Wednesday, 21 December 2016



1st Fridays Holiday/Birthday Soiree on Friday, Dec. 23, 10 p.m. until… at Fuse Restaurant, 366 Queen St. E., Toronto. Hosted by Warren Salmon (whose birthday is Dec. 24) & Carl Lyte featuring DJ Marlon Mack & Friends. For guest list and tickets, visit

Jamaican Canadian Association presents Caribbean Christmas Grand Market on Dec. 23 & 24, 12pm-12am at 995 Arrow Rd., Toronto. Call 416-746-5772 Ext. 249

Knowledge Bookstore Kwanzaa Celebration will be held on Monday, Dec. 26, 2pm at 177 Queen St. West, Brampton. Call 905-459-9875

Caliban Arts Theatre presents “A Blue Note New Years” on Saturday, Dec. 31, 6:30pm at Pero Restaurant and Lounge, 812 Bloor St. West, Toronto. Bring in the New Year with the music of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Thelonius Monk, Herbie Hancock, Art Blakey and more.

Friends of the JCA presents “An Elegant New Year’s Eve Affair” on Saturday, Dec. 31, 7pm at the Jamaican Canadian Centre, 995 Arrow Rd., Toronto. Part proceeds in aid of the JCA Scholarship and Saturday Morning Tutorial programs. Call 647-294-7277/416-708-1438

Black Business and Professional Association (BBPA) & TD Bank present the 17th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration on Saturday, Jan. 14, 6:30 p.m. at McVety Centre, 50 Gervais Drive, Don Mills, Toronto. Tickets: $10 advance, $20 at the door. Call 416-605-4724/416-504-4097

The Ryerson Image Centre (RIC) and Black Artist’s Network Dialogue (BAND) present a season of shows titled Power to the People: Photography and Video of Repression and Black Protest( These exhibitions explore the historical and ongoing struggle for justice between people of colour and police forces representing the state.

On view from January 18 to April 9, 2017, the RIC presents Attica USA 1971: Images and Sounds of a Rebellion; Birmingham, Alabama, 1963: Dawoud Bey/Black Star; Adam Pendleton: My Education, A Portrait of David Hilliard; and From the Collection: Sister(s) in the Struggle. The season launches with a reception on Wednesday, January 18, from 6:00 to 8:00 pm. Following this, from February 2 to 26, 2017, BAND presents No Justice, No Peace: From Ferguson to Toronto at the Gladstone Hotel featuring the work of artists: Zun Lee, Jalani Morgan and Nation Cheong.
 No Justice, No Peace: From Ferguson to Toronto ( positions photography at the forefront during an era of heightened global protests against systemic violence by police. All are socially-conscious photographers whose images evoke the pan-geographic urgency with which their black subjects demand to be seen and heard. Co-curated by Julie Crooks and Reese de Guzman, this exhibition will be on view at BAND’s pop-up gallery at the Gladstone Hotel.

Power to the People: Photography and Video of Repression and Black Protest is co-presented by BAND with generous support from media sponsors, Toronto Star and CBC Toronto.

The Ryerson Image Centre is located at 33 Gould St., Toronto.

Tropicana Community Services presents Neighbourhood Games on Saturday, Jan. 28, 11am-2pm at Tropicana’s Centre of Excellence, 1385 Huntingwood Drive, Scarborough. Call 416-439-9009 ext. 258.

Ontario Black History Society will hold its Black History Month Kick-off Brunch on Sunday, Jan. 29, 12-5pm at Metro Toronto Convention Centre, 255 Front St. West, Toronto.

Call for Nominations for the 35th annual BBPA Harry Jerome Awards to be held on April 22, 2017 at the International Centre, 6900 Airport Rd., Mississauga. Deadline for nominations: Jan. 31, 2017.

“PASSING STRANGE,” a co-production with Acting Up Stage Company will run from Jan. 24 to Feb. 5 at The Opera House, 735 Queen St. East, Toronto.
Book and Lyrics by Stew. Music by Stew and Heidi Rodewald. Created in collaboration with Annie Dorsen. Directed by Philip Akin of Obsidian Theatre Company.

Starring: Jahleen Barnes, Divine Brown, Beau Dixon, Peter Fernandes, David Lopez, Sabryn Rock and Vanessa Sears.
Passing Strange is a bold coming of age story told through sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. In the late 1970s, a Black teen is driven from Los Angeles to Amsterdam and Berlin in search of himself and a place to call home. 
Fusing punk rock, R&B and soul, and performed at Toronto’s preeminent music venue the Opera House, Passing Strange is unlike any musical you’ve seen before. Winner of the 2008 Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical and three Drama Desk Awards including Best Musical, don’t miss the show that has been universally applauded for its originality, authenticity, and powerful score.  

KUUMBA – Feb. 3-4 & 10-11 – Harbourfront Centre

Toronto’s longest-running celebration of Black History Month returns in February, and this time we’re adding a second weekend! Join us for a series of thought-provoking panel discussions and socially driven cultural programming that explores blackness in the 21st century.

