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.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services responds to Open Letter about Carding

Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services responds to Open Letter
By Neil Armstrong

The Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services says Minister David Orazietti has been clear that the arbitrary collection of identifying information (also known as carding or street checks) by the police is unacceptable.

“ That is why our government is banning arbitrary street checks starting January 1, 2017. All police services across the province must comply with the ban,” says Yanni Dagonas, senior advisor and press secretary to the minister, who was responding to an Open Letter to the City of Toronto and Province of Ontario about carding from over 50 black intellectuals, writers and organizers sent out on November 21.
The letter notes that on November 17, the Toronto Police Services Board voted to continue the practice of carding in a revised form.

“The decision by the TPSB represents a significant impact on the rights of Black, Indigenous, and Brown people, as well as homeless people and other marginalized people in our Toronto community,” the letter said. [See the Open Letter further below.]

Dagonas said the provincial regulation is all about making sure that people's rights are being properly protected, “and that we strengthen the relationship between police officers and the communities they serve - a relationship built on trust and respect.”

“We have also made changes to the Code of Conduct under the Police Services Act to ensure compliance and accountability. Under these changes any violation of the rules on collecting identifying information would be considered misconduct, and an officer engaging in street checks may be subject to disciplinary action. Additionally, the Ontario Police College is working with every police service in the province to ensure officers are properly trained and ready to comply with the regulation when it comes into effect,” Dagonas said.

“To ensure that our rules are having the desired outcome, we will also appoint an Independent Reviewer who will complete a review of the regulation within two years. In addition, the ministry will also launch a multi-year study to ensure that bias is removed from police-public interactions and to understand the impact on community safety from collecting identifying information through police interactions with the public.”
On November 17, the Toronto Police Services Board revised its carding policy that still allows the police to access historical carding data. Many critics and community advocates want the old data to be deleted.
In a statement issued on the same day of the board’s meeting, Mayor John Tory said: “This policy is part of the important work Chief Saunders has been leading to modernize the Toronto Police Service and rebuild trust between our communities and our hardworking police officers. This change includes increased training to address bias, restricted access to and oversight of historical data, and the introduction of a ‘Know your Rights’ public awareness campaign.”
Tory said he advocated for the deletion of the historical data that has been compiled through the process of carding.
“The board, however, received compelling advice related to the legal and practical rationale against deletion, including legislative provisions and the data’s relevance to civil litigations and active Charter challenges. TPS officials also advanced operational considerations. I am satisfied that the resulting policy appropriately restricts access to this data and increases accountability and transparency around its use,” he said.
Councillor Chin Lee, one of two city councilors sitting on the board, was away and so could not respond to the open letter.
There was no response from the other councillor, Shelley Carroll, to the letter.


On November 17, 2016 the Toronto Police Services Board voted to continue the practice of Carding in a revised form. The decision by the TPSB represents a significant impact on the rights of Black, Indigenous, and Brown people, as well as homeless people and other marginalized people in our Toronto community.

In “Known to the Police” the Toronto Star’s ground-breaking analysis of street checks data, better known as carding, it was confirmed that the practice of carding in Toronto disproportionally impacts the lives of Black and Brown men in the City of Toronto. The Star’s analysis dramatically confirmed what Black people and Black activists had been maintaining for many years, that Toronto Police disproportionately target Black and Brown young people in their street checks. In these street checks the personal information of these young people is unconstitutionally and illegally gathered and stored in a database for unspecified use in the future.

Many people who have been carded have come forward to explain how the practice of carding robs them not only of their Charter Rights but of their dignity as well. There is growing evidence that the information gathered in the database has been used to deny persons access to resources and jobs for which they would have been otherwise qualified. The corrosive effects of carding, on the lives and rights of Black Canadians in particular, have been a clear signal of their marginalization in the City of Toronto.

