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.