The City of Toronto staged an early evening, traffic-stopping, celebration in memory of the late community activist Charley Roach last week.
More than 400 people jammed a small laneway blocking traffic both on Rushton Road and briefly on St Clair Avenue West, to witness the unveiling of the newly renamed Charley Roach Lane.
Charles Roach, popularly known as Charley, was born on September 18, 1933 in Belmont, Trinidad. He and his first wife, Hetty, came to Canada in 1955 and he studied law at the University of Toronto.
As a human rights lawyer, he defended the rights of Caribbean nannies, challenged racial profiling, demanded police accountability and became known for providing legal representation to working class individuals and communities, regardless of their ability to pay.
Roach was one of the founders of the Black Action Defence Committee which has championed numerous issues involving police conduct, human rights and the justice system and was one of the original members of the board of the Caribana organization.
At the unveiling ceremony, family, friends and colleagues took turns paying tribute to the memory of Charles Roach.
Zanana Akande, Ontario’s first female Black cabinet minister, talked about Charley’s “message” to the community.
He taught the community that you don’t stay silent to bring change, she said.
Roach’s daughter, Sunset, led the crowd in the singing of the Beatles’ song Yellow Submarine.
“ He loved music. Our house was always filled with music,” she said.
Community activist Lennox Farrell, one of the founders of the Black Action Committee and a former chairman of the Caribana organization), also took the microphone to sing to the memory of his friend.
He reworked the song Abraham, Martin and John and inserted the name of Charles Roach in it to mark the actions the lawyer took in the defence of the community.