“HOW BLACK MOTHERS SAY I LOVE YOU,” a Trey Anthony and Girls in Bow Ties production written by Trey Anthony and presented by Factory Theatre will run from Feb. 9-March 5 (Previews Feb. 4-8) at Factory Mainspace Theatre, 125 Bathurst St. (at Adelaide)

HOW BLACK MOTHERS SAY I LOVE YOU is Trey Anthony’s ('da Kink in my Hair) most hilarious and thought provoking play yet. Daphne, a Caribbean mother, emigrated to Canada leaving two daughters behind in Jamaica for six years. The separation causes disastrous consequences for the entire family who are all searching for love, reconciliation and forgiveness. A tale of a mother, her daughters and their attempts to love each other in less than ideal circumstances, HOW BLACK MOTHERS SAY I LOVE YOU searches for ways to respond to what has been left unsaid.
The 5th annual Toronto Black Film Festival (TBFF) will be held Feb. 15-19.

2nd annual Black Diamond Ball presented by TD & ArtXperiential will be held on Feb. 25 at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto.

COBA presents “MOVING BLACKNESS: Identity, Hope & Love” March 23-25, 8pm at Aki Studio, 585 Dundas St. E., Suite 120, Toronto.

Ballet Creole presents “KAMBULE” May 12-14 as part of the Nextsteps Canada’s Dance Series at the Harbourfront Centre, Toronto.
The 16th annual RASTAFEST in the Village will be held at the historic Black Creek Pioneer Village August 18th to 20th, 2017. The three-day family festival begins at York University with the Canadian Reggae Music Conference and ends on the north property of Black Creek Pioneer Village with a live Reggae music festival.

Photographer, Nation Cheong (in blue), playing dominoes at artist, Sandra Brewster's installation at the Big on Bloor Festival of Arts & Culture on Aug. 22, 2015. His work will be presented at the exhibition, "No Justice, No Peace: From Ferguson to Toronto," at the Gladstone Hotel from Feb. 2-26, 2017.

Dr. Kenneth Montague, art collector and curator, speaking at Zun Lee's exhibition, "Fade to Resistance," at the Gladstone Hotel on Feb. 5, 2016. Lee, who is the middle, is one of the photographers whose work will be showcased at "No Justice, No Peace: From Ferguson to Toronto" at the Gladstone Hotel, Feb. 2-26, 2017.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Memoirs and Biographies: A case for more by women/about women

By Neil Armstrong

Since being told that entrepreneur and activist, Denham Jolly, has written his memoir, “In the Black: My Life,” which will be published by ECW Press in February 2017, I’ve been thinking about memoirs and biographies I’ve read about several Black/Caribbean/African Canadians. Looking forward to reading Denham’s book and interviewing him about it.

I’m also thinking that there needs to be more such books written by women from our community who’ve been trailblazers and/or books written about these women.

Earlier this year, I was glad to see in the Akua Benjamin Legacy Project launched at Ryerson University the names, Gwen Johnston (Third World Books and Crafts) and Marlene Green (The Black Education Project). I knew more about Gwen than Marlene. There seems to be a dearth of books about women like these who played a pivotal role in black activism in Canada. Where are the books about Akua Benjamin, Juanita Westmoreland-Traore, Jean Augustine, Ettie Roach, Margaret Gittens, Sherona Hall, Zanana Akande, and others? Already, I’m hearing the quip from a friend – “write it.”

Just looking at my bookcase, I’m seeing memoirs of Bromley Armstrong (labour/human rights activist), Stanley G. Grizzle (labour/human rights activist), Ray Lewis (Canadian railway porter & Olympic athlete), Lincoln M. Alexander (politician/human rights activist) and Harry Gairey (human rights activist). I know of the book, “Don Moore: an autobiography,” published in 1985 but I don’t have a copy. It’s out of print.

I read Rosemary Brown’s autobiography, “Being Brown: A Very Public Life,” published in 1985 (also out of print), just before interviewing her in the early 2000s. Rosemary -- a politician, mother, educator, social activist and feminist -- died in April 2003. She was Canada’s first black female member of a provincial legislature and first woman to run for leadership of a federal political party.

In my bookcase, I have Dionne Brand’s “A Map to the Door of No Return: Notes to Belonging.” Inside of it is a flyer promoting the launch of the book on Friday, September 28, 2001 at Toronto Women’s Bookstore (remember that store?). I enjoyed interviewing her about her autobiography. Dionne is such a profound writer that I have several of her books.

I also have Althea Prince’s “Being Black,” Lillie Johnson’s “My Dream,” and Lynette Roy’s “Three Caribbean Women in Canadian Politics” edited by Hanna Miller. It features Jean Augustine, Anne Cools and Hedy Fry. These are all women I’ve interviewed about their lives on different occasions.

Earlier this year, the book, “100 Accomplished Black Canadian Women,” co-authored by Jean Augustine, Dauna Jones-Simmonds and Dr. Denise O’Neil Green was published.

My yearning is to read more memoirs by Black/Caribbean/African Canadian women who were/are involved in various aspects of social justice and human rights advocacy.

As soon as I heard that Denham’s memoir would be published soon, I went looking through Bromley’s book to see what he wrote about him. Bromley documents Denham’s role in protests against the police shootings of Buddy Evans and Albert Johnson. There is also information there about the roles Al Hamilton, Dudley Laws and Charles Roach played in those actions.

I need to know more about the women who were involved in those protests too. My heart smiled when I read, “A Black Man’s Toronto, 1914-1980: Reminiscences of Harry Gairey,” edited by Donna Hill.

In it, Harry documents the role that Donna, a white woman, played while at the Toronto Labour Committee for Human Rights in challenging discriminatory practices of CP Railway. As a result, nine black porters, including Stanley G. Grizzle, applied for the position of conductor, which seemed to have been the preserve of white people.

