Monday, 20 November 2017

Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (Canadian Chapter) Celebrates its 21st Anniversary

By Neil Armstrong
Photo credit: Eddie Grant. From left: me (Neil Armstrong), Ron Fanfair and Michael Van Cooten -- recipients of the 2017 Jack White Community Service Award.

Photo credit: Eddie Grant. Megan Whitfield and Mark Brown of the CBTU presenting the award.

Photo credit: Eddie Grant. A closeup of the Jack White Service Award which was presented to me on Saturday night.

Having fun at the masquerade ball with Akhaji Zakiya, left, and Camille Begin of Heritage Toronto who later unveiled the plaque in memory of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.  Photo credit: Eddie Grant

The Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU), Canadian Chapter celebrated its 21st annual awards dinner, dance and fundraiser with a masquerade ball under the theme “Our Journey Continues.”

The event, which was held at Le Parc Banquet Hall in Thornhill, Ontario on November 18, was also the occasion for the unveiling of a plaque by Heritage Toronto in memory of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.

This will be installed at the Roundhouse Park, near Union Station in Toronto, soon.

The other Heritage Toronto Award will honour the late Stanley G. Grizzle who worked for twenty years as a sleeping car porter on the Canadian Pacific Railway.

It will be mounted at the Stanley G. Grizzle Park across from Main subway station in 2018.

The date of the CBTU anniversary event also marked the 99th birthday of Grizzle who died on November 12, 2016.

On August 22, 2007, Brenda Librecz, general manager of the city’s parks, forestry and recreation department recommended that the Main Street Parkette be renamed in honour of Grizzle.

“Stanley G. Grizzle was an influential black leader within the Canadian labour movement and a Human Rights activist. He was born in Toronto on November 18, 1918 to parents who emigrated in 1911 from Jamaica. Stanley G. Grizzle resided
for 20 years at 231 Chisholm Avenue, one block from the Main Street Parkette,” notes a report to the Toronto and East York Community Council from Librecz.

In 1998, Umbrella Press published “My Name’s Not George: The Story of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in Canada” written by Grizzle with John Cooper.

Earlier this year at the 5th annual Underground Freedom Train Ride on July 31, Yolanda McClean, president of the CBTU, gave a sneak preview of the plaque in memory of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters which was unveiled at the 21s anniversary event. 

At one time in Canada’s history, the only job that was available to black men was that of a sleeping car porter.

“On May 18, 1945, the Brother of Sleeping Car Porters became the first Black union in Canada to sign an agreement with a white employer, the CPR. Among other benefits, porters’ starting salaries increased, they received pay for dead-time on the road, and due process. They could also be promoted and in 1955 George Garraway, Roy Hall, and William Lowe became the firs Black conductors in North America.

“The BCSP’s organizing efforts and civil rights advocacy left a powerful legacy that impacted Canadian human rights policy and labour relations,” notes a flyer from the CBTU.

There were also scholarships presented, and four journalists were honoured for their work with the 2017 Jack White Community Service Award. The four were: Ron Fanfair of Share newspaper, Michael Van Cooten of Pride News Magazine, Lorraine Endicott of Our Times, Canada’s independent labour magazine, and me (How does one write about one’s self on their own blog? My colleague, Eddie Grant, will have the full story on the event and the recipients in the North American Weekly Gleaner.).

Jack White was a Canadian Labour Union activist. A native of Truro, Nova Scotia, he was the first elected black representative of the Iron Workers and one of the first CUPE National staff representative from a minority background. He was one of the first black Canadians to run for election to the legislative assembly of Ontario as an NDP candidate in the 1963 election.

The Jack White Community Service Award is given to those individuals or organizations that have focused their efforts on the betterment of the community.

“Your dedication to reporting and covering issues that are significant to the Black Community has not gone unnoticed or unappreciated by CBTU Ontario Canada Chapter. Thank you for all that you have done and all that you continue to do for our community,” notes the letter sent to recipients of the award.

The Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (Ontario), Canada is an affiliated chapter of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (International). 

 The Ontario Chapter consists of members from international and national unions residing predominately in Ontario, but also in Quebec and across the country.

In its mission, the CBTU (Ontario), Canada “seeks to fulfill the dream of Black trade unionists, both living and deceased, who throughout our labour history in Canada have courageously and unremittingly struggled to build a national movement that brings our collective strength and varied talents to bear in an unending effort to achieve economic, political and social justice for all.”

In 2018, the CBTU will hold its Hub Club Camp for children ages 9-12, 13-17, and young adults 18+, from July 9-13, Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m. The CBU 4th annual golf tournament will be held on August 14 at the Richmond Hill Golf Club at 8755 Bathurst Street in Richmond Hill, Ontario.

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