Saturday, 28 January 2017

New poster and booklet focus on STEAM

Artist Robert Small                                       Photo contributed
By Neil Armstrong

Artist Robert Small, who has been creating posters to celebrate Black History Month since 1995, has this year turned his focus on science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics (STEAM).

The theme of the Legacy poster matches that of an educational activity booklet for children highlighting these disciplines that he started in 2016 and continues this year.

The poster features veteran retired politician and civil rights activist Howard McCurdy in Science, tech pioneer Leesa Renee Hall in Technology, Somali-Canadian civil engineer Nasra Agil in Engineering, singer/songwriter Jully Black in the Arts, and Nova Scotian educator Kenneth Fells in Mathematics.

“I wanted to get people who have excelled directly in that field or use an aspect of that field in the work that they do,” says Small.

McCurdy, a former MP in Windsor and co-founder of the National Black Coalition of Canada, was educated at the University of Michigan in science.

He became the first tenured African Canadian faculty member in Canada when he became a microbiology and chemistry professor at the University of Windsor.

Small says he felt there was a void in the posters he had created and wanted to outreach and focus more than just on African Canadians and Caribbean people.

“Painting her wearing the hijab and everything, given the times that we’re in, is an important message to say that Muslims within our community are part of our community too,” says Small about Agil who is in her 20s, excelling in engineering, and has opened up the first Dollar Store in Somalia.

Black is a successful artist who has been in the music business for over 20 years and uses social media to promote her work.

Small included her to show young people that “even if you want to get into music you still have to be adept in a lot of different areas. You can’t just be a singer or you can’t just write. In order to be able to keep on promoting yourself you have to be knowledgeable about getting yourself out on social media and keeping yourself relevant.”

He says Hall is an author and technology pioneer in Canada who has written seven books related to social media and other areas.

Three years ago, Small went back to teachers’ college with the aim of wanting to create something that relates to what he is doing right now.

“It wasn’t really to go to there in order to start get a job as a teacher. So I thought of creating this booklet that focuses on science, technology, engineering, arts and math that ties in arts to those disciplines, and that it could be a useful resource for teachers and parents.”
The new edition has different activities that relate to the history of Blacks in Canada, such as one about Viola Desmond that challenges students to draw a $10 note featuring her. 

The late Desmond was a civil rights pioneer whose image the federal government recently announced will appear on the $10 note, starting in 2018 – the first Canadian woman to be on Canadian currency.

“I tell her story and the person has to image creating a $10 bill based on the story that they’ve read.”

There are also three pages related to financial literacy and educating youth about the stock market, word searches and math games.

This was created so they that get to understand how stocks go up and down, that the price fluctuates, and that they could start buying stocks from now.

“And that it doesn’t matter how much you put in right now, it’s really that you just do it consistently. And that I felt was a good message to be sending out to the Black community to get ourselves more financially aware,” says Small noting that his parents never talked to him about stocks.

Small says he decided to sell the booklets for $2, digitally and physically, because “a lot of people in our community don’t have access to technology as much as they need to so they can easily get lost in the shuffle.”

He created the booklet to provide practical exercises for those who might not have access to a computer so that they are not left out.


By Neil Armstrong

Ontario Black History Society will hold its 2017 Black History Month Kick-off Brunch, “Celebrating Canada 150,” on Sunday, Jan. 29, 12-5pm at Metro Toronto Convention Centre, 255 Front St. West, Toronto. This year's award recipients are: Andre De Grasse, Dwight Drummond, Lawrence Hill, Spider Jones and Bryan and Shannon Prince. Keynote speaker: Celina Caesar-Chavannes, MP & Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development.

The City of Markham & Markham’s African Caribbean Canadian Association present Black History Month on Jan. 31, 6-8pm at The Flato Markham Theatre, 171 Town Centre Blvd., Markham. Call 905-946-9998


From Feb. 2-26, Black Artist’s Network Dialogue (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.

Highlighting some of the many events:

#BlackLivesMatter: Feb. 1, 7-8pm at Toronto Reference Library. A candid discussion on the achievements of Toronto’s Black communities, the Black Lives Matter movement, and race relations in Canada. With journalist Desmond Cole, civil and human rights lawyer Anthony Morgan, Black Lives Matter representative Chrys Saget-Richard and Toronto Star’s Morgan Campbell.

Canada’s Poet Laureate, George Elliott Clarke pays homage to the late Austin Clarke. With Lillian Allen, Clifton Joseph, Adebe DeRango-Adem and Giovanna Riccio on Feb. 9, 7-8:30pm at Toronto Reference Library.

