Nerene Virgin was born in 1946 in Hamilton, Ontario, and traces her roots to escaped Maryland slave Thomas John (Howard) Holland.
Virgin was a Canadian journalist, an actor, educator, author and television host, best known for her role on the children’s television series Today’s Special. She died last Thursday at the age of 77.
In the mid-1990s, Virgin anchored the Saturday Report on CBC-TV CBC Newsworld and Newsworld International. She later ran as a provincial Liberal candidate in Hamilton, and spent many years as a writer and educator of Canadian Black history, and as an anti-racism advocate.
Virgin applied her educational background and journalism skills to research, write and present stories of notable Blacks in Canadian and U.S. history. She published biographies of Charles Victor Roman, Charles Lightfoot Roman and Rev. John Christie Holland with Historica Canada.
Despite a life of multiple achievements, her role as Jodie on Today’s Special, which ran from 1981 to 1987, was her most memorable of which she was the proudest.
“When I was doing Today’s Special, I had no idea at the time how important that show would be,” she said during a public talk. “That would be the most important work that I would do, and to be constantly told by viewers … for their children to see someone like you, the character Jodie, who was empathetic, she was smart, she was capable, she was talented — for their children to see that individual was so motivating for those children.”
“I remember once we were signing albums, we recorded an album for Today’s Special … and a [Brown] woman came up with her little girl, and she … took my hand and she put something in my hand, and when I looked at it, it was this gold ring that I wear.”
She was the daughter of the late Stanley George Sinclair Grizzle, a Canadian citizenship judge, soldier, political candidate and civil rights and labour union activist.
Nerene Virgin is survived by her husband, two daughters, her son and grandson, and her siblings.