By LENNOX FARRELL
Like stone pillars rooted in buttressing a culture of creative resistance, under the seasoning of time, they eventually totter and take the fall. One of these early cornerstones of Toronto’s Black and Caribbean community, Elmore Sylvanus Daisy, now takes his final rest.
Born Sunday, September 18, 1927, he died on Saturday, August 15, 2015, at 8:00 p.m., surrounded by family.
He is survived by his wife, Mary, his five children, Nadia, Andre, Vanessa, Anthony, Felicia and five grandchildren. He was the brother of Timothy (Tim), Clifford, Marguerite, Doreen, Millicent, and a surviving sibling, Maxwell (Maxie).
Here was his requested “A Prayer for the Journey”:
May the Lord support us all day long
Till the shades lengthen and the evening comes,
And the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over
And our work is done.
Then in His mercy may He give us a safe lodging,
And a holy rest, and peace at the last.
According to the spontaneous testimonies of many, Elmore was a man of character, kindness and courage. He had, and was, a gentle soul. And touched the lives of many.
However, many people in Toronto’s Black community, and elsewhere, might be unfamiliar with his name. But to all of Toronto, Ontario and Canada; in fact to millions in North America and elsewhere, the works of his hands are well known, and increasingly well received. He was one of those intrepid souls who in 1966 had received a request with regards to the upcoming Centennial, from the federal government of Canada.
It was an invitation to create for Toronto in 1967, something of beauty by which to commemorate Canada’s centenary. These men and women (see list below), having emigrated earlier to Toronto from English-speaking Caribbean countries and other places, set about, “out of their lean and low ability” to create a festival; one that has since outdistanced Montreal’s commemorative Expo 67 for longevity, creativity and productivity.
Their creation has put the City of Toronto on the map for diversity, and an ambience for culture. And, of course, the unmatched amount of revenues – some estimates being in the billions of dollars – earned since from its Carnival Arts culture.
The only one of its kind still surviving, vibrant and engaging, it is that ranking doyen of Canadian festival culture: Caribana, of which Elmore Daisy was not only a founding member, but was also one of its first Chairs.
One of many individuals who were professionals and semi-professionals, he was a native of St. Vincent & the Grenadines. It was the island abode and fortress of the indefatigable Black Carib chief, Chatoyer. Led by him, these Caribs had held off British expeditionary forces longer than was affected in any other West Indian island. St. Vincent has the distinction of being the last resisting territory in the Caribbean to surrender to European forces.
This occurred despite their temerity at forcing British forces that had defeated such military luminaries as Napoleon, to sign a peace treaty. Subsequently, the British, with the support of other Caribs, finally deported these Black Caribs into inhospitable regions as Honduras. Their descendants will soon be given the right of return, welcomed by the people and government of St. Vincent.
This is the timber from which Elmore Daisy was cut.
Not surprisingly then, that on one occasion when with the planning done, and with commitments already made, but without the funds to bring about a festival which for its several decades has always delivered taxable revenues above and beyond abundance to Toronto, Ontario, and Canada, that he, as chair, and without Mary, his dear wife’s fore-knowledge, arranged a loan from a bank in the amount of $25,000 – worth about $200,000 in 2015 – which was then used to assist in paying the costs of staging the 1968 festival.
In fact, this was only one of many other instances in which directors did as he had, signing bank loan guarantees to stage Caribana. On one occasion, and listed by Pat Sheppard in (http://www.caribana.ca/about.php), not only was there no funding provided for the festival from any level of government, but a breakaway group was funded ($20,000) to upstage Caribana…and failed. More of this in a later article.
Meanwhile, Elmore Daisy would have considered himself just one of several other people whose exemplary lives were to them, otherwise quite ordinary, even as they accomplished, almost inadvertently, extraordinary things. Some of the following details are gleaned from a YouTube video which can be viewed at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2bpxxJJLpaM.
From other sources, the list below includes some of the founders under first Chairman, Sam Cole, in 1966. The list – incomplete at present – also includes some of those who were members of the first board of directors in 1968. At this time, Elmore Daisy was the chair and Tony Ishmael, vice-chair. They are as follows:
Maurice Leroy Bygrave; Sam Cole (suggested the name, Caribana); H. Cohen, Exec. Sec.; Alvin Coombs, Civil Servant, Ontario (deceased); J. Dunn, Secretary; Cynthia Huggins, Exec. Sec; Julius Isaac, later Supreme Court Judge (deceased); Tony Ishmael, Vice-Chair; Eric Lindsay, Lawyer; Dr. J.A. Liverpool, Chair, Physician, (deceased); Dr. S.A. Liverpool, Dental Surgeon (deceased); George Lowe, Treasurer, Land Surveyor; Peter Marcelline, Town Planner; J. McKenzie; and Michael Martinez, Area Manager, BWIA, Toronto.
George Meikle, Financial Analyst; Frank Myers, Pres-house, Jamaica; Lynette Patterson, Public Health Nurse; Romain Pitt, Lawyer (later Judge); Charlie Roach, Sec., Lawyer (deceased); Hugh Robertson, Lawyer; Paul Shepherd, Life Underwriter (deceased); Sally Ward/Walcott, Accountant, Scotiabank; T. Taylor, Executive Secretary.
It is also unfathomable that this list – hopefully completed at a later date – isn’t better known in our community, and elsewhere in Canada. In their names, no plaque on City Hall, no streets or parks named after them, no stamp commissioned in their memory? The list of those passing grows, inexorably. What can we do as community and Canadians to ensure that inventive and far-sighted Canadians are acknowledged for their unique contributions in culture?
When that day comes, as our efforts will primarily make it occur, though our departed brother and mentor Elmore Sylvanus Daisy will not see it, we hope that those left will. Thus, to his widow, Mary, other family members and colleagues, if it will bring any relief, remember as you grieve his passing, that you do so because he passed (y)our way.
With all kind thoughts and best wishes: the Caribana family, our community, and others.