#BlackLivesMatter. Desmond Cole, Anthony Morgan and Chrys Saget-Richard in discussion at York Woods on Friday, Feb. 10, 10-11am

Among the many events are presentations by spoken word artist, Dwayne Morgan (at Palmerston, Wed., Feb. 8,1:30-2:30pm "Living a Life of Passion"; journalist/publicist Dalton Higgins (at Maria A. Shchuka, Tues., Feb. 21, 7-8pm); Beverley "Bev" Salmon, first Black female Toronto city councillor (at Downsview on Thurs. Feb. 16, 1-3pm, "Never Stop Fighting Systemic Discrimination"; National Film Board of Canada productions on former governor general Michaelle Jean and The Ninth Floor; and a presentation on Viola Desmond.

United Way Peel Region presents “Roots, Commitment and Legacies” the launch of Black History Month on Friday, Feb. 3, 9:00 a.m.-11:30 a.m. at Courtyard by Marriott Hotel, 90 Biscayne Crescent, Brampton. The event is chaired by Justice Donald McLeod. The panel will involve an in-depth examination of the state of affairs of the Black Community in Peel focused on a commitment to find tangible solutions and develop critical next steps in partnership. Tickets are $75.

1st Fridays Toronto presents its Black History Month Edition on Friday, Feb. 3, 6:30-11pm at Fuse Restaurant, 366 Queen St. East, Toronto. Admission: $20 ($10 for students with valid ID)

ROM Friday Night Live is back. On February 3.  #FNLROM: Afro Fête, presented by Ford Canada, celebrates Black History Month with a jam-packed night of vibrant music, food and activations. Featuring live entertainment, DJs and special performances in the Museum’s stunning galleries, #FNLROM has become one of Toronto’s favourite social destinations.

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.
Tiki Mercury-Clarke’s “Toronto Black Then” will be on Feb. 4, 7-8:30pm in Miss Lou’s Room.
The launch of B. Denham Jolly’s memoir, “In the Black: My Life,” will be held in Miss Lou’s Room on Feb. 11, 7-9pm
Trey Anthony, Itah Sadu, and many more artists will be presenters at KUUMBA.

African, Caribbean & Black Canadian HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. Start a conversation. Know your health options. End the stigma. A community event in support of the 3rd annual African, Caribbean and Black Canadian HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 12-3pm at Women's Health in Women's Hands Community Health Centre, 2 Carlton St., Suite 500, Toronto. Guest speaker: Roberta K. Timothy, PhD. Registration required. Call 416-593-7655

“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.

Historica Canada and TD Bank Group in celebration of Black History Month present “Black Canadian Trailblazers-Then and Now,” an evening to celebrate the contributions that Black Canadians in various fields have made to Canada. To recognize this milestone year of Canada’s sesquicentennial, the event will pay homage to trailblazers making a difference in our country today, and those who came before them. This will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 8, 6:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m. at The Royal Conservatory of Music, 273 Bloor Street West, Toronto.

Hosted by City News Anchor Tammie Sutherland, the night will feature a stellar line up of Black Canadians who ​will each share a story:
Wanda Robson - Author and sister to Viola Desmond
Measha Brueggergosman - Canadian Opera Singer
Dwayne Morgan – Spoken Word Artist & Motivational Speaker
Dr Afua Cooper – Author, Historian & Educator
Jojo Chintoh - Veteran TV Reporter
Anthony Morgan – Lawyer and Human Rights Advocate
Special performances by Akwaba Cultural Exchange - African drumming group, Jade's Hip-Hop Academy, and poet Nadine Williams.
For more information, please visit us at: 

Black History Month Social hosted by the Ontario Association of Black School Educators, Association of Educators of Black Students, African Heritage Educators Network and the Peel Association of African-Canadian Educators will be held on Thursday, Feb. 9, 6:30-9pm at Belleeny’s, 4000 Steeles Ave. West, Unit 14, Vaughan.

RASTAFEST in association with Frontline Books, Miquel Lorne Publishers & Masani Productions present a Black History Month celebration on Friday, Feb. 10, 7pm at Remix Lounge, 1305 Dundas St. West (at Rusholme Rd.) featuring Treson, Iauwata, Comfort & the City Soul Band, Cue, Ras Miquel Lorne, Ras Sekous Tafari and others. Includes the book launch of the revised edition of “Philosophy & Opinions of Marcus Garvey” written by Amy Jacques Garvey. Donation: $10 Call: 416-291-9977

dance Immersion presents U.K. dance company, ACE, with the Canadian premiere of TEN. Choreographed by José Agudo. Friday, February 10 - Saturday, February 11, 2017. Friday-Saturday at 8pm, Saturday matinee at 1pm at Harbourfront Centre's Fleck Dance Theatre, 207 Queens Quay West, Toronto
Tickets: $34 (Students/Seniors/CADA/arts workers $22-$29); Groups 10+: $15
Harbourfront Centre Box Office at 416-973-4000 OR
online at

