By TOM GODFREY
The venerable Black Action Defense Committee (BADC) has been presented with a prestigious award for its long-standing work in trying to stop unwarranted police violence against young men in the Black community.
The police watchdog group was last week presented the Jackie Robinson Fortitude Award by Dewitt Lee III, executive director of the Toronto Advisory Board (TCAB), at a monthly First Fridays networking event.
“It feels great to be honoured by members of the community,” said BADC official, Kingsley Gilliam. “The work that we do and the shooting of Black youth by police continue today.”
He said the community’s relationship with the police has improved over the decades but the violence and uncalled for shootings of Black people have to be stopped.
“The community has ebbs and flows in our relationship with police,” Gilliam told Share. “The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) was formed to help but has become a body of the police.”
He and other activists like the members of Black Lives Matter accuse the SIU of being non-transparent, secretive and operated by police and for the benefit of the police.
The SIU was formed in 1990 following weekly protests by the BADC and other groups after the 1988 death of Lester Donaldson, who was shot in his rooming house by Toronto Police officers.
Lee said the BADC, which was founded almost 30 years ago by the late Dudley Laws, has been instrumental in the growth of the community and its relationship with Toronto Police. He said the Robinson Award honours people who have made positive contributions to the community and its residents.
“Its purpose is to recognize people from various industries who have given us true examples of fortitude in pursuit of achieving their dreams and purpose,” said Lee.
Over the years, members of the BADC have fought long and hard to stop the police victimization and harassment of young Black men.
Activists are also remembering other men shot and killed by police. One of them is Andrew Loku, a mentally challenged father of five from South Sudan, who was killed by police at a special needs home in June 2015.
Lee said his group joined First Fridays in 2014 and it has become a monthly networking event in the African Canadian and Caribbean community for entrepreneurs and young professionals.
“It (award) helps people pursue their dreams and ambitions,” he said. “BADC has been chosen as a recipient of the Award for their countless contributions for social justice in our community.”
There were also presentations by Farley Flex and Rod Brereton on their Just Think 1st Campaign; Louis March, founder of the Zero Gun Violence Movement and Segun Akinsanya, who talked about capacity building for youth.
Flex said his multi-media campaign generates awareness on gun violence and urges young people involved in guns to adopt challenges or options to turn their lives around.
“Just Think 1st will offer food for thought to a segment of society that has endured insurmountable hurt and in turn now manifests similar action on perceived threats,” Brereton added.
First Fridays is a community activity club whose purpose is to organize an event focused on building and improving upon awareness, networking and information sharing for youth in education, employment and the arts and other areas of interest.
First Fridays in Toronto was founded in 1994. It is one of over 30 First Fridays that occur on the first Friday of every month throughout North America in cities like Montreal, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., and New York, to name a few.
Laws cofounded the BADC along with Charles Roach, Sherona Hall and Lennox Farrell in 1988 after a number of Black men were shot and killed in confrontations with Toronto-area police.
Laws passed away in March 2011 at the age of 74. Roach died in October 2012 at the age of 79.