Jamaicans celebrate the life of Marcus Garvey at Boonoonoonoos

The Heritage singers Led by Grace Lyons performed at the Boonoonoonoos celebration.

Jamaicans celebrated the life and legacy of Black nationalist leader Marcus Mosiah Garvey on Sunday at the annual Boonoonoonoos brunch held at the Jamaican Canadian Centre in Toronto.

In the keynote address at the brunch, Thando Hyman, an adjunct professor at York University’s faculty of education, reminded the gathering that  Garvey’s aim was “to build a better local community.

“But once he saw that no matter where he went, the issues were the same, he sought a way to make his message global.”

” By 1914, the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) was born in Kingston, Jamaica with a few members and by 1925, the organization grew to over eight million followers, and 90 chapters in 40 countries,.Toronto, Ontario, Canada had one, located at 155 College Street.”

Thando Hyman

Hyman told the Jamaicans present that Garvey deduced that “if our histories were similar in these regions, if not identical, then the solutions to rid oneself of mental slavery was through a singular vision of One God, One Aim, One Destiny.”

She noted that a study of Toronto’s chapter of the UNIA reveals that it was a welcoming club of those new immigrants and a meeting place for the Black community, connecting people to jobs, organizations, and helping them navigate culture shock.

” In those days, people embraced one another and forged friendships so strong that they became de facto family members.

” The UNIA embraced all and no matter where you came from, all were welcome, be you African Canadian, Caribbean or Continental African people. This was an authentic diasporic organization rooted in the values of improvement.”

Hyman went on to praise the efforts of the Jamaican  Canadian Association (JCA)  for its  “informal, indirect vision of this principle, as some members of the UNIA became members of the JCA.

“In other words, the UNIA was the organizational hub of the Black community in the 1950s, thereby unifying the Black community. You did not have to know each other to open your home to each other or provide shelter or food for that matter.

“In her address, titled “The Seven Things Marcus Garvey Can Teach Us,” Hyman noted that In times of crisis and division in the world, we must step back, reflect on our past and return to the source.

The “seven things” she mentioned were self improvement, racial pride, seeking education, self reliance, economic independence, documenting one’s history and striving for excellence.

From Left: Yolande Davidson, Sylvanus Thompson,
Adaoma Patterson, Police Chief Mark Saunders

In her address,  Adaoma Patterson president of the JCA, told the gathering that this was a particularly important year to focus on Garvey, the Jamaican national hero, “because of his continuing relevance and timeliness.” 

Three awards were presented at the brunch.

The awardee were:

– Toronto restaurateur Courtney Grant owner of the Caribbean Queen Jerk Drum which started in 2008 and now it’s the proud owner of six locations Courtney and his wife happy to support several Community initiatives including the feeding of disadvantage to rent in Jamaican schools I’m providing catering contributions for numerous events we also support to run to Firefighters police.

– Lloyd Wilks, Jamaica’s Consul General in Toronto picked up the community award was given to Lloyd Wilkes Consulate General of Jamaica to Toronto January 5th 2015 and after five years of being an integral part of the community here will be returning to Jamaica to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs where he has served for over 30 years and is an avid farmer when in Jamaica.

– The Black Action Defence Committee (BADC) picked up a Community award the organization that will turn 30 years old this August was represented by Valerie Steele who talked about some of the accomplishments of the organization pointing out that BADC Demanded the Premier and Attorney General intervene and legislate an end to Carding as well she pointed out that BADC had fought against racism and unequal treatment of Black Police Officers, most of whom served their entire careers of thirty to forty years without promotions, retiring as first class constables. This led to elimination of that practice.   We have since seen numerous promotions of Black Officers in Toronto and other police organizations.