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Local News: Toronto Black Leaders Honoured Black Habits Articles One person came to Canada to become a man of the cloth and ended up becoming a man of the cause. Two others took up that same cause with fiery determination. And another captured every flickering flame of it.

Their cause, kindled by the times they lived in, still burns a path forward today.

Together, Charles Roach, Eddy Grant, Sherona Hall and Dudley Laws represent nearly 200 years of service to Toronto’s black community.

And Sunday night, at Etobicoke’s Club Paradise, they were recognized for their efforts.

The purpose of the event was “to honour these people for the community work that they’ve done in the past and continue to do,” says Hewitt Loague, a member of the Nia Social Committee, a Toronto organization established this year to recognize leadership in the African-Canadian community.

“The meaning of Nia is ‘purpose,’” says Loague, one of its five members — purpose “to make our collective vocation the building and developing of our own community, in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.”

Roach chalks up his career turn, from aspiring priest to pioneering lawyer, to timing.

Within months of his arrival from Trinidad and Tobago in 1955, Rosa Parks made headlines by refusing to yield her bus seat to a white passenger in Montgomery, Ala., and Martin Luther King Jr. started stirring black pride.

“It had repercussions all over the world for people of colour, including myself,” recalls Roach, who was studying at Thomas More College in Kentucky, with his eyes on the priesthood.

“In Toronto, across Canada, and indeed the whole world, people were having more consciousness of civil rights.” Determined to take up the battle in Canada, Roach abandoned his dream of a full-time religious life and enrolled in law school at the University of Toronto.

“After the ’50s, I started being more political,” he says. “This was the spirit of the times. I’m really from the civil rights era.”

He organized and joined in countless pickets, marches and demonstrations, all the while defending, from the Toronto law firm he founded in 1968, those whose rights had been trampled.

A desire to promote Caribbean culture led him to help found the Caribana festival in 1967.

By 1978, he had established the Movement of Minority Electors, with one simple mission: “to get more people of colour to run for different political offices.”

The other honourees are:
■Dudley Laws, who founded the Black Action Defence Committee, which he still presides as executive director. He is also an irrepressible voice on police, immigration and social issues.

■Sherona Hall, who cofounded, with Laws, the Black Action Defence Committee, and championed causes that encompassed the rights of aboriginals as well as blacks.

■Eddy Grant, a Jamaicanborn photojournalist who was honoured, says Loague, for “giving coverage to the work that community groups are doing.” Whether it be fundraisers or birthday parties, for decades, the message has gone out: Call Eddy. “I don’t know how he gets paid,” Loague says. “But he’s always there.”

Posted on Tuesday, December 20 @ 00:00:00 UTC by jcohen

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