Lectures will honour Contrast founder

Al Hamilton; Publisher of the newspaper Contrast;
Al Hamilton;
Publisher of the newspaper Contrast;

Ryerson University School of Journalism is working with Community United Alliance to host the “Al Hamilton memorial lecture fund for diversity in journalism” named for the founder of Contrast.

Since his passing, several honours have been given Hamilton who created Contrast in 1969 as a newspaper that served the Caribbean community.

The fund will provide honoraria to bring guest lecturers from racialized communities, preferably from the Black community, to speak on critical issues in journalism including diversity of race in newsroom makeup and story coverage. The non-profit Community United Alliance focuses on enriching minority communities through volunteer outreach.

The lecturers will be situated in the landmark course, Critical Issues in Journalism, which explores some of the larger issues that journalists face in their day-to-day work including diversity of race, gender, sexuality and religion.

This course would provide an annual forum to share Hamilton’s story and to educate and inspire 60-80 students per year from Ryerson’s racially and ethnically diverse student population.

Julie Frahar, director of development, Faculty of Communication and Design, said that “in order to be able to develop the important work outlined here, Ryerson University invites you to endow the Al Hamilton Memorial Lecture Fund for Diversity in Journalism in perpetuity with a minimum contribution of $25,000, or to sustain its support on an annual basis with a commitment of $1,000 per year for a minimum of five years.”

She added that the establishment of the fund would provide fitting tribute to Hamilton’s significant contribution to the Black community and recognition of the social change he effected in news media.

The university said donors will be offered the following recognition: Naming the Al Hamilton Memorial Lecture Fund for Diversity in Journalism; recognition on the virtual Donor Wall and charitable tax receipt.

Born in Edmonton, Hamilton came to Toronto in the 1950s and worked on the advertising staff of Corriere Canadese, a Toronto Italian newspaper.

He had an urge to go into business for himself and took over the floundering West Indian News Observer in February 1969 and created Contrast, taking the focus away from solely the West Indian community and focusing on all of the Black community.

Hamilton said Contrast arose out of the Black community’s need for a voice.

He fought for many causes while running Toronto’s first major publication serving Blacks in Metro Toronto and across Canada. The weekly paper described itself as the “ears, eyes and voice of the Black community” under Hamilton’s guidance from 1969 to the early 1980s.

Contrast was the launching pad for the careers of many Black journalists in this city. “It was the only place to go when Toronto’s media was almost all white,” said Royson James, a Toronto Star columnist and former Contrast editor.

“But Mr. Hamilton was not content to take the young Black reporters and keep them at his small weekly. He and other Black leaders made several trips to the Star and the Globe & Mail, demanding that their newsrooms reflect the makeup of Metro,” said James.