The practice of carding is so egregious that the Province of Ontario in a recent set of consultations suggested that it be significantly reformed. We say reform is not enough. Carding not only violates Charter Rights of Black Canadians and others, but carding robs its targets of dignity, bodily integrity, freedom of movement and freedom of assembly, and, makes clear to them that they are not seen as necessary or instrumental parts of the City of Toronto. Carding, as a recent UN Special report confirmed, yet again, after a fact finding visit to a number of cities, has an impact on Black people in Canada that is deeply destructive to their lives.

We the undersigned call on both the Province of Ontario and the City of Toronto to immediately abolish carding, destroy all the data that is the fruit of these illegal detentions and issue an immediate directive to police officers that carding cannot be used in the Province nor the City as an “investigative tool”. We further demand that police officers should be clearly held to account for their behaviour when they violate the human rights of Black, Brown and Indigenous people through the surreptitious methods of carding.

We make these demands in light of the fact that the citizenship rights of Black Canadians are being violated and indeed made null and void each time a Black person is carded. The new regulations announced on November 17 on carding suggest that Black young people now and into the future will be targeted as collectively and generally suspect because of the colour of their skin. The new regulations confirm the intention of ongoing, sanctioned intrusion into the lives of Black citizens. If we say that young people are our future, then the clear message that carding and data collection and storage send to young people of African descent is that they have no future in this country. The new regulations signal open season on Black life. This is unacceptable in a multiracial and multicultural society. In fact, carding is an abhorrent practice that mars any claim of a just society in the Province of Ontario and the City of Toronto, let alone the country.


Rinaldo Walcott
Dionne Brand
David Chariandy
Olive Senior
Sylvia Hamilton
Pamela Mordecai
Angela Robertson
Carol Allain
Beverly Bain
Debbie Douglas
Richard Fung
Afua Cooper
Katherine McKittrick
Beverley Mullings
Pablo Idahosa
D. Alissa Trotz
Camille Orridge
Dionne Falconer
Andrea Davis
OmiSoore Dryden
Sandy Hudson
Kit Lang
Lali Mohamed
Audrey Dwyer
Christopher Smith
Ellie Ade Kur
Punam Khosla
Ronald Cummings
Ayende Constant
Abdi Osman
Crystal Mark
Rai Reece
Cassandra Lord
Ronald Cummings
Karina Vernon
Kamala Kempadoo
Melanie Newton
Malinda S Smith
Michele Johnson
Grace Adeniyi Ogunyankin
Tamari Kitossa
Camille Turner
Warren Chrichlow
Delores V Mullings
Carl James
Honor Ford Smith
Melanie Knight
Anthony Mohamed
Melanie Newton
Andrea Davis
Pablo Idahosa
Anti-Black Racism Network
Idil Abdillahi
 Marieme Lo

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Individuals recognized for their humanitarian work in Haiti

Individuals recognized for their humanitarian work in Haiti
By Neil Armstrong

Six individuals have been presented with awards for their humanitarian work in Haiti. 

The recipients -- Annik Chalifour of Journalist L’Express, Akwatu Khenti of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Maria Masucci and Mohini Basran of Hope For Haiti Initiatives, and Father Michael Corcione and Father Claudio Moser of St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church – were honoured at the sixth annual Pierspective Entraide Humanitaire gala held at the Toronto Don Valley Hotel and Suites on November 19.

Khenti, director of transformative global health at CAMH, was the principal investigator for the development of easy-to-follow, culturally adapted cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) interventions for working with individuals of Latin American origin, as well as those of African Caribbean origin (both English and French speaking).

The CBT intervention is now being tested with spiritual leaders in Haiti to see whether it can strengthen the system of informal care.

Chalifour received the award for her work in Haiti and for the many stories that she has published in L’Express newspaper.

Since the 2010 earthquake, she has visited Haiti with a group of Franco-Ontarian teachers and students from York University as part of an international development project.

In 2015, Chalifour, who is also a teacher at Collège Boréal, travelled to Haiti to interview several artists and activists to showcase a different image of the county and its potential.

Masucci, principal of St. Mark School with the Dufferin Peel Catholic School Board, and Basran, a retired teacher with the board, have worked in the bateys of the Dominican Republic and in Haiti for the past fourteen years.

