Next year marks two decades since artist Robert Small began producing Black History Month posters showcasing African-Canadians who have achieved excellence.
The Legacy poster, which will be officially launched on February 1 at the Tropicana Community Services Organization’s (TCSO) new building, features that organization’s long-standing executive director, Sharon Shelton; Halifax writer/storyteller, Shauntay Grant; G.98 FM president and chief executive officer, Fitzroy Gordon; choreographer/dancer, Tamla Matthews and filmmaker, Selwyn Jacob.
Migrating from Trinidad & Tobago in 1966 to pursue physical education studies at the University of Alberta, Jacob completed a Master’s in film studies and is a National Film Board of Canada producer and independent director.
Five years ago, he produced Mighty Jerome, a feature length documentary chronicling the rise, fall and redemption of Harry Jerome, who set seven world track records and helped to create Canada’s sports ministry before passing away in 1982 at age 42.
A 1984 University of Waterloo graduate and former Centennial College board of governors’ member, Shelton joined TCSO in 1988 and has been the executive director for the past 23 years.
A descendant of Black Loyalists, Jamaican Maroons and Black refugees, Grant – the holder of Bachelor’s degrees in music and journalism – is pursuing graduate studies at the University of British Columbia, while Matthews co-founded the Caribbean Dance Theatre and is a member of the Up From the Roots artists collective.
Gordon was instrumental in acquiring Toronto’s second Black radio station.
“The five people on this year’s poster represent the gamut of different professions and talents in the Black community,” said Small. “They epitomize excellence.”
Small graduated from the University of Windsor with a Sociology degree and Criminology certificate and was in his second year pursuing Law studies when he suffered serious injuries while walking on a street in downtown Toronto.
Unable to complete his studies, Small used the inspiration he received from watching Rev. Jesse Jackson address the National Democratic convention in Atlanta in 1988 to create posters featuring Black role models.
Faced with repaying his parents the money they loaned him to create some black and white prints, he used his creativity to produce his first Black History Month poster 20 years ago. The name was changed to the Black History Month Legacy poster in 2000.
The annual posters feature Black pioneers and trailblazers and other major contributors who are making a resounding impact in myriad fields on Canada’s landscape. School boards and community organizations purchase the historical tools to share the achievements with their students and young people.
The first poster in 1995 featured Underground Railroad conductor, Harriet Tubman; Canada’s first Black police officer, Peter Butler III; the country’s first Black lawyer, Delos Davis; actress and volunteer worker Kay Livingstone, who founded the National Congress of Black Women in 1973; Rev. Capt. William White, who was the only Black chaplain in the British Army during the first World War and Mary Ann Shadd, who was the first female newspaper editor and North America’s first Black female lawyer.
The posters can be purchased online at www.thelegacyposter.com. The price is $15. each.