Donna’s husband, Daniel G. Hill, a black man, was the first director of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, appointed in 1962, and one of the founders of the Ontario Black History Society, becoming its first president.

Please share any information you have of memoirs and/or biographies of Black/Caribbean/African Canadian women or their allies who were/are involved in the struggle against racism, in particular anti-black racism, sexism, discrimination and other injustices.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

A new leadership program for students launched

A new leadership program for students launched
By Neil Armstrong

Twenty-seven students were recently introduced publicly as the first cohort of the new Lifelong Leadership Institute (LLI) signature leadership-development program, Leadership by Design (LBD).

The institute was launched at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) Auditorium, University of Toronto, on November 19.

The purpose of the LLI is to inspire leadership and develop leaders in the GTA’s Black and Caribbean communities.

Its signature program, Leadership by Design (LBD), is a multi-year investment in optimizing the students’ scholastic achievements, amplifying their leadership capacity and facilitating their career ambitions.

The LBD program will provide at least seven years of developmental support for student participants spanning the high school and university/college years.

Students are admitted in their Grade 10 year and are provided leadership development and career development throughout Grades 10, 11 and 12.

“These students aspire to post-secondary studies, and we will continue our support of their development throughout their post-secondary education up to, and including, graduate studies,” says Trevor Massey, Chair of LLI.

Dr. Avis Glaze, principal of Edu-quest International Inc., a former Ontario Education Minister and a board member of LLI, was the keynote speaker and highlighted some of the outcomes of the Royal Commission on Learning.

“African Canadian parents came out and they said they wanted better guidance and counseling, more mentorship, they wanted information about accessing postsecondary education, and they wanted more principals and teachers to be trained so that they would no be stereotyped and end racism.”

She told the students that their parents and community members realized that they had to fight for their future.

Glaze encouraged the students to be prepared for the future in aspects such as ethical decision-making and to develop character attributes such as respect, responsibility, honesty, integrity, fairness, perseverance, courage and optimism.

“Character is destiny,” said the educator.

“I want you to remember that as you move into university and into the workplace, and into the boardrooms, and up the ladder of success, never forget what it means to be an ethical human being, what it means to care deeply about others and what it means not to forget your past.”

Among the 21st century skills she listed are: critical thinking and analytical thinking, teamwork, partnerships and collaboration, problem solving, problem-based learning, project-based learning, being creative, being innovative, being entrepreneurial.

She referenced different types of entrepreneurs such as those who work in policy and social.

“For many of you, you will have to create your own jobs. You don’t have to go knocking on the doors of established organizations to find work if you’re going to be creative and entrepreneurial, if people are going to support you in that creativity.”

She noted that if “we want entrepreneurs in our society we have to nurture creativity in our schools today.”

“People skills are the wave of the future,” Glaze said, noting that research on emotional intelligence shows that emotional quotient (EQ) is more important than IQ.

She also cited constructive confrontation, which is the ability to be assertive rather than being aggressive, and resiliency.

The students were also encouraged to have an insatiable appetite for learning, a strong motivation to achieve, a strong service orientation, that is, “the notion that you’re going to lift as you climb.”

“How can we in communities, if we’re successful, not reach back and give a hand to others so that they too could be successful?”

Glaze was on the royal commission that recommended that students do 40 hours of community service before they get their high school diploma.

“I encourage you, for all of us, develop what I call that human rights orientation to life,” she said.

The educator said all human beings are created equal and therefore “we must make sure that no human being should be discriminated against.”

Dr. Glaze said that towards the end of her career she took on the issue of gay rights.
“I was tired of seeing students when I was a guidance counselor attempting suicide because they were gay. And so many people don’t want to touch that issue because, oh, you don’t deal with that. If you say you believe in human rights, you cannot be selective about the human beings for whom you will advocate – it’s all or none. It’s not for us to judge them.”

She told the students that advocacy for others is a key quality of leaders.

Speaking on behalf of the students were Adam Markle and Anna Thompson.

“Leadership is the ability to influence and to organize people to achieve a goal. To be a leader is to make the hard decisions and to bear the outcome, whether positive or negative,” said Markle.

He said President Obama, Martin Luther King Jr., Senator Anne Cools, who he met earlier this year, and his mother, have a strong influence in his life.

“In my opinion, parents can be one of the most powerful influences in a child’s life. It’s because of my mother that I aspire to be a better person.”

Thompson said a good leader is someone who can take charge, inspire confidence in others and motivate those same people to take action.

“Leadership is in all aspects of life, academics, sports, politics or even in our relationship with our peers. Leaders are such key and vital parts of our life. For some, leadership comes naturally but leadership may also be acquired and improved by studying the qualities of great leaders, past and present, observing and imitating those who are successful.

Nadine Spencer, a director of LLI, said four years while working on the commemoration of Jamaica’s 50th anniversary of independence, the organizers talked about a legacy to support the initiatives.

“Something that would live on after the celebration had ended. Trevor Massey talked about a legacy for inspiring leaders – what would be the Lifelong Leadership Institute.”

She said the students will not be alone on their journey as the institute is providing a “circle of care” to make sure they have as much support as possible.