Their work involves providing medical, nutritional and educational support to thousands of children and their families.

Corcione and Moser are involved in a program that started at St. Peter’s parish in Woodbridge over 12 years ago.

“We usually visit three bateys in July every year (las Pajas, La Cachena, Alejandro Bass) but we serve many, many others. We have an education program where students are given scholarships to attend university. We support three full time teachers in Las Pajas who teach children on a daily basis who wouldn’t normally go to school,” notes Father Corcione in the program.

He said their work with Haitians living in the Dominican Republic is ever growing and expanding.

Antoine Derose, president of the organization, said all six received awards for their work, commitment and contribution to the improvement of the condition of Haitians.

“It would be a constant reminder to me that the Haitian community is not alone in its struggle to achieve an improvement in the standard of living, and your presence today means that despite their struggle, Haiti and the Haitian diaspora have many, many, good friends,” he said.

The gala is the primary fundraising event held by Pierspective and all the proceeds go towards completing the St. Paul de Corail Cesselesse school in Corail, Haiti. 

Over 300 boys and girls presently attend the school and completion of the second floor will add another five classrooms which would enable more children to benefit from early childhood education.

Derose reminded the patrons that November 18 marked the anniversary of The Battle of Vertières in 1803, which resulted in the ultimate victory of the former enslaved Africans over the Napoleon Bonaparte-led French army.

Dr. Eric Pierre, immediate past president, said he admired the commitment of the award recipients towards Haiti.

“It’s not a short term commitment from these people who got awards, it is a long term commitment, long term courage because you will have critics, you will have people who question you and you have to be able to look at them in the eyes and say this is the goal of my life and I want to get into it and I want to see results,” he said.

Pierspective Entraide Humanitaire was founded in 2002 with the objective to alleviate the burden of challenges brought to the large majority of Haitians by numerous historical and socio-economic factors, notes Pierre, the founding president, in his message in the program.

The scheduled keynote speaker, Frantz Liautaud, Haitian Ambassador to Canada, could not attend but sent his message, which was read by Derose. 

 The entertainers included musician Dieufaite Charles, popularly known as “Jahfaa,” tenor Jeffrey Smith, accompanied by pianist Maria Markelova and dancers from the Rugcutterz Danz Artz School of Dance.  
Back row: left-right: Antoine Derose, Father Michael Corcione, Akwatu Khenti and Anna Chalifour. Front row: left-right: Mohini Basran, Father Claudio Moser, Maria Masucci, Dr. Eric Pierre and Dr. Joelle Fareau at the sixth annual Pierspective Entraide Humanitaire fundraising gala at Toronto Don Valley Hotel & Suites.

The emcees for the evening were Nikki Clarke (English) and Stephanie Louie (French).

Friday, 18 November 2016

Anti-Black racism campaign touches a nerve in Toronto

Anti-Black racism campaign touches a nerve in Toronto
By Neil Armstrong

Given all the recent incidents and reports of anti-black racism in the Greater Toronto Area, and indeed the province – from those involving school boards, verbal assault onboard public transit to signage promoting white privilege and more -- Debbie Douglas, executive director of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI) says they could not have planned the launch of a public education campaign about anti-black racism at a better time.

Launched on November 2, the public education campaign by the City of Toronto and OCASI to raise awareness about the persistence of anti-black racism has touched a nerve in the city.

Douglas says the feedback has been very mixed on social media and on Twitter it has been nasty.
However, she thinks that given the conversation currently around about anti-black racism this is an opportune time.

“Folks have gone as far as to create hashtags saying ‘anti-white racism,’ folks have taken the posters and changed them so that they have Barack Obama and some white police chief, saying ‘hire one.’ Others have accused us of race-baiting and that anti-black racism does not exist.”

Despite this, Douglas says there have been some thoughtful conversations in which people say, “yes, we understand that black people are discriminated against but so are other people of colour.”

“Those folks we engage. It’s like, yes, but this campaign is about anti-black racism and some, I think, legitimate questions – If this is about anti-racism why are you only juxtaposing black people with white people?”

