Dudley Laws honoured at awards presentation

Caribbean Camera’s publisher Anthony Joseph among the awardees

By Lincoln DePradine

Winston LaRose

It’s been 35 years since the nationally known activist group, Black Action Defense Committee (BADC), was formally established, and members have recommitted themselves to continuing the work of the organization and are being encouraged and supported in their effort.

“BADC has done a lot and I think that right now, it’s so very important for them to keep on doing what they’re doing because we are faced with a new set of challenges,’’ said businessman Anthony Joseph, publisher of The Caribbean Camera. “We have people who masquerade as being from the Black community and who are doing some things that are not too great for the community. Groups like BADC are the ones that are going to hold them to account.’’

Joseph made the comments last Sunday at the BADC-organized “Dudley Laws Memorial Scholarship and Recognition Awards’’.

The annual event is dedicated to honouring the memory of Jamaica-born Laws, executive director of BADC at its founding in 1988. It was set up in response to a series of police killings of Black people dating back to the late 1970s. BADC led protest marches, calling for an end to both the shootings and the practice of “police investigating police’’.

Laws, who left Jamaica for England before resettling in Canada, worked here as a welder and taxi driver and also ran a printing company.

He embraced the philosophies of Marcus Garvey and played a leadership role not only in protesting racism in society, but also was a prominent advocate for immigrants and refugees and worked as an immigration consultant in the 1990s.

Sonia Ellis-Seguin

Laws, who died in 2011 at 76, also was “one of the fiercest debaters you will find in the Black community’’, recalled BADC director of communication, Kingsley Gilliam.

“We salute and honour the great works of our legend, the late Dudley Laws,’’ added school principal Thando Hyman, who hosted Sunday’s virtual event.

Other speakers, including BADC’s vice president Valarie Steele, acknowledged the contributions of Laws to Canada, and especially to the Black and Caribbean community.

“Dudley will live in my heart forever. He was brave, he was unafraid and he loved the Black community; or, should I say he had an obsession for the Black community,’’ said Steele.

Laws, before his death, implored BADC members to not allow the organization to fold, said Steele.

“We have taken that to heart and we have been working diligently to ensure that that does not happen,’’ she said. “In order for us to find our rightful place in this community, we have to ensure that we push back on the things we do not want and are not ever good for us.’’

Kwabena Yafeu

Keynote speaker Chris Campbell, addressing the event’s theme, “Ensuring The Resilience & Success of Our Youth’’, underscored the importance of mentoring young people.

He said as a young person from Jamaica arriving in Toronto in 1987, he benefitted from solid advice and mentoring that enabled him to complete studies at George Brown College and to take up a career in the skills’ trade.

“Take the timeout, where possible, to mentor one of our youth. Look at giving back as a cultural succession planning action,’’ urged Campbell, vice president of the Carpenters’ Union (Local 27). He also is the equity, diversity and inclusion representative of the Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario.

Good mentors include “people who want to give back to their community. They want to see the next generation be more resilient and successful. Good mentors are the recipients of the Dudley Laws Awards here with us today’’, said Campbell. “Pay your blessings forward; not just to your family and close friends but to your local community.’’

Tremoy Guthrie, a Grade 8 student at the North York-based Africentric Alternative School, was awarded this year’s bursary for an essay on Canadian inventor and engineer Elijah McCoy, who died in 1929 in the United States. McCoy was 85.

Anthony Joseph

“It was a real nice experience learning about Elijah McCoy and the struggles he went through. He’s an inspiration to me because I love mechanics and engineering; and, he was one of the first Black engineers that made an impact on society,’’ Guthrie said. “I am honoured to accept this Dudley Laws Award.’’

Other than Joseph and The Caribbean Camera, awards for outstanding community service and support for BADC also were presented to Sonia Ellis-Seguin, Dr Winston LaRose and Kwabena Yafeu.

All recipients have done “magnificent work over the years’’ that earned them their BADC Recognition Awards, said Gilliam.

“I interface with Anthony on a regular basis and he has been a stalwart supporter, helping to bring our stories to the public. He’s been a marvelous partner in this journey,’’ Gilliam said, referring to the Caribbean Camera’s publisher.

Joseph, in response, said he was “humbled to have my name and that of my company, The Caribbean Camera, linked forever with BADC. That is something that I really am happy about’’.

The award “reinforces the importance of our shared mission’’, said Joseph.  “I’m incredibly thrilled and grateful to be the recipient of this esteemed award from no greater group of people, the Black Action Defense Committee.’’