrong, human rights activist at the launch of the Jamaica 50th Anniversary coffee table book  “Jamaicans in Canada - When Ackee Meets Codfish” on April 12, 2012 at Toronto's Harbourfront Centre.


CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story said the efforts of Armstrong, Lor Malloy, Hugh Burnett and the Joint Labour Committee on Human Rights resulted in the passing of the Fair Accommodations Practices Act. The law was actually passed earlier in 1954 but had never been tested. They tested it and won in the courts.

[A special feature on Bromley Armstrong has been published in the North American Weekly Gleaner, Aug. 30-Sept. 5, 2018.]