She said they actually also had that conversation as they were creating the campaign and had some images of black and non-black but non-white folks and the message then became too easy to be dismissed by white majority folk, in terms of, oh, that’s just those people of colour beating up on each other.

And so they intentionally use white and black images as a way to starkly talk about anti-black racism.

“Not at all losing the fact that it’s not only white folks who are anti-black, but wanting to pay attention to issues of power and power relations, and white supremacy and those kinds of issues that a poster doesn’t tell you and hence the website,,” she says.

The campaign created by the full service marketing communications firm, Public Inc., centres around bus shelter posters with powerful visual images which address anti-black racism in employment and housing situations. 

The posters direct people to the campaign website which provides information and resources to encourage dialogue, and to question and challenge anti-black racism.

This is a continuation of the city's partnership with OCASI. Phase 1 of the Toronto for All campaign ran in the summer of 2016 and focused on anti-Islamophobia. The campaign successfully encouraged dialogue amongst residents and the media in Toronto, nationally and internationally.

“When we had the anti-Islamophobia campaign the pushback was similar but it wasn’t as personal. So for the first time on Twitter I was called the c-word, so it’s that kind of nasty,” said Douglas.

“We kind of talk about this theoretically all the time, that as black women there is a particular race-based sexism that we experience. It’s really interesting to be on the receiving end of this in just a really visceral way from who I can only assume are white men.”

Douglas said there was a pushback from white men to the anti-Islamophobia campaign that somehow they have become this persecuted group, even more so with the anti-black racism campaign.

“I’m receiving comments like ‘I’m tired of this white men bashing,’ ‘I’m tired of having to apologize for being a white man,’ and the one that made me smile is that ‘Black people are a privileged group in Canada.’”

Doulas said the City of Toronto and OCASI thought the moment was correct to do this campaign now.

She said OCASI did not want to lose the momentum that has been built up by the actions of Black Lives Matter and the way that they have put anti-black racism solidly on the public agenda and in the public’s imagination.

“I think for too long the whole narrative is Canada is a saviour of black folk while we continue to erase the experience of Black Canadians out of our national narratives has been telling. I think that for many of us watching the Trudeau government, who we know many of the Black community supported, strike his first Cabinet, talk about it being the most diverse Cabinet in the history and there wasn’t one black person in that Cabinet. And as well, that the fact that Black Lives Matter, here in Toronto especially, had forced a conversation with the Premier of Ontario and with the mayor of the city. 

“And so felt, let’s not lose this momentum, let’s talk about the everyday experiences that black people have. Because I think that even with the work that Black Lives Matter has been doing, folks began to say, yeah, we really should be looking at police practices that the Toronto Star did around carding and racial profiling, yes that happens but people don’t pay attention to the other ways that anti-black racism expresses itself in the daily lives of black folk. It’s our young people being questioned when they enter a store, whether or not it’s the way black women get followed around in high-end clothing stores, whether or not it’s the way our black African immigrants don’t get call back for interviews because of their last name, whether or not that’s folk who just a few months ago during the summer posted a rental sign that said ‘Black guys don’t bother call.’ 

“We tend to forget that it is these every day microaggressions that weigh down on us that we experience as black people and we don’t talk about it, and so unless the police shoots a black person – a black man or a black woman – or unless there’s a big hoopla about a research project that shows over-policing of our community, folks think that black people are doing all very fine and well because, after all, didn’t the United States elect a black president and so we live in this post-racial age. And after all, isn’t this Canada where enslaved Africans escaped to, without any sort of discussion around Canada’s own history of slavery, without any conversation that there has been a black presence in Canada for over three hundred years and we all didn’t arrive in the 1960s.”

Anthony Morgan, a social justice lawyer and advocate, noted that anti-black racism is at the root of the social and systemic disadvantages facing far too many Black Torontonians.

"This much-needed campaign reminds us that there is no progress without precision. It does so by showing us that multiculturalism, inclusion, equity and diversity can never be truly realized without naming and engaging anti-black racism head on.”