The Lifelong Leadership Institute is an educational organization that exists to inspire leadership, develop leaders, and dedicate its resources to advancing leadership competence and personal success among Canadian youth of Jamaican, Caribbean and Black heritage.
Dr. Avis Glaze, principal, Edu-quest International Inc. and former Ontario Education Commissioner, left, and Aliecia Taylor, consul of the Consulate General of Jamaica in Toronto at the launch of the Lifelong Leadership Institute at OISE, University of Toronto.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

'Black Boys' opens up on blackness, queerness and masculinity

‘Black Boys’ opens up on blackness, queerness and masculinity
By Neil Armstrong

One week ago, the play, “Black Boys,” presented by Saga Collectif and Buddies in Bad Times Theatre held a fundraiser for the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention (Black CAP) at the downtown Toronto theatre.

Created by Stephen Jackman-Torkoff, Tawiah Ben-Eben M’Carthy and Thomas Olajide with Virgilia Griffith (choreographer) and Jonathan Seinen (director), the play explores the experiences of three black gay men on issues of blackness, queerness and masculinity.

It is non-linear, multi-directional, with lots of movement and dance. “Black Boys” challenges the viewer in its narratives, monologues, and stage direction to viscerally experience the angst, challenges, and action to defy stereotypes and labels within and outside of the black gay community.

The Saga Collectif was formed in 2012 and “Black Boys” is its first production.

“We came together to create from an experiential place, digging deeply into the lives of three young men to confront issues of race, sexuality, and gender through a complex and compassionate exploration of Blackness and masculinity in raw and unapologetic terms. Using the safe space of the Black Boys project, we each bravely challenged ourselves to face the unknown to discover personal truths,” note the creators of the play in the program.

If you haven’t seen it yet, you have until Sunday, Dec. 11.

They have been creating this production for 4 years now and note that they do so – “In a climate of continued violence against the Black male body and in a culture where artists of colour are still severely underrepresented. Saga Collectif says, we are here and we are resilient.”

Drawing from their experiences they discuss differences in how they are defined: biracial, Canadian-born Black, a Ghana-born African who is labeled ‘black’ when he gets to Canada – the one-upmanship of these labels is striking in a scene in which a a quarrel develops about them.

There are Toronto-specific references: Black Lives Matter Toronto’s action at the Pride Parade,  the segregation of party-goers evident in club/bar spaces in the gay village – Crews & Tango, Woodys – the annual Blockorama which becomes the validation of the black body of one of Olajiide in predominantly white gay spaces at Pride.

In a post-show interview with the cast, Jackman-Torkoff expounds on his comment in the play that a “black queer renaissance” is happening.  

“I see that there’s all these people around the city who have been working separately and didn’t know each other. Now they’re starting to meet and realize that kind of strength can really, like, shoot us all into the stratosphere. I think this is kind of a meeting ground for people and I’m hoping it’s also an activation spot where people leave wanting to feel like they can do that. They can burst just like that; it’s all very experiential for me.”

In his monologue, Ben-Eben M’Carthy declares: “I am the change.”

He said when he moved to Canada from Ghana he felt like an outsider for a while and waited for things to change.

“I was always waiting for someone else to do something to me and I waited for a while and it wasn’t happening. So it was me taking ownership and going if I want something to change, if I want to be seen, if I want to be heard, I need to do something so that people realize that yes, this needs to happen. So when I say that I am the change, I am that new face. I am that thing that’s in the community.”

Olajide notes that, “this play to me is a celebration of the black body but also it’s a scrutiny of the black body.”

 “It’s also an exploration of the differences that we share within our blackness and that’s just as important to acknowledge as the commonalities if we’re going to really acknowledge we are the change. Because, if we’re going to move forward we have to understand where we are now, and where we’ve been, and the history that happened that really influenced where we are now.

“So, if we’re going to create change, we need to acknowledge that we have commonalities yes, we’re under the umbrella of black but within that umbrella of black are a myriad of different definitions. Within the queer umbrella there’s a myriad of different definitions that need to be acknowledged if we’re going to create change we want to see.

Ben-Eben M’Carthy said they spent 4 years together thinking in the same bowl, swimming in the same bowl, wearing their own goggles, so they had shared experiences, for example, they were all in Whitehorse, Yukon when the Orlando shooting happened.

“The three of us were together and that had an impact on us. There was also something special that the three of us were together when that happened, just there for each other.”

The three actors are not only the writers of the play but they are also producing it.

“A lot of these conversations that we had activated a lot of things within us and that’s how some of these conversations ended up in the show. It was important for us to have that conversation about Black Lives Matter because it spoke true of something that happened within the community that Tommy [Thomas] goes on to explain, I go on to talk how that affects us kind of outside of the incident, “ says Ben-Eben M’Carthy.

Shannon Ryan, executive director of Black CAP, equates the issues in the play to the work of the agency.

They talk about issues of anti-black racism, about how homophobia plays out specifically in black communities, about issues of HIV stigma, and helping black queer men and women, substance use – “all issues that were brought up in this play.”

“These are the stories that we need told to deepen our understanding of the resilience of our community, but also some of the vulnerabilities that our communities experience, again, in relation to those factors of homophobia, racism, mental health, substance use. All these factors are important to us because they really inform our approach to addressing HIV prevention in the broader community.”

He is happy that there is a community of people that is receptive to hearing these stories and “that there are such incredible artists in our community that are telling these stories as well.”