Eddie and Quincy Bullen. “Father and Son, Dueling Pianos” celebrating Canada’s 150th. 2017 Black History Month presented by TD on Saturday, Feb. 11, 8pm at the Aga Khan Museum Auditorium, 77 Wynford Drive, Toronto. Tickets (reserved seating): $45/$50

BBPA and TD present “Black Roots Bear Fruits” – BBPA Official BHM Celebration – on Feb. 11, 6pm at Apple Creek Community Church, 700 Apple Creek Blvd., Markham. Call BBPA: 416-504-4097/Pauline Christian 416-605-4724

The Jamaican Canadian Association, under the distinguished patronage of the Jamaica’s Consul General at Toronto, Lloyd Wilks, presents “Boonoonoonos Brunch” The Crisis in Education, a Black History Month celebration on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2-6pm at the Jamaican Canadian Centre, 995 Arrow Rd., Toronto. The event will also recognize the achievements of Dr. Gervan Fearon, Mitzie Hunter, Staff Sgt. (Ret.) Ezra “Tony” Browne and David Mitchell. Admission: $50. Buffet Meal. Entertainment. Prizes and Surprises. Call 416-746-5772

Black History Month “Deeper-than-Religion” Community Teach-in, discussion and dinner at Ralph Thornton Community Centre, 765 Queen St. East, Toronto, 3rd Floor Activity Room on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2-6pm. Cost: pay if/what you want. RSVP for dinner:

culchahworks Arts Collective presents Djembe Playday on Sunday, Feb. 12, registration: 11:30 a.m-1:00 p.m., mass drumming workshop: 1:00 p.m.-2:00 p.m. at The Opera House, 735 Queen St. East, Toronto. Come learn the history, legacy, and proper playing technique for West Africa's most famous drum.

South Africa’s Ladysmith Black Mambazo performs at The Royal Conservatory of Music, Koerner Hall on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 8pm. 416-408-0208

The 5th annual Toronto Black Film Festival (TBFF) will be held Feb. 15-19.

Black Ontario Public Service Employees Network (BOPSers) presents a discussion, "Internalized Racism - how to recognize it?" on Thursday, Feb. 16, 5:00-7:30 p.m. at 900 Bay St., 2nd Floor, Kawartha Room. Facilitator: Cikiah Thomas, BOPSers founder. RSVP:

Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention presents its Black History Month 2017 event under the theme "Diversity is our Strength"on Thursday, Feb. 16, 5-8pm at 20 Victoria St., 4th Floor, Toronto. Call 416-977-9955,,

Black History Month Symposium - "The Evolving Meaning of Blackness in Canada. history. education. justice." Keynote presenters: Anthony Stewart, Kike Roach, Rinaldo Walcott and Barrington Walker on Friday, Feb. 17 and Saturday, Feb. 18 at Founders Assembly Hall (Room 152 Founders College), York University (Keele Campus). Register online and view the program at

Peel United Cultural Partners (Congress of Black Women – Brampton Chapter and the United Achievers’ Club) presents its 16th annual Black History Month Concert at Lester B. Pearson Theatre, Brampton Civic Centre, 150 Central Park Drive, Brampton on Saturday, Feb. 18, 5:00pm-8:30pm. Guest speaker: Farley Flex, motivational speaker, artist manager and music promoter. Tickets: $6, children 3 and under free. Call 905-789-1551/905-796-1916

Jamaica Ex-Soldiers Association presents its 12th annual Black History Month Celebration – “Celebrating our Men & Challenging the Myth of Black Fatherhood” – on Saturday, Feb. 18, expo 5pm-6pm, formal program at 6pm at Northwood Community Centre, 15 Clubhouse Court, Toronto. Call 647-234-7957/416-525-2346

TD presents “Tribute to the Legends of Reggae” paying tribute to Bob Marley, Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs and Culture on Tuesday, Feb. 21, doors open at 7pm, show time at 8pm at the Rose Theatre, 1 Theatre Lane, Brampton and on Saturday, Feb. 25, 8pm (doors open); show starts at 9pm at The Opera House, 735 Queen St. East, Toronto. Live performances by: Ken Boothe, Exco Levi and High Priest, Nana McLean, Chester Miller, Mr. Cooper, Hardcore Band. Music provided by DJ Joshua Luca.
Tickets: $25 advance, $30 at the door. VIP Tickets: $50 advance, $55 at the door
Info: Jones & Jones: 905-452-1911

BOPSers main celebratory event - "Can we afford to remain silent on Anti-Black Racism?" - will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 12:30-1:20 p.m. at St. Lawrence Lounge, 900 Bay St., MacDonald Block. Special guest: Steve Orsini, Secretary of the Cabinet. Keynote speaker: Desmond Cole, author and activist. RSVP: 

Anne-Marie Woods aka Amani has a new youth production, "The Three Friends," that takes a look at African Canadian history and race relations.
It explores the question – What would happen to friendship or relationships if they weren’t always acceptable? Written, directed and starring award-winning playwright and activist, Anne-Marie Woods aka Amani, alongside up-and-coming youth actors -- Antonio Parsons, Sheree Spencer and Kaia Richardson.