Douglas says these are the conversations that the campaign is trying to spark and some of those conversations have been happening, “even with folks who are the trolls and whose minds we will never change.”

“What it is doing, I think that because the campaign is on, because media has been talking about it, because there’s been lot of back and forth in social media, what happened on the St. Clair West streetcar on Monday night emboldened those two white women who stepped up and said to that white guy ‘not here.’ I think our campaign is credit to that, that folks are paying attention.”

This is in reference to a recent racist incident aboard a St. Clair streetcar in which two white women intervened when a white man was berating a person of colour.

"Racism might not show up as overtly as in previous decades, but it's still present and evident," said Councillor Michael Thompson (Ward 37 Scarborough Centre) at the launch. 

"Toronto's motto is Diversity Our Strength. The City, as government, has a duty to create a welcoming place for all Torontonians whether they are new or life-long residents, regardless of race, religion or culture, which will allow them to prosper," he said.

Racial profiling persists in many aspects of daily life for Black Torontonians.
Black youth continue to drop out from the educational system at higher rates than their white classmates. 

Black people are over represented among those living in poverty. And, the number of Black youth is alarmingly and disproportionately high in remand, youth detention facilities and jails.

Douglas says the aim of the campaign is not only to have non-black folk pay attention to the black experience but “for us as black people to have a conversation amongst ourselves. What does all this mean? How are we supporting each other and our communities, and the young people who are coming up, in terms of how do we begin to make those kinds of changes?”

“It’s about stopping it when you see it. It’s about speaking out and it’s about naming it, as black people,” she said.
Debbie Douglas, Executive Director, Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI)

OCASI is the umbrella organization for immigrant and refugee-serving agencies in Ontario.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Black masculinity explored in artistic creations

Black masculinity explored in artistic creations
By Neil Armstrong

A few weeks ago, I sent an email to some friends encouraging them to see the Barry Jenkins’ film, Moonlight, and the plays, “Secrets of a Black Boy” and “Black Boys.”

It seemed to me that over the past few months that has been a lot of focus through the arts on black men in the aforementioned productions and more.

In September, CaribbeanTales International Film Festival, in collaboration with Black Daddies Club and Black in Canada, presented #BlackLoveMatters, an international film contest for short films which address black masculinity and black love.

“Not enough films are created with fully developed, authentic portrayals of the diverse experiences of Black Love,” says the write-up in the festival program.

“This challenge was inspired in collaboration with the Black Daddies Club and was designed to provide a platform for narratives of Black Men, Black Love, and Black Masculinity, in all of their many forms,” it continued.

The theme of this year’s festival was: “Caribbean Love: Our Love. Our Life. Our Festival.”

At about the same time, the Barry Jenkins’ film, Moonlight, had its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival and the reviews were full of praise. In many ways, the film fulfills what #BlackLoveMatters seeks to do.

Moonlight is the tender, heartbreaking story of a young black man’s struggle to find himself, told across three defining chapters in his life as he experiences the ecstasy, pain and beauty of falling in love, while grappling with his own sexuality. 

Many who have seen it are impressed with the humanity with which Jenkins presents the story of this black man against a backdrop of living in Miami during the drug wars. 

Jenkins’ use of images, silence, the camera’s gentle approach, the multidimensional characters, the cinematography, and the black male as being vulnerable but having the capacity to love (even as a drug dealer who is kind to a little boy and teaches him confidence) are all things worthy of praise.

Moonlight opened in theatres in Toronto on October 28 and will run at the TIFF Bell Lightbox until January 2017.

On November 11 – Remembrance Day – I’m sitting in Theatre Passe Muraille with a couple friends at the opening night of the play, “Secrets of a Black Boy,” written by Darren Anthony and directed by Kimahli Powell. The play runs until November 20.

My two friends had seen the play when it was first staged ten years ago at the Harbourfront Centre and when it was remounted in 2009 at the Danforth Music Hall. I had only seen it ten years ago so I was looking forward to see how much it had changed from what I recalled.

This dramedy gives voice to five young black men from Toronto as they come together for one last domino game at their local community centre before its permanent closure.