Left-right: Thomas Olajide, Stephen Jackman-Torkoff and Tawiah Ben-Eben M'Carthy, cast of the play, "Black Boys," presented by Saga Collectif and Buddies in Bad Times Theatre in Toronto.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Stanley G. Grizzle fondly remembered by friends

Stanley G. Grizzle fondly remembered by friends
By Neil Armstrong

The late Stanley G. Grizzle accomplished many things in his life -- including being the first African Canadian to be employed by the Ontario Ministry of Labour (in 1962) and the first African Canadian judge in the Court of Canadian Citizenship (appointed by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in 1978) – but it is his wit, charm, mischief and playfulness that some who knew him remember.

Grizzle, who was born in Toronto on November 18, 1918, died on November 12 at Toronto East General Hospital, just days before his 98th birthday.

His parents, Theodore C. Grizzle and Mary A. Sinclair Grizzle, had come, separately, to Toronto from Jamaica in 1911 and met and married here.

Grizzle, the oldest of seven children, attended King Edward School and then went on to Harbord Collegiate.

He worked for the CPR as a sleeping car porter for twenty years and was active in the organization of the union, Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, serving as president of the local chapter for 16 years.

His work in the labour and social justice movement included being a delegate to the Toronto Labour Council, 1955-61; a member of the Toronto Labour Committee for Human Rights, 1956-61; a founder of the Railway Porter’s Trade Union Council, 1958; and he was also an officer of the Ontario Labour Relations Board, 1961-78.

“Stan grew up to challenge the colour barrier that prevented Black Canadians from enjoying equal rights. At age 19 he co-founded the Young Men's Negro Association of Toronto. As a soldier in Europe, Stan challenged the then-common practice of using soldiers of colour as butlers for senior officers,” notes his obituary in the Toronto Star.

In 1942, he was conscripted into the military for World War II and spent time in Scotland, England, France, Holland, Belgium and Germany before returning to Canada and being discharged from the military in February 1946.

He took a two-week leave of absence to marry Kay in Hamilton, Ontario in September 1942.

“We crossed the English Channel to France on a ship thirty days after D-Day, June 6, 1944. I still hated every minute of being in the army and as therapy I took up jazz singing. Everywhere we went, I sang in jazz bands. It was therapy to me,” writes Grizzle in his memoir, in which he describes himself as a pacifist.

Track was also great therapy for him since he hated army life, said Grizzle, who would jog up and down the hills of Terrace, British Columbia, in preparation to being sent overseas during his conscription.

In Canada, his multiple interests resulted in him being an associate editor and columnist for Contrast, the groundbreaking Black community newspaper; he ran as a candidate for the provincial CCF Party in 1959 – the first Black Canadian to do so; was chairman of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Fund of Toronto, 1966; and became the first trade unionist to be appointed a judge in the citizenship court.

Grizzle was inducted into the Canadian Labour Hall of Fame in 1994 and is the recipient of the Order of Canada from Governor General Romeo Leblanc in 1995; the Order of Ontario from Lieutenant Governor Lincoln Alexander in 1990; and the Order of Distinction from the Government of Jamaica in 1978.

In 1998, he, working with editor, John Cooper, documented his life in the book, My Name’s Not George: The Story of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in Canada. Personal Reminiscences of Stanley G. Grizzle.

“Dad has had many firsts in this wonderful country of ours. While Rosa Parks was fighting for a seat on a bus in the southern USA in 1958, Dad was fighting for a seat in the Ontario Legislature under the banner of the CCF (now the NDP), the first person of colour to fight for a seat in any province! This was when I first realized that Dad was a fighter. He started fighting before I was born and the legacy he leaves has benefited people of all colours and religions and will continue to do so for my grandchildren and yours,” notes a posting from Stanley E. Grizzle, his son, on the day that the nonagenarian was laid to rest.

Itah Sadu, co-owner of A Different Booklist, says she will miss Grizzle because he was “our daily patron” who would walk by the store up until the age of 91.

He had a regular ritual to walk from his home nearby to the bookstore.

“He takes his walks and he’d look in the window, and he’d be looking for My Name’s Not George, knowing full well that it’s probably out of print. He wouldn’t see it and he’d walk in. He’d go to the shelf and he’ll probably find the one copy that we have in circulation because we anticipate this moment with him. And he’d pick it up and he’d put it in the window. And he goes, ‘Have a nice life, dear.’”

Sadu said Grizzle would walk up the street and she would have to take the book back out the window because if she sold it he wouldn’t have anything to put in the window.

“We had this ongoing wonderful relationship and morning banter with him and saw how particular he was about his health. I’m going to miss that engagement.”

She remembers, about ten years ago, having the honour of taking Grizzle and Don Carty to the museum in Collingwood to show them their place in history.

They -- Itah and Miguel – decided to do this on August 29, their wedding anniversary, alongside Carty’s wife, Doris.

Sadu said she did this, all the time not knowing that these are two men who never saw eye to eye.

She said one travelled with a valice, the other with a suitcase for the day trip, just in case they were asked to speak.

One wanted to listen to jazz; the other classical music on the journey but Sadu opted to resolve the matter, as the driver, by choosing funk.

She said it was a beautiful day; both men saw an old friend, saw themselves in history, had lunch, and on their way home they were very quiet, very thoughtful.

“And Stanley says, ‘I’ve done a lot of things in my life and the government has awarded me. I’ve got a lot of recognition. My family was never able to enjoy that recognition, and my wife.’ Nobody says a word. Then Don says, ‘All my brothers, we fought in the war…’ Nobody says a word.