Synopsis: A BlackLivesMatter protest took place on the Jean Augustine University campus and three friends; one African Canadian, one African American and one of European descent have all ended up in a boardroom to deal with the feelings caused by the protest. As temperatures rise and the discussion heats up they soon learn that back, white, American or Canadian, we all have more in common than you might think. From the Transatlantic Slave Trade to the Civil Rights Movement to the present day political climate … history, fiction and fantasy will unite to tell the story of Black History In Canada in an exciting and unique way. “The Three Friends” was created because of a request by Ebenezer Inkumsah who officiates the Black History Month Events in Barrie, Ontario.  

A private showcase will take place on Feb. 24, and a public one at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts on Feb. 22 – both in Barrie, Ontario.  

Black Lives, Black Words at the 38th Rhubarb Festival at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre,, on Feb. 24 & 25, 10:00 p.m. in the chamber.
Local black playwrights write 10-minute plays responding to the theme "Do Black Lives Matter today?" The project that has explored the Black diaspora experience in Chicago, Minneapolis, and London, UK, get its first Toronto iteration, in partnership with Rhubarb, Obsidian Theatre Company, and the National Arts Centre.
The artists: project creator - Reginald Edmund. playwrights: Kanika Ambrose, Leelee Davis, Jordan Laffrenier, Tawiah M'Carthy & Motion.

2nd annual Black Diamond Ball presented by TD & ArtXperiential will be held on Feb. 25 at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto featuring: Divine Brown, Glenn Lewis, Michie Mee and Simone Denny. Host: Patricia Jaggernauth

BAIE 2017 Black Arts & Innovation Expo

Excelovate and First Book Canada have partnered with leading corporations, entrepreneurs, philanthropists, artist and innovators to deliver an event that promotes diversity and inspires excellence in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM).
Ontario Education Minister, Mitzie Hunter, at her swearing-in ceremony as a Member of Provincial Parliament at Queen's Park. She will be the recipient of an award at the Black History Month "Boonoonoonos Brunch" at the Jamaican Canadian Association on Feb. 12, 2017.

Farley Flex, left, will be the keynote speaker at the Peel United Cultural Partners Black History Month concert on Feb. 18 in Brampton, while Dwayne Morgan, right, will speak at Palmerston Library as part of its Black History Month event on Feb. 8, 1:30-2:30 pm and then at Historica Canada and TD Bank Group's "Black Canadian Trailblazers - Then and Now" at The Royal Conservatory of Music later that day, 6-9pm.
 This event defines a new way of celebrating Black History Month with focused attention placed on the remarkable achievements of tomorrow’s legends. Meet this outstanding group of new leaders and experience their valuable contributions to music, literature, visual arts, entrepreneurship and technology.
BAIE 2017 takes place on February 25, 2:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m. at the York Mills Gallery, 1885 Leslie St., Toronto.

Celebrating Excellence. Reverend John C. Holland Awards and Gala on Saturday, Feb. 25, doors open at 5:30p.m., dinner at 6:30p.m. at Grand Central Ballroom, Liuna Station, 360 James St. North, Hamilton. For more information, call Louise 905-865-1027/Marlene 905-921-9646

African Canadian Achievement Awards will be held on Saturday, Feb. 25, 7pm at the Jane Mallet Theatre, St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, 27 Front Street East, Toronto. Tickets: $45 adults, $25 for students 18 years and under. Call 905-668-8869

In celebration of Black History Month, the Faculty of Social Science and Humanities and Faculty of Education of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology present George Elliott Clarke, Canada’s Parliamentary Poet Laureate on Monday, Feb. 27, reception: 6-7pm, lecture: 7-9pm at Regent Theatre, 50 King St. East, Oshawa. RSVP and information:

"Empowering our Community: Politicizing our Struggles" -- African Heritage and Black History Month by the CBTU, OFL and CLC
Learn about the history of the Black Sleeping Car Porters, the double legacy of racism and sexism facing Black women in politics and the story of Viola Desmond and other brave anti-racist activists who refused to accept inequality. Three films will be screened recounting these struggles following by a discussion on the current struggles facing our community with the objective of developing strategies to makes our voices heard through political action. The films will be shown at the same time so choose the film that speaks to you.
Then add your voice in a community based discussion to help shape the political action work of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Ontario Federation of Labour and Canadian Labour Congress. By working in solidarity with Black and racialized workers across Canada we will continue the legacy of our ancestors to challenge anti-black racism in our times. 
Monday, Feb. 27, 6:00 p.m.-8:30 p.m. at United Steelworkers Hall, 25 Cecil St., Toronto. A free event.

