A prominent member of Winnipeg’s Black community has passed on.
Educator, calypsonian and social/political activist, Wade Kojo Williams, died on Nov. 3 nearly a month after suffering a massive stroke. He was 63. A celebration of his life took place last Tuesday.
Close friend Gideon Exeter said Vincentian-born Williams was an outspoken advocate of the disenfranchised.
“Kojo was never one to back down from his opinions when it came to political and human rights issues,” said Exeter, who was recently made an honorary life member of the St. Vincent & the Grenadines Association of Toronto. “He was also very community-oriented.”
During nearly four decades of active community engagement, Williams founded several groups, including the Manitoba Coalition of Organizations Against Apartheid & Racism, the Forum of the Awareness of the Minority Electorate, the Calypso Association of Winnipeg and the University of Winnipeg’s Students Against Apartheid and the Caribbean Students Associations.
Williams also co-founded the city’s calypso & reggae competitions and the annual soca/reggae festival. He was the president of the National Black Coalition of Canada (Winnipeg chapter), the National Council of St. Vincent & the Grenadines Associations in Canada, the St. Vincent & the Grenadines Association of Winnipeg, St. Norbert Liberal Association, the Assiniboine-Fort Garry Residents Advisory Group and the Manitoba Intercultural Council (MIC).
“Kojo was a man of principle and one of the finest people I ever met,” said Tim Sayeau who served with him on the MIC. “He and I often disagreed, but we respected each other’s opinion…We are all the poorer for his untimely passing.”
In addition, Williams chaired the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and Black History Month Celebration Committees and was the executive member of the Afro-Caribbean Association of Winnipeg.
“Wade was a pioneer of the amalgamation of Black identity here,” said Godwin Smith, a friend of Williams. “There is no doubt about that.”
Manitoba Liberal Party leader, Jon Gerrard, said Williams was a mover and shaker in the Caribbean and African communities.
“He was just absolutely passionate in his concern about addressing poverty and ensuring people who were less well-off had food on the table, a roof over their heads and had opportunities,” said Gerrard.
Prior to migrating to Canada in 1975, Williams was a police officer in his native St. Vincent & the Grenadines; general secretary in the Labour party of the islands’ first Prime Minister, Milton Cato; deputy speaker of the House of Assembly; a senator and editor of the Star newspaper. He also represented the Royal St. Vincent Police, Winnipeg Eagles and Manitoba at cricket.
“I met Kojo while I was a headmaster in Canouan and he was assigned there as a police officer in the early 1970s,” said Greater Toronto Area resident, Malcolm Garraway. “Back then, he was a very enthusiastic cricketer and musician who sang calypsoes. When I started the Canouan Action Movement, Kojo became involved and it was very evident that he was not afraid to voice his opinions. We had many serious political arguments and he always made a position and stood by it…He was a true Vincentian patriot who will be missed.”
Williams is survived by five sons.
Consul general in Toronto, Steve Phillips, represented the St. Vincent & the Grenadines government at the funeral.
“Wade lived a very active life in which he touched the lives of many,” said Phillips. “His is a great loss to the community.”