“We get on the highway coming home, there is a little squabble about who gets dropped off first but here are these two men now just reflecting on their time in Canada, who they were, their names in history, what was that responsibility but in that important moment thinking of when you’re married to community, or when community gets married to you, and community is your family then what is the role of your family in that space.”

Reflecting on that day, she said: “When history calls you, it’s an incredible moment, and history called both those men.”

She describes Grizzle as the bookstore’s resident local historian and living history.

“I don’t ever recall him repeating the same things twice about his life, or the angle or the approach, and they would be the summation of the things he did. It struck me once when a high school group came from Calgary and he came to speak to them about the history of Bathurst Street and Toronto. And then he talked about being a jazz musician and playing jazz. I couldn’t recall him ever talking to or sharing that with the other students that came around. He would come a good couple of times a year, any time that groups came from Michigan, wherever in the world, we would call him up and say, hey Stan, would you want to come over and welcome them to the city?”

The avid storyteller said every time he came she learned something else about him.

She also said Grizzle had a mischievousness about him that endeared him to her daughter, Sojourner, and other young people who loved him.

“And, I shook his hand because his hand held the steering wheel of the car that drove Coretta Scott King to perform at Massey Hall,” Sadu quipped.

The wife of the civil rights leader performed as a soprano-narrator at her “Freedom” concert at Massey Hall in Toronto on May 14, 1966.

At the end of her performance, Grizzle, as chairman of the Martin Luther King Fund of Toronto, presented her with a cheque for $5,000.

Rita Cox and Pamela Appelt followed in Grizzle footsteps with appointments as Canadian Citizenship Court judges -- Appelt in 1987 (as the first African Canadian woman appointed to that post) serving until 1998, and Cox in 1995.

Cox said she didn’t know him well but followed him in the Court of Canadian Citizenship and although he was by this time retired, he returned to do ceremonies.

“And I knew just how much he was loved by all the staff at Citizenship and Immigration. When he came back there was great excitement in the office every time. He was much, much admired.”

The retired librarian said Grizzle was “one of the pioneers who fought for so many of our rights.”

“He was unceasing and he wasn’t wishy-washy about it. He was determined. He contributed a lot. He was a constant figure in our community for progress. He was greatly admired. He was a good role model for us,” she said.

Appelt said Grizzle autographed a copy of his book for her daughter, Melanie, in November 1997.

“Stan was one of the first individuals that reached out to me after my appointment was announced. We had a great relationship prior to my appointment. He did not mind taking the train to Oakville and visit with my husband, David, and our family. They both enjoyed drinking Appleton rum. He was also there for my family when David passed in 1992.”

Appelt said in 1997, Grizzle became a colleague, as he was reappointed as a part time judge at the St. Clair citizenship court where she worked.

“On a few occasions, I sat in on his court ceremony and there was no doubt that he fully engaged all new Canadians. He was able to welcome them to Canada in at least fifteen languages. The entire staff at the St. Clair court had such respect for Stan. He ensured that the staff knew that his name was pronounced ‘GRIZZEL’ and not ‘Grizzle’ so when the applicants came for their hearing they were told before entering his chambers the correct pronunciation of his name.”

She is thankful that Grizzle paved the way for her and so many others who came from other countries.

Rosemary Sadlier, immediate past president of the Ontario Black History Society (OBHS), describes him as a concerned son, husband and father.

“And, for most of us, was a cultural warrior who addressed his efforts as a sleeping car porter, a labour advocate, a community champion and later as a Citizenship Court judge, with determination and gusto,” she noted.

Sadlier said it was Grizzle who hosted the first ever Black History Month celebration in Toronto under the auspices of the Canadian Negro Womens' Association at the BME Church on Shaw Street in the 1950s before Black History Month was formalized with the efforts of the OBHS through the City of Toronto some years later.

She knew of Grizzle for most of her life but was not actually in personal touch with him until he was on the board of the OBHS.

“He was the type of person who was very meticulous and when he offered a motion or other contribution, he expected that each and every word he offered would be recorded.”

Sadlier said his efforts, with others, to seek out changes in immigration laws making it easier for people from the Caribbean, in particular, to enter Canada contribute the most to his legacy. 

Grizzle joined the Negro Citizenship Association (NCA) in 1952, which was organized by Donald Moore and Harry Gairey, Sr. and was involved in fighting Canada’s discriminatory immigration policy.

“On April 26, 1954, the NCA’s delegation traveled to Ottawa. This was the first time in history that African Canadians had undertaken such a mission – to challenge the policies of the federal government,” writes Grizzle in his book.

Bromley Armstrong, a member of the delegation, notes in his memoir, Bromley: Tireless Champion for Just Causes, written with Sheldon Taylor in 2000 that: “In supporting briefs, the contributions and statistical data of persons of African descent in Canada were outlined by Stanley and Norman Grizzle.

Explaining the genesis of the NCA in February 1951 in Don Moore’s house on Dundas Street, Gairey in his book, A Black Man’s Toronto 1914-1980: The Reminiscences of Harry Gairey, edited by Donna Hill, says the “chief aim was to try and break up this immigration problem, because I knew that it was discriminatory.”

“Working around Union Station like I did, I saw all of the immigrants coming in, but no Blacks, not a trickle. I saw a number of immigrants from the countries that we’d been fighting, Italy, Germany, all over, the Europeans were coming in, no Black,’ writes Gairey.