culchahworks Arts Collective presents"Belafonte at 90" a tribute celebration on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 8pm at Fleck Dance Theatre, Harbourfront Centre. Culchaworks honours the artist, activist, and icon on his milestone birthday, with an electrifying presentaton of words, dance, theatre, images, and music. Written, directed and produced by Andrew Craig. Choreographed by Melissa Noventa. $55 tickets available through Harbourfront Centre Box Office, 416-973-4000, or


Jamaican seeks nomination for Ontario Tories in Brampton West

Jermaine Chambers                                                Photo contributed
By Neil Armstrong

A Jamaican banker hopes to be nominated the candidate of the Ontario Progressive Conservative (PC) Party for Brampton West, an area with a large concentration of Jamaicans.

Although the next provincial general election is not expected until June 7, 2018, the Tories are ensuring that their candidates are in place and Jermaine Chambers, 35, thinks he is ready for representational politics.

Chambers grew up in Troy, Trelawny with his mother, grandparents, sister, two brothers and a cousin.

He attended Knox College in Clarendon and graduated in 1998, then went on to do sixth form at Manchester High School in Mandeville, graduating in 2000.

His search for work took him to Montego Bay in 2001 where he didn’t know anyone but he decided to walk along the streets to familiarize himself with the businesses.

Standing in front of each, he wrote application letters and hand-delivered them with his resume for an entire day.

Three days later, Scotiabank invited him to an interview and made an offer which he couldn’t refuse.

Shortly after this, Northern Caribbean University opened a campus in the city so Chambers enrolled in its evening college to do a bachelor’s degree in management studies program.

“I was able to work and send myself to school which is one of my great achievements,” he says, noting that he graduated in 2006.

He worked in different positions in several branches of Scotiabank and immigrated to Canada in August 2010 to join his wife, Nickiesha. Their son, Josiah, is three years old.

Since living here, Chambers has worked with CIBC and has been a financial advisor with TD Canada Trust. From 2010 to 2015, he ran his own logistics business focused on helping people relocate from one part of the country to another.

As early as sixth form, he was involved in Generation 2000, the young professional arm of the Jamaica Labour Party, and became the vice president of its western chapter in 2003 while living in Montego Bay. He also served as the president of the Rotaract Club.

Chambers says he had been visiting Canada since 2007 when his father lived here and was always observant of the political process.

“ I realized from a community point of view that the Black community was not as involved in the political process. So, being someone who was so involved politically in Jamaica, I right away saw that there was a need for greater involvement from our community to be in politics.”

Before moving to Canada in 2010, he had already made up his mind that he would become involved.

Chambers says he did not run in the last municipal elections because he did not gain his citizenship yet and thus was not eligible to run.

He says with the election of Patrick Brown as the leader of the Ontario PC Party, he observed Brown’s ability to reach out to different ethnic groups and create a space for them within the party.

“The intervention sparked my interest, then I was able to have a conversation with him. He made it clear to me that there is room in the party for individuals from different ethnic groups, that he has also a personal desire to see a member of the Black Canadian community involved in the Ontario Conservative Party.”

Chambers says the opportunity in Brampton West presented itself, noting that, “this constituency has a great big Black Canadian population, is a very multicultural constituency as well.”

“Given my political background, given my involvement in various community organizations and civic organizations, and experience that I have, I believe that it would now prepare me to take on this role to be a representative here in Brampton West at the provincial level.”

He has helped former Brampton city councillor, Garnett Manning, with his campaign and has spoken to Toronto city councillor, Michael Thompson, and Ontario Minister of Children and Youth Services, Michael Coteau, with plans to reach out to others.

Chambers wants people to know that he is a grounded Christian who was born and raised in the Seventh-Day Adventist Church which guides his honesty and fairness.

Monday, 23 January 2017

UPDATE - Community members outraged by racial slur used by school trustee against black parent

By Neil Armstrong

An online petition calling for York Region District School Board trustee, Nancy Elgie, is gaining momentum with now over 2, 000 signatures.

The editorial board of the Toronto Star has also added its voice to the matter by calling on the trustee to resign over her racist comment in an editorial in the Jan. 25 issue of the paper.

Also in that issue is a commentary written by Nigel Barriffe, president of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations; Hilary Neubauer of the Stornoway Growth Society; Chase Lo, executive director of the Chinese Canadian National Council - Toronto Chapter; and Naeem Siddiqi of the group, YRDSB Kids.
"The Urban Alliance on Race Relations is extremely disappointed that Trustee Nancy Elgie has not taken it upon herself to resign from the Board.  

