Community advocate and retired City of Toronto administrator Ken Jeffers has replaced Dr. Alok Mukherjee on the Toronto Police Services Board.
Starting as a director at O’Connor Community Centre in the then City of North York in 1975, Jeffers retired in 2012.
The former access & diversity manager ran unsuccessfully for the Liberals in Scarborough-Rouge River in last year’s municipal elections.
Trinidad & Tobago-born Jeffers, a founding member of the African Canadian Legal Clinic, said he’s prepared for the new challenge.
“I feel we have not had the kind of representation for things that affect our community adversely,” he said. “I understand the culture of the police reasonably well and feel I have a contribution to make. The perspective I will bring to the board is one that has not been consistent over the years in the sense that I have marched with the community and have been vocal on issues that affect marginalized people.”
He will attend his first meeting as a board member on October 19.
Inspired by his late aunt, Audrey Jeffers, a Pan-Africanist and the first female member of the Trinidad & Tobago legislature, Jeffers became immersed in activism when he enrolled in South Carolina State University in 1967 on a track and field scholarship.
He joined the university’s militant Black Awareness Co-ordinating Committee that organized a successful boycott of classes to protest reactionary campus rules and the dismissal of progressive White teachers.
On the night of February 8, 1968, three students – including Jeffers’ close college buddies Henry Smith and Samuel Hammond – were gunned down in front of their campus by South Carolina Highway patrolmen in what is now known as the Orangeburg Massacre. Two days earlier, Jeffers and other angry and frustrated students clashed with police at a bowling alley reserved for Whites about 200 metres from the college campus.
To protest the campus murders, Jeffers – he defied his coach who promised that he would lose his scholarship if he took part – and a few of his classmates also staged a successful rally on the State Capitol.
Facing death threats, Jeffers bowed to his parents’ demand to leave South Carolina and come to Toronto in the summer of 1968 to join his brother and complete his tertiary education at the University of Toronto.
After graduating, he founded the Harriet Tubman Community Organization (HTCO), one of the first Black multi-service community agencies in the city that, among other functions, operated a Black-focused school as a transitional program for newly-arrived Grade Eight students, mainly from Jamaica.
Created in 1972, the HTCO also produced a steelband – the Tubman Survivors that later became the Avenger Steelband and then Afropan.