Sadlier said Grizzle’s contribution “means that we will be seeing the results of his actions for decades to come.”

“One of his little joking farewells was "Abyssinia" - an historic North African place reflecting one of the last independent countries in Africa while also being the 'sound' of a common expression - I'll be seeing you.  Perhaps it captures his way of dealing with fervent desire for affirmation, independence and recognition with a little humour thrown in,” she said.

Lorna Simms, a former editor of Contrast newspaper, said Grizzle had lived and achieved a lot and was involved in all kinds of civil rights issues, thus making Canada a better place.

“I was new to Canada when I was asked to be editor of Contrast newspaper, the first Black newspaper. Judge Grizzle, then retired, like many of the elders, every day walked to the office on Bathurst Street and told me about what used to happen in Canada...full history, piece by piece.”

Yolanda McClean, the president of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU)-Ontario, Canada, says the CBTU will be sponsoring a plaque in honour of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters at Roundhouse Park under Heritage Toronto’s coordination and support.

The ceremony will be in July 2017 at the park itself that is in the former Railway Lands in downtown Toronto.

“Stan Grizzle was a renowned labour and community leader and activist who fought for equality and social and economic justice in Canada fearlessly. He will be remembered proudly by the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, along with the labour movement, as a pivotal decision maker around workers' human rights, in particular, the rights of black workers and workers of colour.”

This would be a fitting tribute to Grizzle and other former sleeping car porters.

Grizzle spent much of his time organizing in that union and, in fact, Union Station, is where he started working with the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1940 at the age of 22, filling in when regular porters were on sick leave.

In 2007, the City of Toronto named Stanley G. Grizzle Park, in his honour, at Main and Danforth in Toronto and in 2010, the Black Business and Professional Association presented him with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual Harry Jerome Awards. It had presented him with one of those awards in 1987 for community service.

He was presented with a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal by the Ontario government in 2013.

Grizzle is survived by his children – Dr. Patricia Grizzle-Huling, Nerene Virgin, Pamela, Stanley Edwin, Sonya, Latanya and foster son, Ricky Hurst --14 grandchildren, and many great-grandchildren.

A celebration of his life and legacy will take place in February 2017.

Councillor Janet Davis of Ward 31 Beaches-East York, Stanley G. Grizzle and Mayor David Miller at the naming of Stanley G. Grizzle Park, across from Main Subway Station on November 1, 2007. Photo credit: Francine Buchner

Stanley G. Grizzle is flanked by his son, Stanley E. Grizzle and Mayor David Miller at the naming of a park in his honour across from Main Subway Station on November 1, 2007. One of his grandsons, left, enjoys the moment. Photo credit: Francine Buchner

Trade unionist and human rights leader and Canada's first Black Citizenship Court judge, Stanley G. Grizzle speaking about his life at the naming ceremony of a park unveiled in his name on Nov. 1, 2007. Photo credit: Francine Buchner

Selected List of African Canadian Non-Fiction


Africville: A spirit that lives on. Co-published by The Art Gallery of Mount Saint Vincent University, The Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia, The Africville Genealogy Society and The National Film Board, Atlantic Centre, 1989

Alexander, Lincoln M. with Herb Shoveller. “Go to School, You’re a Little Black Boy”: The Honourable Lincoln M. Alexander, a Memoir. Toronto: Dundurn Press, 2006

Armstrong, Bromley L. with Sheldon Taylor. Bromley Armstrong: Tireless Champion for Just Causes. Memoirs of Bromley L. Armstrong. Vitabu Publishing, 2000

Bailey Nurse, Donna. ed. Revival: An Anthology of Black Canadian Writing. Toronto: McClleland & Stewart, 2006

Black, Ayanna. ed. Fiery Spirits & Voices: Canadian Writers of African Descent. Harper Perennial Canada, 2000

Brand, Dionne. A Map to the Door of No Return: Notes to Belonging. Doubleday Canada, 2001

Brand, Dionne. ed. No Burden to Carry: Narratives of Black Working Women in Ontario 1920s to 1950s. Toronto: Women’s Press, 1991

Bristow, Peggy; Brand, Dionne; Carty, Linda; Cooper, Afua; Hamilton, Sylvia & Shadd, Adrienne. eds. ‘We’re Rooted Here and They Can’t Pull Us Up’: Essays in African Canadian Women’s History. University of Toronto Press, 1994

Callaghan, Barry. (Ed.) The Austin Clarke Reader. Toronto: Exile Editions, 1996

Clarke, Austin. ‘Membering. Toronto: Dundurn, 2015

Cooper, Afua. The Hanging of Angelique: The Untold Story of Canadian Slavery and the Burning of Old Montreal. HarperCollins, 2006

Davis, Andrea & James, Carl. (Eds.) Jamaica in the Canadian Experience: A Multiculturalizing Presence. Fernwood Publishing: Halifax & Winnipeg, 2012

Foster, Cecil. A Place Called Heaven: The Meaning of Being Black in Canada. HarperCollins, 1996

Flynn, Karen. Moving Beyond Borders: A History of Black Canadian and Caribbean Women in the Diaspora. University of Toronto Press, 2011

Glaze, Avis & Alexander, Ken. Towards Freedom: The African Canadian Experience. Umbrella Press: Toronto, 1996