"Were Trustee Elgie  a student, Teacher, Principal or Board staff member, she would have been suspended for her actions. The UARR urges the Minister of Education Mitizie Hunter to order an immediate, independent investigation into racism at the York District School Board," says Barriffe in an email. 

Nigel Barriffe, president of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations
All four are urging the Ministry of Education to immediately investigate the "actions (or lack thereof) of board director, J. Parappally" and also want the ministry to examine how the board responds to issues of racism and discrimination.

At a public board meeting in November, Elgie, 82, a white school board trustee, called Charlene Grant, a black parent, a 'nigger' and recently apologized via email but will keep her job.

“As a community we need to be outraged,” said a friend in a direct message to me on the weekend.

I told her that I had read comments on Facebook and Twitter about it from racialized members of the community so they are speaking out against this. I also mentioned that the Vaughan African Canadian Association is taking action and has launched a human rights complaint regarding the York Region District School Board.

I noted that there are some Black/African/African Canadian organizations that I have not seen or heard anything from about the issue.

She noted that many from the community talk internally but “unfortunately we don’t have an institution to speak publicly and condemn it on behalf of the community.”

My friend is committed to sending emails because “the trustee needs to go.”

On Sunday morning, I woke up to an email from another friend with the subject line -- “We cannot allow this to go with action” – and a link to the Toronto Star’s story published on January 20.

The story in the Star indicated that Elgie had emailed an apology for the “horribly unacceptable statement.”

“As soon as my brain registered what I had said, I was overcome with shock and dismay. I felt heartsick and deeply ashamed to have said something so hurtful — even unintentionally — and so foreign to the values I have held throughout my entire life,” the newspaper reports Elgie as writing. She continued: “It also sickened me that I could have reinforced the systemic racism that so many have experienced in our society.”

Grant told the Star that she appreciates the apology but she is annoyed at the process which confirms that the board is still not open or transparent.

This is not enough for Grant and Education Minister, Mitzie Hunter, is already reviewing the board’s response about how it will address issues of racism and school board trustee spending.

Meanwhile, the board is facing two human rights complaints over racism. One comes from Grant who alleges that her son suffered discrimination at his school; the other is from the Vaughan African Canadian Association and the National Council of Canadian Muslims on behalf of several families.

[This is an edited and updated version of the original story posted on Jan. 23.]

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Memoir provides an insightful look at entrepreneur's struggle against systemic discrimination

By Neil Armstrong

B. Denham Jolly              Photo credit: Fitzroy Facey

B. Denham Jolly, award-wining businessman, publisher, broadcaster and civil rights activist, has sold his radio station and nursing home business, admitting that, “It was time for stepping back but not at all for stepping out.”

After almost sixty years as a clerk, technician, teacher, businessman, publisher and broadcaster, he has other interests, plans to travel with his life companion, Janice Williams, and has even written a memoir.

His memoir, “In the Black: My Life,” is published by ECW Press and will be launched in Miss Lou’s Room at the Harbourfront Centre on February 11 as part of the 2017 Kuumba Black History Month celebration.

During the last week of December, I interviewed Jolly at his home in Toronto and started by asking him about the opening chapter which relates an encounter he had with the police a few years ago.

He is 81 and the incident happened when he was 77 years old resulting in him formally complaining to the Toronto Police Service.

“I’ve always said this from the 70s when Buddy Evans was shot. It’s not even fair to ask the police to investigate his colleague and it’s a farce. They could be best of buddies. How do you expect…? Not even that division, not even that force should investigate their own, given the thin blue line.”

Jolly’s first job out of Cornwall College in Jamaica was working at the West Indian Sugar Company plantation, Frome, in Westmoreland – “the microcosm of colonialism,” he calls it.

He says the whole colonial system from day one was abhorrent to him because “there was definitely something wrong with it.”

His job at Frome was to weigh the farmers’ sugarcane that came in to sell to the company.

“Not long after I got there, there was an edict which said instead of 12 hours a day, now you got to work 16 hours a day. And my colleague got an increase in salary and I didn’t get any. So I asked the boss and he took umbrage with it.”

I asked him about how he became so conscious about the colonial system and whether it had anything to do with his parents or Garveyites he met in Toronto.

“I wasn’t brought up that way. My father [Benjamin Augustus Jolly] was a very proud man too. He used to challenge authority so I had all that in me when I came here and saw the overt racism that was handed out here.”

Jolly soon left Jamaica in the mid-1950s to pursue postsecondary education at the Ontario Agricultural College (now University of Guelph), Truro, Nova Scotia (what is now Dalhousie University) and in Montreal, Quebec.

