By Neil Armstrong
The City of Toronto has named a new street after a Jamaican who has contributed tremendously to the city through his business acumen, social justice activism and philanthropy.
On November 1, Mayor John Tory, Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson and many members of Toronto’s Black community gathered in a Scarborough in a new subdivision near Ellesmere and Kennedy roads for the street name unveiling ceremony honouring B. Denham Jolly, who has lived in the city for 65 years.
Thompson said “Jolly Way” recognizes the great contribution that Jolly, 84, has made to Toronto, noting that, “he was an environmentalist before we started to talk about the word.”
Jolly worked at Metropolitan Toronto testing air pollution “well before we started to make it a topic of the day,” said Thompson who described the Jamaican as an icon and institution in the city and one who has earned those descriptors because of the things that he has done.
Thompson noted that after graduation from McGill University in Montreal, Jolly went back to Jamaica and then came to Toronto where he was a science teacher.
Jolly is a pioneering broadcaster, entrepreneur, publisher and author of “In the Black: My Life,” his memoir which won the Toronto Book Award in 2017.
“Today we want to demonstrate to many that our leaders have been very influential in making a difference in this city, and they will live on with the growth and the history of this city for eternity. Denham Jolly is one such person because of all the things that he has done to make our city a great place,” said Thompson.
Speaking of Jolly’s efforts to get a Black-owned radio station in Toronto, the deputy mayor said it didn’t seem possible and after it occurred so many people benefitted, including Drake.
He said in 2001 when the station was launched Drake had not yet become famous but his music was being played by FLOW 93.5 owned by Jolly’s company, Milestone Communications.
“Denham’s effort through his board membership with the YMCA and others that he has been involved has made such great contribution to so many people who didn’t realize that his intellect and his foresight and his decision that he made to help so many has fostered such a tremendous network and fabric of not only goodwill but great contribution that made us all better.”
Regarding Jolly’s activism, Thompson said although he has been successful in his endeavours he never left the community which could always call upon him for a contribution or advice.
He said Jolly’s memoir “teaches us so much about who we are and about the man that he is.”
Adaoma Patterson, president of the Jamaican Canadian Association, said Jolly has a long history with the organization which celebrated its 57th anniversary in August. He has was a past board member as executive secretary and always “stepped up and supported the JCA during good times and bad.”
“For those of us who are second-generation Jamaican Canadians, it is important. You are such an important role model for us and it is important that we never forget, and never ever forget the contributions that you have made to making Toronto, Ontario and Canada a better place,” said Patterson about Jolly.
|Adaoma Patterson, president of the Jamaican Canadian Association, speaking at the street name unveiling ceremony of 'Jolly Way' in Toronto|
Thompson said the event was made possible with the partnership of Mattamy Homes, Canada’s largest residential homebuilder, which was represented at the ceremony by Andrew Sjogren, vice president of land development.
Mayor Tory said Jolly stuck to his involvement in the Black community where he was a leader but in the broader community as well where he was involved in the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), the YMCA, or a host of other organizations.
“But most of all, I would just say that he stuck to his commitment to social justice and to making sure that the community of which he was such a proud part and the entire community continue to advance. And he often did that quietly, his philanthropy was done very quietly but I don’t think people know how much he has done, whether it’s for the JCA or for other community organizations.”
Jolly founded the Black Business and Professional Association and provided a voice for the Black community as publisher and financial backer for the weekly newspaper, Contrast. He also owned and operated Tyndall Nursing Homes.
“Thank you for using me as a channel to bestow this tremendous honour not only on me but the community and the work the community has done and the contributions it has made over time. In fact, Blacks have fought in every Canadian war from 1812 to Afghanistan. We’ve had people make contributions, like the Dudley Laws and the Charles Roaches of this society in their fight for social justice, to Thornton and Lucie Blackburn, runaway slaves who became good friends of the George Brown who started the Globe and Mail. The Blackburns laid the foundation for establishing the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC). In fact, they started by using their colours,” said Jolly in his remarks.
He also referenced William Peyton Hubbard who was deputy mayor of Toronto from 1898 to 1903 who led efforts to create Toronto Hydro. A park was named in Hubbard’s honour in 2016.
|Elias Jolly Klym, Nicole Jolly and B. Denham Jolly|
“I’m so pleased that after 65 years in this city, Toronto, I seem to be entering a new, more intimate phase of our long relationship. Even when I was a student at McGill University, Toronto was still my home,” said Jolly noting that he has fond memories of working in Toronto in the 1950s.
“Yes, Toronto, I love you – my city above all others. My home city -- where I actively participated in all aspects of life as a citizen and for social justice with all my being. My city -- where I’ve made an exceptional living and enjoyed life, and daresay, contributed positively and paid my dues. Thank you Toronto. Thank you very much. I love you,” said Jolly.
In August, Jolly paid off the over $300,000 mortgage of the Jamaican Canadian Association and he continues his work as a philanthropist and community activist by sponsoring a boys under 12 soccer team at Regent Park in Toronto. He also operates a breakfast program for needy students at Cornwall College, his alma mater in Montego Bay.
|Mayor John Tory, B. Denham Jolly and Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson at the podium|
|Jean Augustine and Floydeen Charles-Fridal|
|Unveiling of 'Jolly Way'|
[This story was published in the North American Weekly Gleaner, November 14-20, 2019.]