Monday, 17 February 2020

Toronto to Wrap its Iconic Sign to recognize Decade for People of African Descent


By Neil Armstrong 

Photo credit: Sophia Findlay      Mayor John Tory, City of Toronto


The City of Toronto will later this year wrap its iconic sign ‘Toronto’ in artwork featuring African fabric prints and symbols -- a representation of people of African descent -- as the beginning of a celebration and recognition of the UN Decade for People of African Descent. The design is by Toronto-based visual artist, Danilo McCallum.

“That wrap will be put on the sign and will remain there till 2021, the Year of Public Art, so it will stay there for the whole year so that every person who comes by will be reminded of symbols and of that achievement and that decade that we are celebrating the accomplishments of Black Canadians and people around the world of African descent,” announced Mayor John Tory at a Black History Month reception he hosted at City Hall in collaboration with Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson.

Mayor Tory said on the verge of introducing the Toronto Action Plan to Confront Anti-Black Racism he met with the senior staff from the Black community who work in the public service to discuss their career path. 

He said they told stories that he would not have thought of, “of the obstacles and of the extra mile and the mountains that they had to move in order to get to where they got in the city’s public service.”

“That completely motivated me to see the Anti-Black Action Plan through, to put the [Confronting Anti-Black Racism (CABR)] Unit in place,” he said, noting that they are a small but mighty team that has trained 4,000 public servants so far with many more to go. 

Tory said they have also trained hundreds of police officers and have gone out in the community to make sure that Torontonians know that the city can be a place of opportunity for everybody.

The mayor said he recently went to the Toronto Star to record a video in which he was asked what would Toronto be like in 2030. 

He was asked what was the one word that he would want to see describe Toronto in 2030 and he said “equitable.”

“I said because the biggest mountain that we have to climb, the biggest mountain we have to move is to make sure that people from every background, but including the historic and well rooted and loyal and dedicated and accomplished Black community here, are finding themselves in a situation, to a greater extent than they ever had before, where they can fulfill their own destiny.”

Councillor Thompson said he and the mayor recently joined the City’s Black Staff Network and the CABR Unit for the launch of Black History Month in the rotunda at City Hall.

“We recognize the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent,” he said, noting that he and the mayor have been thinking about what the City could do to celebrate the decade.

He charged everyone to think about what they would like to do or to see and to email the mayor, himself and other councillors to share some ideas with City Hall.

“As a city and as a community we must do more to, in fact, recognize this historic decade which is dealing with and attempting to address some of the issues around the challenges that people of African descent have had for a very long period of time.”

The deputy mayor said in a city of 2.8 million people and with the City of Toronto having 50,000 staff who mirror the city, City Hall wants to get a handle on the challenges of systemic racism and some of the other problems that they deal with on a daily basis in the broader society.

“We want to get our own house in order first because I think that’s important so we’ve set up this group to deal with some of the challenges that we also face here in this organization,” said Thompson about the CABR Unit.

Anthony Morgan, manager of the CABR Unit at the City of Toronto, noted that while it has taken the City many decades to get to this point and strides have been made they have not arrived yet.

He said there have been gains but when it comes to issues of employment, education, healthcare, housing, transit, policing and the justice system there continues to be consistent barriers.

[This story has been published in the North American Weekly Gleaner, February 13-19, 2020.]

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