Most newlyweds spend their first night together cozily tucked away in a nice hotel or on a resort.
Not Stan Grizzle. The veteran human rights and labour activist and his bride spent theirs at his sister-in-law’s Manning St. residence because three hotels, including the Royal York, rejected them because of their skin colour.
This incident was not new to Grizzle, who had been exposed to racism’s biting sting long before he got married.
Born to Jamaican parents who migrated to Canada in 1911, Grizzle became an anti-racism advocate after his father was brutally slashed across the face while sleeping in the taxi he had bought with the savings he accrued while working as a railway porter.
“Someone just opened the door and slashed him across the face,” said Grizzle. “When the police brought him home with his face all bandaged up, that served as my cue to dedicate the rest of my life to fighting racism.”
Grizzle’s father was the only Black taxi driver in the city at the time.
Following in his father’s footsteps, Grizzle was a sleeping car porter with Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) for two decades where he served as vice-president of the Toronto Division of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. In 1958, he founded the Railway Porters’ Trade Union Council.
The following year, he and Jack White were the first Black candidates to run for election to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario under the Co-Operative Commonwealth Federation banner. The political party was the predecessor to the New Democratic Party.
After leaving CPR in 1960, he worked for a year with Canada Post before joining the Ontario Labour Relations Board as a clerk examiner and labour relations officer. He also served in the Canadian Army and was the first visible minority to be inducted into the Canadian Labour Hall of Fame and the first Black to be appointed a Citizenship Court judge.
Grizzle has been honoured with many accolades over the years for his service and achievements. They include the Order of Ontario and Order of Canada, Harry Jerome and African-Canadian Achievements Awards.
Six years ago, a parkette in the city’s east end was launched bearing his name.
Earlier this month, the 94-year-old was honoured with yet another award. He was the recipient of the last set of Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medals, presented by the province’s Lieutenant Governor, David Onley.