Friends, admirers roast, toast Otis Richmond

By RON FANFAIR

Unlike the last celebration when he was nattily attired in a full-length Muslim-style saffron outfit, Norman “Otis” Richmond was conservatively dressed last week for a community reception in his honour.

Raconteurs Sandra Whiting and Itah Sadu co-ordinated an event in March, 2005 to mark Richmond’s birthday, and they were back again, this time in a different role, with other prominent members of Toronto’s Black community to roast and pay tribute to the community radio personality and journalist who is recognized for his extensive knowledge of Black music and his activist views on Blacks in the Diaspora and issues affecting them.

“Otis keeps us aware of what is going on in the R & B world and he takes us old school when we need to hear about The Stylistics, Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers and The Dramatics,” said award-winning journalist and Canadian Boxing Hall of Fame inductee, Chuck “Spider” Jones. “If he was in Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit or any other major city where his type of journalism would be more appreciated, he would be at the top. I don’t think he has received his due and respect in Toronto.”

Good friend, the late Milton Blake, who along with Richmond, co-founded the Black Music Association Toronto chapter in 1984, was at the last celebration. He has since passed on and his son Ayinde stepped in to honour Richmond, who was the executive producer of DEC-TV on Rogers Cable in the 1990s.

“We are here to celebrate a man who is frank and fearless in expressing his opinions,” said Blake. “This he demonstrated not too long ago when he dared critiqued U.S. president Barack Obama in a not so favourable light…My father and Otis were not only good friends, but they shared a passion for the advancement of the community.”

Richmond began his radio career at Radio Varsity which is now CIUT-FM. He has also appeared on CHIN, CFNY and the CBC and has written for the mainstream and Black press, including Share, for the past 25 years.

City TV reporter Jojo Chintoh, who migrated to Canada from Ghana in 1969, recalled his first meeting with Richmond.

“I was an editor at the defunct Contrast newspaper and I was putting the paper together one evening when this Negro walked in to lecture me about Africa,” Chintoh recounted to lots of laughter and applause. “I listened because he knew what he was talking about. When I told him I was from Ghana, I had to listen to him talk about Kwame Nkrumah for about an hour…I eventually ended up learning more about Africa from him than from anybody else.”

Richmond said he admires Obama even though he supported outspoken and controversial Green Party candidate, Cynthia McKinney, in the last U.S. presidential elections.

“As a person, I think he’s charming, he’s handsome and he’s probably the smartest president America has ever had,” Richmond said. “But I just think he’s the captain of the Titanic. That’s not his fault, though.”

Though born in the United States, Richmond has connections to the Caribbean. His late wife’s father is former Bank of Jamaica governor and West Indies cricketer and administrator, Esmond Kentish, who is the oldest living Caribbean Test cricketer and the fourth oldest from any country. He is 92.

Educator and calypsonian, Henry Gomez (King Cosmos), was the master of ceremony at the event attended by, among others, Enid Lee, Clem Marshall, Dudley Laws, Clifton Joseph, Caldwell Taylor, Jose Garcia and Thando Hyman.

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