It was while living in Toronto that he learned about Marcus Garvey from a Jamaican woman, Violet Williams (later Violet Blackman) who ran a rooming house where he lived. He also learned more about Garvey from the Black community leader, Harry Gairey, who was an ardent Garveyite.

To counter the rampant racism of the time, in an effort to purchase of a house for his family (his wife, Carol; daughter, Nicole; and twins on their way: Kevin and Michael) in the early 1970s he had to enlist the support of allies from the Jewish community.

I asked him if he would advise Black Canadians to use this strategy now.

 “I know what appeals to them and yes, use that strategy because as I’ve also told them I know you more than you know yourself, to the white people. Strategic-wise, I’m always ahead of you because you’ve always never had to think about it for your survival…you always have to think ahead and use precedence to succeed.”

As someone who studied in Ontario, Nova Scotia and Quebec and lived in Sault Ste. Marie and Toronto, he learned a lot about Canada and how to deal with systemic discrimination.

“With all these geographical movements and what not I always paid attention to people’s reactions. It is a strange country, you have to learn it so I picked up on and observed and digested. And I saw what went on and it was clear to me what was going on. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out there are different treatments for different people. Even I myself noticed that in certain circumstances I was treated differently so I paid attention to that and learn from it,” he says.

Even when he was teaching in Toronto he had to take umbrage with his department head and let him know that he is not going to put up with that.

“I don’t care if I’m the highest guy in this department or the lowest guy in this department, if you have something to say to me don’t say it in front of anybody else. Speak to me privately. I just let him know where I stand.

“And as they’re wont to do which is make comments about black people in front of white people, they make comments about Indians in front of me.”


This came from a sense of fairness, a sense of fearlessness and a sense of pride that “it might not be me but you, you wouldn’t hesitate to do it to me so, in essence, it’s holding down my own base speaking to injustice wherever it occurs. It doesn’t have to be done to me. I have to speak for the voiceless if I have the power to do it. They can’t fire me; they have to listen to me,” he says.

For example, when the policeman who killed Buddy Evans was exonerated in an inquest, he was asked for a comment and said it was “a judicial abortion.”

His bank manager called him the next day to ask him about his remarks.

“And I say yeah it is, so I wasn’t afraid even of him. But to think that my bank manager would be commenting on my comments about a trial I think is telling. They expect you to shut up and if you’re not in your place they want to put you in your place. Who are you to be commenting about our judicial system? Well guess what, I pay taxes and it applies to me. I have a right to make it and I’m a citizen. This is why the first chance I got I took out my citizenship papers so then I’m speaking on equal ground with everybody else. In my mind and legally, I was no longer an immigrant. I was a citizen now so that gives me the right to speak up against civic matters. They don’t like to hear the truth; nothing hurt likes the truth. And they don’t like when someone points out the truth to them. They can’t attack you on the validity of your objection so they want to attack you on anything else, like your race or whatever.”

Back to that encounter he had with the police a few years ago, at the time he was living here for over 60 years, at least 55 of which was as a citizen.

After formally complaining, he saw the police officer’s notes where he was referred to as “this 77-year-old Jamaican immigrant” which Jolly says is “code word to say we just talking about a black man here; don’t worry about him. That’s code, I know them.”

He says the police have a way of discrediting a person by their status and are quick to dismiss poor people and those who protest.

“I felt it behooves me, no matter how many businesses I own, to object because when the police takes liberty with you they don’t ask you where you work, or if you’re a doctor or lawyer or whatever -- they do it by the colour of your skin. And as long as I am black I have to let them know that I don’t like that. They’re not going to ask you where you’re from when they card you, they’re not going to ask you how much a year you make when they card you, they just do it because you’re black. That’s the reason they’re stopping you in the first place so I don’t see myself any differently because I live in a certain part of town or because I hire so many people. I don’t see myself any differently from the black guy that’s pumping gas when it comes to that matter, when it comes to treatment by the police.”

Regarding his applications for a license to operate a radio station, Jolly does not think that his background as a publisher of the groundbreaking Black community newspaper, “Contrast,” helped or hindered his effort.

He says the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) “was full of politics” in regard to its decisions.

“They would never give me a license if I hadn’t cut in some of the established broadcasters in on the action. They wouldn’t have given it to me so part of it is working with them to a certain extent, give them some of what they want to get what you want…politics.

“They didn’t want to provide a voice for black people; they didn’t want that. That wasn’t one of their priorities although it says so in the Act but to them they didn’t see it that way.”

He says the Chair of the Commission the very first time it ever happened wrote a dissenting opinion that, “’hey, you guys should have given it to him because it was the most deserving application and it should have been granted 10 years ago and even today.’ It’s something that’s needed but they just see it as suppression, they didn’t buy into inclusion.”

