YESTERDAY, TODAY AND TOMORROW
Canada's Black population boasts many skilled and talented people who have achieved fame in a variety of fields. Some have overcome significant challenges in order to make important contributions to Canada.
Many young Black people are coming forward to help shape Canada's future. They still have to fight racism and prejudice, but if they have the strength and courage to keep trying, they will make Canada a better country.
Here are just a few of the many well-known Black Canadians.
Soprano Measha Brueggergosman
was only 20 years old in 1998 when she starred in a new Canadian opera called Beatrice Chancy. Born in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Brueggergosman is on her way to a brilliant international career. She often ends her concerts by singing Black spirituals that celebrate her roots.
World-famous jazz pianist Oscar Peterson
was born in Montreal in 1925. At 14, he won a national contest for amateur musicians. Peterson was still in his twenties when he dazzled the audience with his flying fingers at New York's famous Carnegie Hall. A composer as well as a jazz pianist, Peterson has won many awards and is a Companion of the Order of Canada.
was bom in Toronto in 1974. Inspired by Black singers such as Gladys Knight and Bob Marley, Cox became Canada's first Black female rhythm and blues diva. In 1992, she performed at the inauguration of the new U.S. president, Bill Clinton. Cox is a volunteer with World Vision Canada, a non-profit organization that sponsors poor children around the world.
WRITERS AND STORYTELLERS
The first really successful Canadian rap artist was Maestro Fresh Wes.
He was born in Toronto in 1968 to Guyanese parents. His first album sold more than 150, 000 copies in Canada, and on his second album, he rapped about the Black Canadian identity. The Maestro won the first Canadian Juno Award for "Best Rap Recording" in 1991.
Elected as a federal Progressive Conservative in 1968, Lincoln Alexander was appointed Minister of Labour in 1979, becoming the first Black Canadian to serve in Cabinet. In 1985, at the age of 63, he was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario — another
Born in Jamaica in 1930, Rosemary Brown came to Canada as a student. She enjoyed debating at university and soon found herself involved in politics, becoming the first Black Canadian woman elected to the British Columbia legislature. Brown served as a member of the New Democratic Party until 1986. Since then, she has taught at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, and been appointed Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission.
Daurene Lewis is a seventh-generation Nova Scotian from Annapolis Royal. (One of her ancestors, Rose Fortune, became Canada's first policewoman around 1783.) Lewis graduated from Dalhousie University in Halifax, and later taught nursing. From 1984 to 1988, she was the mayor of Annapolis Royal.
The first Black Carrie Best of New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, was the publisher of a newspaper called the Clarion in the 1940s and 1950s. Best was a fearless journalist who demanded fair treatment for Black people. By making sure that Black Canadians were served in restaurants and admitted to theatres, Best helped make Canada a better place to live. She received the Order of Canada in recognition of her fight for her community.
"I AM A PERSON, BORN IN THE IMAGE OF GOD. I HAVE INTELLIGENCE, I AM HONEST, AND I AM AS GOOD, IF NOT BETTER THAN ANYBODY WHO WALKS THE FACE OF THIS EARTH ..."
— Carrie Best
Trinidad-born Dionne Brand came to Toronto, Ontario, in 1970 when she was just 17 years old. Now she's a well-known writer, filmmaker and human rights activist. Brand's many books include Land to Light On, which won a Governor General's Award in 1997, and Earth Magic, a poetry collection for children.
Born in Nova Scotia in 1960, George Elliott Clarke has received many awards for his poetry and is also known as a playwright and screenwriter. In 1997, Clarke wrote the libretto (words) for James Rolfe's opera, Beatrice Chancy. The story-takes place in Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley in 1801, when slavery was still a way of life. The opera's first performances starred Measha Brueggergosman.
The Caribbean tradition of storytelling followed Rita Cox from Trinidad to Canada. When Cox tells her ghost stories, fables and animal stories, children gather round. This storyteller also founded the Black Heritage and West Indies Collection, one of the most important collections of writings about and by Black people. Cox received the Governor General's 1992 Commemorative Medal for her contributions to Canada.
Children's author Tololwa M. Mollel
was born in Tanzania, Africa, in 1952. Since moving to Edmonton, Alberta, Mollel has published more than 15 books — including The Orphan Boy and Kitoto the Mighty — and has won many awards. He runs storytelling and drama workshops for children around North America.
Called "the world's fastest human," Donovan Bailey has been clocked running at a speed of 43.6 km/h (27 m.p.h.). Born in 1967 in Jamaica, Bailey grew up in Oakville, Ontario. As a sprinter, Bailey won a gold medal in the 100 metre race at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, setting a world record of 9.84 seconds. He was also a member of the Canadian 4 x 100 relay team that won gold at the same Olympic Games.