Grizzle, Stanley G. (with John Cooper). My Name’s Not George: The Story of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in Canada. Personal Reminiscences of Stanley G. Grizzle. Toronto: Umbrella Press, 1998

Henry, Frances. The Caribbean Diaspora in Toronto: Learning to Live with Racism. University of Toronto Press. 1994

Henry, Natasha L. Talking About Freedom: Celebrating Emancipation Day in Canada. Dundurn: Toronto. 2012

Henry, Natasha L. Emancipation Day: Celebrating Freedom in Canada. Toronto: Natural Heritage Books, 2010

Hill, Donna. (Ed.) A Black Man’s Toronto 1914-1980: The Reminiscences of Harry Gairey. The Multicultural History Society of Ontario. 1981

Hill, Lawrence. Black Berry, Sweet Juice: On Being Black and White in Canada. Harper Flamingo Canada. 2000

Historica-Dominion Institute in partnership with TD Bank Group. Black History in Canada Education Guide. 2016

Hohn, Nadia. Music and Media Studies. Part of the Sankofa series. Rubicon Publishing, 2015

Humber, William. A Sporting Chance: Achievements of African Canadian Athletes. Natural Heritage Books: Toronto. 2004

Jamaican Canadian Association. Jamaican Canadians: A Commitment to Excellence. 1987

Jamaica 50 Celebration Inc. (Publication). Jamaicans in Canada: When Ackee Meets Codfish. 2012

Johnson, Lillie. My Dreams. Toronto Hakka Seniors Association. A Canada 150 series Publication. 2013

Lewis, Ray with John Cooper. Shadow Running: Ray Lewis – Canadian Railway Porter & Olympic Athlete. Toronto: Umbrella Press, 1999

Moore, Donald. Don Moore: an autobiography. Out of print but available  at the Rita Cox Black and Caribbean Heritage Collection, Toronto Public Library – Parkdale, York Woods and Toronto Reference Library. 1985

Nyasha Warner, Jody & Rudnicki, Richard. Viola Desmond Won’t Be Budged! Toronto: House of Anansi Press, 2010

Pachai, Bridglal. William Hall: Winner of the Victoria Cross. Four East Publications Ltd., 1995

Powell, Billroy. Settling in Canada: Jamaicans have a Story to Tell. Xlibris, 2014

Prince, Althea. Being Black: Essays by Althea Prince. Insomniac Press, 2001

Reyes, Cynthia. A Good Home: A Memoir. Toronto: BPS Books, 2013

Reyes, Cynthia. An Honest House: A Memoir, Continued. Toronto: BPS Books, 2016

Roy, Lynette. Three Caribbean Women in Canadian Politics: A biography for young people. University of Toronto Press, 2000

Sadlier, Rosemary. Black History: Africa, the Caribbean and the Americas. Emond Montgomery Publications, 2009

Sadlier, Rosemary & Wang, Qi-Jun (illustrator). The Kids Book of Black Canadian History. Kids Can Press, 2010

Sadu, Itah. Mathieu Da Costa: First to Arrive. A Different Booklist Publisher, 2009

Sankofa Black Heritage Collection series: A contemporary literacy resource for all students in Grades 4 to 8. Sankofa is designed to help promote understanding of the African Canadian narrative during Black History Month and throughout the school year. Rubicon Publishing, 2015

Shadd, Adrienne. The Journey from Tollgate to Parkway: African Canadians in Hamilton. Toronto: Natural Heritage Books, 2010

Shadd, Adrienne, Cooper, Afua & Smardz Frost, Karolyn. The Underground Railroad: Next Stop, Toronto! Toronto: Natural Heritage, 2002

Silvera, Makeda. Silenced: Caribbean Domestic Workers talk with Makeda Silvera. Toronto: Sister Vision Press, 1989

Slaney, Catherine. Family Secrets: Crossing the Colour Line. Toronto: Natural Heritage, 2003

Smardz Frost, Karolyn. I’ve Got a Home in Glory Land: A Lost Tale of The Underground Railroad. Toronto: Thomas Allen Publishers, 2007

Smardz Frost, Karolyn & Tucker Smith, Veta. eds. A Fluid Frontier: Slavery, Resistance and the Underground Railroad in the Detroit River Borderland. Wayne State University Press, 2016

Walcott, Rinaldo. Black Live Who? Insomniac Press, 2003

Walcott, Rinaldo. (Ed.) Rude: Contemporary Black Canada Cultural Criticism. Insomniac Press, 2000

Walker, Klive. Dubwise: reasoning from the reggae underground. Insomniac Press, 2005

Williams-Wong, Carol. Letters to My Grandmother: Memoirs of a Dragon Lady. Resources Supporting Family & Community Legacies Incorporated, 2014

Williams, Roy. The Jamaican Canadian Association (1962-2012): Portrait of a Community Organization (Warts and All). Author Solutions, 2012

Wiwa, Ken. In the Shadow of a Saint. Toronto: Knopf Canada, 2000

Lillie Johnson and Karen Flynn. Lillie Johnson's memoir, My Dream, was published in 2014.

Dionne Brand

Makeda Silvera, left, and Masani Montague, right.

Oliver Senior, left, and Ramabai Espinet, right.

Geraldine Moriba, left, and Afua Cooper, right.

The late Austin Clarke being interviewed at the Harboutfront Centre, Toronto for Caribbean Headline News, Rogers TV.