The revitalization of their neighbourhood has displaced thousands of people and, in many ways, the camaraderie of these friends helps to buffer them against the turmoil of change and uncertainty in their community.

Through a series of compelling monologues and narratives, mixed with musical interludes, the play critically explores the underlying effects of common stereotypes faced by racialized men.

It delves into several controversial issues including police brutality and injustice, mental health, domestic abuse, infidelity, interracial dating, and sexuality.

The opening scene of Sheldon played by spoken word artist, Al St. Louis, as a regal figure and soon shackled and assaulted by authority figures – signifying the slavemasters’ treatment of their chattel (slaves), the colonizer and the colonized, or the police assault of black men  – seems the precursor of what unfolds thereafter.

All of these men seem confident and are steeped in machismo but through the narratives they tease out monologues giving an insight into each character and their vulnerability.

We meet a young man, Biscuit, played by Samson Brown, who is defined by his sexual prowess – they all are, in fact – a character whose brother dies as a result of gun violence, one with mental health issues, another dealing with parental abuse and becoming an abuser himself to his partner, the choice to date white women while denigrating black women, same-gender love, and the effects of the policing of black male bodies.

Sheldon seems to be the glue that holds this clique together. Indeed, he is the one who seems the be the seasoned voice of reason, one who although he encountered police brutality and injustice in full view of his young son still wants to become a police officer to protect the community.

It is Sheldon who declares that, “we are here,” followed by the others in chorus in answer to a voice, presumably that of a construction worker, asking if anyone was in the soon-to-be demolished community centre.

Biscuit is the young and impressionable man who all the older men take under their guidance, introducing him to soul music, something different from his regular listening pleasure.

Julien Hyacinthe as Sean defends the reason he dates interracially, and doubles as another character who eventually commits suicide as a result of dealing with mental health issues and being raised in a family afraid of the stigma associated with it.

Jerome, played by Mark Sparks, reveals his infidelity in his relationship and also later draws us into the issue of domestic violence, confronting the belief that, “love hurts.”

He had an abusive father, seeks to escape and protect himself and his sister, and later becomes an abusive partner to his girlfriend.

The issue of father love is an issue that bell hooks, African American cultural critic, feminist theorist, scholar and writer, explores in her book, “Salvation: Black People and Love.”

“Loving fathers do not abandon families. Hence if our entire culture taught all men the art of loving, we would not have the problem of absent fathers. Within white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, black males who embrace the values of these ideologies have enormous difficulty with the issue of self-love. Patriarchal thinking certainly does not encourage men to be self-loving. Instead it encourages them to believe that power is more important than love, particularly the power to dominate and control others.”

Though physically present, emotionally Jerome’s father was absent from the lives of his children.
Sheldon’s announcement that, “we are having a baby,” challenges the notion from one of his friends that because his [Sheldon’s] girlfriend had an earlier child for whom he is not the father he should be less caring of the family. This becomes a power counterpoint to the trauma of Jerome’s childhood and its consequence.

Sheldon’s love for his biological family and by extension, his wider family of friends is grounded in love and challenges negative stereotypes, some bought into by his friends.

hooks, in “We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity” notes that: “Negative stereotypes about the nature of black masculinity continue to overdetermine the identities black males are allowed to fashion for themselves.”

She continued that: “More than any other black male who has come to power in our nation, Malcolm X embodied black male refusal to allow his identity to be defined by a system of race, gender, and class domination. His was the example that young black folks in the sixties followed as we struggled to educate ourselves for critical consciousness. We studied Malcolm’s words, accepting that he gave us permission to liberate ourselves, to liberate the black male by any means necessary.”

The theme of love continues in the reason Jakes, played by Troy Crossfield, decides to delay attending his best friend’s wedding as bestman and opts to play dominoes instead.

Jakes’ protracted revelation comes in his declaration that he loves his best friend – an outing of his homosexuality -- which garners the understanding and support of his fellow black male friends.