Donovan Bailey is one of the few athletes to be an Olympic gold medallist, World Champion and world record holder. In 1996 he was also named Canada's Athlete of the Year.
In 1990, Charmaine Crooks of North Vancouver became the first Canadian woman to run 800 metres in less than 2 minutes. Born in Jamaica, the sprinter made the Canadian Olympic team in 1980, when she was only 16. Crooks has since competed in a record five Olympic Games. Today, she's a television host and public speaker.
African immigrant Daniel Igali won Canada's first gold medal in wrestling at the Olympic Games in 2000. Igali was born in Nigeria in 1974, but in 1994 he left his 20 brothers and sisters behind to compete in the Commonwealth Games in Victoria, B.C. He stayed in Canada to train. When Igali won his Olympic gold medal, he joyfully kissed Canada's flag.
During the final men's hockey game of the 2002 Olympic Games, Jarome Iginla scored two goals against the U.S. team to ensure Canada's gold-medal victory. This powerful forward was born in 1977 in Edmonton, Alberta, and is a top scorer in the NHL with a bright future.
(OF COURSE the book being written some years ago this is no longer the fact as Jarome's career is on the way out - Keith Hunt))
"It's your world, so take part in it and never give up on your DREAM."
— Charmaine Crooks
Ferguson Jenkins is a famous baseball player born in Chatham, Ontario, in 1943. A major-league pitcher, he struck out more than 3,000 batters during his career with the Texas Rangers, the Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox. In 1991, Jenkins was the first African Canadian inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Nova Scotia has produced many excellent Black boxers. Sam Langford, born in 1884 at Weymouth Falls, was a truly great heavyweight boxer. He held the heavyweight championships of England, Spain and Mexico — even though he was only 167 cm (5 ft. 6 in.) tall and weighed just 71 kg (157 lb.)!
The phrase "the real McCoy" comes from Black Canadian inventor Elijah McCoy. He was born in Canada in 1844, studied in Scotland, then moved to the United States. McCoy is most famous for inventing an automatic lubricator for train engines in 1882. He patented ideas for 50 different inventions, and his name came to stand for high-quality goods.
Born in Barbados in 1960, John Alleyne studied ballet at the National Ballet School in Toronto. He became a popular solo dancer with Canada's National Ballet after joining the company in 1984. Alleyne then became a talented choreographer who created powerful new ballets. In 1992, this award-winning dancer was appointed artistic director of Ballet British Columbia.
PLAYWRIGHTS AND FILMMAKERS
Playwright Djanet Sears wrote Canada's first stage play by a person of African descent. Called Afrika Solo, it has been followed by many plays for adults and young people. Born in England, Sears moved with her family to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, when she was 15. She has won many honours, including a Governor General's Award for Harlem Duet in 1998.
Clement Virgo, originally from Jamaica, moved to Canada when he was 11. He studied filmmaking at the Norman Jewison Canadian Film Centre, north of Toronto. The first film Virgo directed, Rude, won the Best Feature Film prize at the Toronto Film Festival. In 1997, he released his second full-length film, The Planet of Junior Brown.
OTHER BLACK CANADIAN FIRSTS
• Jean Augustine, of Ontario, was the first Black Canadian woman in Canada's Parliament and in the Cabinet (a group of advisers to the prime minister).
• Leonard Braithwaite, from Ontario, was the first Black person elected to Canada's Parliament.
• Anne Cools, of Ontario, became Canada's first Black senator in 1984.
• George Dixon, who was born in Nova Scotia, was the first Black person to win a World Boxing Championship, in 1890.
• Willie O'Ree, of New Brunswick, was the first Black NHL hockey player.
• Conine Sparks, from Nova Scotia, was the first Black woman to become a judge in Canada, in 1987.
THE BLACK PEOPLE OF THE WORLD HAVE SHOWN AND PROVED THEY CAN BE EVERY BIT AS TALENTED, GIFTED, EDUCATED, IN EVERY WAY AS ANY OTHER COLORED OR NON-COLORED PERSON ON EARTH.
EDUCATION, GIFTS, LEARNT TALENT, WISE, HONORABLE, INSPIRING, BRAVE, SERVING, GIVING, CHARITABLE FOUNDERS, COMMUNITY LEADERS, TEACHERS, DOCTORS, NURSES, INVENTOR, SCIENTISTS, SPORTS-PERSONS, OLYMPIANS, ACTORS, SINGERS, DANCERS, OFFICIALS, WRITERS, CEO PEOPLE, SELF-MADE MILLIONAIRES, AND ETC. CAN BE ANYONE OF ANY RACE. HISTORY HAS PROVED IT TIME AND TIME AGAIN, ESPECIALLY IN THE LAST 200 YEARS.