After 12 years, three applications, and busloads of money, the CRTC finally granted Jolly and his team of Milestone Communications a license in 2000.

He was surprised and very pleased that his daughter, Nicole, who has a degree from the London School of Economics, applied for a position at Flow 93.5.

At the time, she had a good job for a consulting company that had an account with Ford Motor Company and travelled around the world to research consumer satisfaction in countries such as India, Macau, Ireland, Germany, England, United States.


Reflecting on Black Lives Matter Toronto (BLMTO), Jolly says he is very pleased with their actions.

“I’m very happy but at the same time I’m disappointed that the more things change, the more they stay the same. I’m disappointed that they still have to and so I give them my unconditional support.”

A few months ago, he invited Sandy Hudson, a co-founder of the group, to his home to talk and offer encouragement.

“And again, as somebody who has gone through the ropes here, I wanted her to know that she had my support. Because you think back on the Dudley Lawses of the world, there were people in our community who objected to him. And they’re people in our community that object to Black Lives Matter and I wanted to let her know that, as what I think a substantial member of our community, that you have my 100% support, and in fact, here is a contribution.”

He told her: “Don’t let those among us who object influence you because you’re doing the right thing. They know why they’re objecting but it’s not a valid reason for you not to be forthright and do your work with vigour. I thought it was important for them to…when they were camping out at the police station I went over there to show them my support, to let them know that senior members of the community or well-intentioned support them. Because I’m sure they get a lot of flack from their own people for various reasons. And it’s important, especially in this case, where young people are coming out and young people of substance.

“I’m pleased that it’s this ilk that has come forward to say we’re well informed, we know what’s going on and we object to it. You can’t discredit us on being rabble-rousers or being rebels, we’re in your universities, and some of us have been through your universities so we’re authentic. And I agree with them 110%.”

These days, he’s preoccupied with trying to get his memoir published and is developing 200 acres of land in Jamaica for a hotel and resorts in the Negril area.

Jolly says he had help from Montreal writer, Peter McFarlane, Chair of the Writers’ Union of Canada, in putting the book together.

The writing process started with the help of his friend, veteran journalist and broadcaster, Fil Fraser, who eventually moved away from Ontario.

It then continued with historian Dr. Sheldon Taylor and was placed on ice for while before the writing continued with McFarlane.

Once a month, McFarlane would come to Toronto and they would sit down for hours and talk over a period of 18 months. He would clarify sections from the last session and they would go over things in the manuscript.

“I’m kinda pleased with it. I’m not sure if people have any interest in my life but..,” he laughs.

“In the Black: My Life” will be launched at Miss Lou’s Room, Harbourfront Centre on February 11, 7:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m. The cost of the book is $29.95 U.S./CDN.

I asked him about the significance of February 11 because his mother, Ina Euphemia Jolly, passed away on that date in 1990 – 27 years after her husband died in 1963 – and Nelson Mandela was released on that date, 27 years after imprisonment. The book launch will take place 27 years after his mother’s passing.

There is no particular significance to him in the choice of the date for the launch. In fact, it was storyteller and bookstore owner, Itah Sadu, who suggested the date.

“My mother passed away on the night that Mandela was released because we were in the village and at that time I guess there weren’t a lot of TVs so a lot of people came over to watch it. They said that -- I wasn’t there -- they said that she got up and touched the screen when he appeared and then the next morning she had passed. But she was for justice too, in fact she was a justice of peace in that area and tried cases in family court and believed in true justice.

“I was told that at the local courthouse a judge sentenced a young woman to jail and she got dressed and went down there and made an immediate appeal to the judge. And said, this woman has young children, you can’t send her away from her children at this stage. And I think he considered it. She was just that kind of person. She was the only one that would grant bail to people after midnight. The police knew that that was the only place they could go to get someone that was jailed to be released after midnight. She would get up and grant them bail so she was a just person. She believed in justice for all.”

The founding president of the Black Business and Professional Association looked after his mother, Ms. Ina, until her death.  She stayed in her house until she passed away and had housekeepers, nurses, and he brought her to Canada for surgeries.

“She was well looked after. I’m happy that I could do it,” he says.

“In the Black: My Life” is a well-written memoir with accessible language that sheds much light on Jolly’s journey but also documents the fight of many Black Canadians against anti-Black racism and systemic discrimination in this country.

It is well worth reading and should be shared with many others.

(Tiki Mercury-Clarke, who is mentioned in the book in a section about Contrast newspaper, as “the singer-songwriter-composer and cultural historian” will present “Toronto Black Then” – a ‘musical storytelling about growing up in Toronto Black-in-the-day’ on Feb. 4, 7:00 p.m.-8:30 p.m. at Kuumba in Miss Lou’s Room at the Harbourfront Centre.)