Jamaicans in T.O. celebrate independence

By RON FANFAIR

Businessman Wayne Isaacs was born 27 days after Jamaica secured its independence from Britain on August 6, 1962 and before the birth of the Jamaican Canadian Association (JCA) later that year.

Acknowledging that his mother, Iris Levene, was unable to take part in the historic independence celebrations in Jamaica because of her pregnancy, he wanted her to be part of last Saturday’s 47th annual JCA celebrations – he was the keynote speaker – to mark the dual milestones.

Much to his disappointment, his mother was unable to attend because of ill-health.

“I am sure she did not have a chance to party back then because she was about to give birth,” said Isaacs, the chief executive officer and chairman of Delta Uranium Inc. “That’s why it was my desire to show her a real independence day party tonight but, unfortunately, she was feeling a bit under the weather.”

Isaacs, who came to Canada in 1974 at age 11, attributed his success to his mother, who single-handedly raised three children.

“She made a bold sacrifice by leaving Jamaica with no money, no big connections, no big family name and no basic education to make sure that her children were empowered and have a good education,” he said. “She raised three boys all by herself all of whom are university graduates with their own careers.”

The University of Western Ontario graduate and 2009 Harry Jerome award recipient used his life experience to encourage young people to pursue their dreams.

The event’s theme was ‘Going for the Gold’.

“When we hear, ‘Going for the Gold’, the first thing that might come to most people’s minds is Usain Bolt and his athletic achievements,” said Isaacs, who served as president and director of Forsys Metal Group, which is a TSX-listed company  with uranium properties in Namibia, before joining Delta two years ago. “But I want the young people to know that it’s possible for everybody to get gold because it’s within them somewhere.

“If we think of going for the gold only in terms of athletic and artistic achievement, then we would have missed the opportunity of what the world has to offer…Let’s not forget about public service, politics, medicine and other areas in which you could make your mark.”

The announcement that 300 years of British colonial rule was about to end ignited considerable joy among nationals in Toronto. Disappointed that they were not at home to share the historic moment, a few Jamaican nationals living here organized an event to mark the occasion. Its success convinced human rights and labour activist Bromley Armstrong that there was a need for an association to bring Jamaicans together to plan social activities for their community. He pulled together some friends at the home of George King on College Street and the JCA soon emerged in September 1962.

“We continue to build on the legacy of our founders,” said JCA’s interim president Audrey Campbell. “When they got together that evening in September 1962, their vision was to create a social club where Jamaicans could gather to celebrate and promote their culture and heritage. Forty seven years later, we are proud that this organization is still here and going strong. We are also proud of our accomplishments.

“We also believe in the future growth of Jamaica, regardless of the obstacles and challenges that befall us. We may have physically left Jamaica to immigrate to foreign lands, but Jamaica is always in our hearts.”

Awards were presented to long-standing and committed JCA volunteers.

Raphael Walters and Gloria Nelson were recognized with awards for 25 Years of Service while sisters Daphne and Bernice Bailey were presented with Lifetime Achievement awards.

“It’s quite an honour to be recognized for the many years of service we have given to this organization,” said Daphne who came to Canada in 1960 via England and has served on many committees, including Membership, Women’s and Awards. She also helped start the annual fundraising walk-a-thon 27 years ago.

Kathleen Nelson and Charmaine Sewell were presented with the Community Service and President’s awards respectively.

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