The inclusion of soundscapes, the stage setting of moving boxes, and the seamless integration of DJ O-nonymous as Dwayne, spinning live music add to the authenticity of the place and the current issues impacting these lives.

In the director’s note, Powell notes in part that, “…Darren’s work is more urgent than ever, particularly in light of the many challenges we continue to experience in our society today. And so, we use the power of the theatre to continue speaking out and taking a stand in the face of injustice, bringing our narratives forward and letting our voices be heard.”

Anthony, in the playwright’s notes, says he wants, “Secrets of a Black Boy to spark uncomfortable, healthy dialogue that can inspire a conscious shift and contribute to making our society a better one for future generations.”

“Secrets is just that – a representation of the many facets of black men that extend beyond the headlines, and I wrote it because we are more than the one-dimensional stereotypes so often presented in the mainstream and pop culture,” he writes.

After each performance, there is a talkback session with the cast, playwright and director hosted by various figures in Toronto’s arts scene.

On November 15, there will be a town hall entitled, “Unpacking The Politics of Gender and Blackness in the Greater Toronto Area,” following the performance.

The play is produced by Playing With Crayons, co-directed by Anthony and Shaka Licorish.

“Secrets of a Black Boy” is definitely worth seeing because it opens a window into the lives of these black men grappling with challenges but at the end of it all allowing themselves to be vulnerable, to cry, and to heal with the support of community.

Visual artist, Oluseye, has an art exhibition and installation that complements “Secrets of a Black Boy” at Dais, 1196 Queen Street West, until November 18.

Informed by Yoruba mythology and geometry, he fuses human, mask, and sculptural elements to imbue his portraits with a physical-spiritual identity.


A day before “Secrets of a Black Boy” closes, another play about black masculinity, “Black Boys,” will open at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre on November 19.
The play, which runs until December 11, is described as “a raw, intimate, and timely exploration of queer male Blackness.”
“Black Boys” is created from the lives of three Black men seeking a deeper understanding of themselves, of each other, and how they encounter the world.
The performers are: Stephen Jackman-Torkoff, Tawiah Ben McCarthy and Thomas Olajide.


Up From The Roots presents the 18th annual When Brothers Speak Spoken Word Concert, created, curated and hosted by award-winning spoken word artist, Dwayne Morgan, on Saturday, November 26, 8 p.m. at St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, 27 Front Street East, Toronto.

All of these creations about black men and black masculinity had me thinking about organizations in Toronto that are supportive of black men and seek to disrupt the dominance of negative stereotypes.


A support group for black fathers to:
Develop a continuous support system for Black men and fathers to share their challenges and/or experiences.
Work with Black fathers and the community at large to address issues facing Black fathers, children and families.
Work with the media to provide alternate images of Black fathers, and assist in the creation of our own media that depicts Black fathers in a positive light.


More Than a Haircut program is a series of regularly facilitated conversations with African-Caribbean fathers, held in neighbourhood barbershops.
This unique outreach and educational program is a partnership between the Macaulay Child Development Centre and leaders in the African-Canadian community.


Addresses the cycles of disengagement, lack of resources and lack of visible role models for young racialized fathers in Toronto’s priority neighbourhoods, with a specific focus on African Canadians.
The initiative will strengthen the capacity of individuals, families and the community at large to provide direct support to young fathers and their children. 


A brotherhood of men connected through African ancestry; committed to authenticating each other to pursue, discover, and fulfill our greatest potential.


Black Queer Youth is a weekly drop-in group where we celebrate Black queer and trans spectrum people’s trials and accomplishments.

This is a program for Black, Multicultural, African/Caribbean youth 29 and under who identify across the queer and trans spectrum or who are questioning their gender and/or sexuality.

MANY MEN, MANY VOICES (3MV) – Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention (

Black CAP strives to find innovative ways to educate and empower members of the diverse community it serves. Particularly at risk for HIV infection within Toronto’s Black community are young GBT men, many of whom are marginalized by issues such as homophobia, anti-Black racism, immigration, HIV-related stigma and discrimination, and poverty. 3MV was adapted by Black CAP specifically to address this community.