“Through creole which she demonstrated could be the medium of significant art and culture, late Jamaican cultural ambassador, Louise Bennett-Coverley, symbolized the shift from the colonial to the post-colonial era in the Caribbean,” says historian, Dr. Afua Cooper. “The majority of people in Jamaica have real artistic expression in the way they speak and she validated that.”
Dr. Cooper was delivering the keynote address at Tropicana Community Services Organization’s (TCSO) 19th annual fundraising gala last Saturday night in Scarborough. “In terms of language, speech and dance, she symbolized Jamaica’s movement to independence.”
Both Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago are celebrating 50 years of independence from Britain this year.
The James Robinson Johnston Chair in Black Canadian Studies at Dalhousie University, Cooper said that labour leader, Uriah Butler, who led a hunger march from the oilfields (in the south) to Port-of-Spain (in the north) in 1935, Jamaican national hero Nanny and Universal Negro Improvement Association founder, Marcus Garvey, all played pivotal roles in contributing to the independence of the Caribbean islands.
“As we celebrate the 50th independence of Jamaica and T&T, these are names we must remember,” said Cooper who has curated exhibits on African-Canadian history and culture and the transatlantic slave trade for all three levels of government. “It’s because of these people and others that we have the freedom to enjoy ourselves here tonight…By his dominance in the sprint events, Usain Bolt symbolizes our coming of age by being masters and mistresses in our own home.”
Late community worker, Robert Brown, who died seven years ago, established Tropicana which became United Way’s first Black member agency in 1984. While enrolled at the University of Toronto in the 1970s, Brown and a few other students were assigned a project that involved the preparation of a needs assessment survey of a community in southern Ontario. The group chose the then Borough of Scarborough and, in conducting the survey, discovered that young people in the area faced serious challenges. Determined to act, the team quickly moved to prepare an audited report of its findings and solicit broad support for the at-risk youth.
The TCSO was set up in 1980 as a non-profit agency to serve disadvantaged youth and their families. Through its myriad diverse programs, the agency aims to increase the rate of self-employment for youth, improve access to culturally appropriate counseling services and reduce the school dropout rate among Black students.
Using the $600,000 it raised in the last five years and $1.36-million of a major capital grant from the provincial government, Canada’s largest Black social service delivery agency acquired its own building last February at 135 Huntingwood Dr. in Scarborough. The $2.35-million facility is undergoing renovations.
Last year, the agency served close to 22,000 clients.
“Tropicana has been a powerful force for good, providing opportunities and empowering individuals to greater success and more positive outcomes,” said Minister of Consumer Services, Margarett Best. “You certainly deserve a big thank you for the great work that you do in uplifting and strengthening our communities.”
Ryerson University chancellor and philanthropist, Raymond Chang and former Trinidad & Tobago consul general, Michael Lashley, were the recipients of President’s Awards at the gala.
“It’s highly unusual for me to be at the receiving end of honours,” said Lashley who also had the privilege of serving as Dean of the Ontario consular corps. “I however really appreciate this award because it’s coming from an organization which has a high rating for the exceptional quality of service it delivers in the community.”
Community Builder Awards were presented to filmmaker Frances-Anne Solomon and entrepreneur Dameion Royes.
An award-winning filmmaker, writer and producer, Solomon built a successful career with the British Broadcasting Corporation as a television drama and executive producer before moving to Toronto in 2000.
Royes, a Humber College Business Administration graduate, started the fashionable “Big It Up” hat line.
BY RON FANFAIR