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Edward Oscar Brathwaite’s was known to his many friends and acquaintances as warm, sociable and humorous. His comrades titled him as a change-maker, a man of perseverance and conviction. Oscar passed away on May 6, 2023 in Toronto.
Brathwaite was born in 1940 in the seaside village of Penny Hole (now called Gemswick), in St. Philip, Barbados. He was the fourth of nine children born to Ophelia (née Pilgrim) and Milton Brathwaite, and had three older paternal siblings. Oscar was a proud student of St. Martin’s Boys School, and went on to apprentice in the carpentry trade as a youth.
At the age of 19, Brathwaite moved to England and became part of the Windrush generation of young people seeking opportunities abroad, building new lives, and transporting their skills and culture with them.
After spending 5 years working in England as a skilled carpenter while also pursuing night school studying drafting and the building trades, Brathwaite came to Toronto in the mid-60’s where he joined a growing population of Caribbean, African, Afro-American and Black Canadian communities during a vibrant and transformative period in the city.
While studying at Ryerson Polytechnic, he became active in Black community organizations including the UNIA Toronto chapter and Black Education Project. He would go on to earn his BA and Bachelor of Education degrees at the University of Toronto.
He became a technical education teacher with the Toronto Board of Education, teaching woodworking and carpentry for over 30 years at schools such as Lakeview Secondary and Western Technical Commercial School. Here he mentored countless students, while becoming an engaged leader.
He received his MEd from the University of Toronto, and earned the role of Head of Department: Construction Technology at Western Tech. He was also the founding president of CABE (Canadian Alliance of Black Educators), established to empower and advance Black teachers in the education system, and advocate for the achievement of African Canadian students.
Brathwaite was a board member of the Black Tradesmen and Women of Ontario and African Canadian Legal Clinic, founder of Technical Education and Training International (TETIN), an active member of SRDC (6th Region Diaspora Caucus), and many other organizations.
A Pan Africanist to the core, the restless educator fulfilled his lifelong dream of travelling to Africa. He moved to Southern Africa to train teachers at Botswana Polytechnic. Ultimately, he would go on to travel to 13 African countries including Zimbabwe, Zambia, Kenya and Swaziland, as well as throughout the Caribbean, and Brazil, to teach, consult, lead workshops, publish writings, participate in conferences, and connect with people of African descent from all over the world. This strengthened his passionate commitment to bridge the divides between the continent and the Diaspora.
His family knows him as a caring father, a loving grandfather, an inspiring brother, a beloved uncle and cousin, and the eldest member of their family who will be dearly missed.
Oscar was predeceased by his siblings Cleanthe, Edsel, Clanis, John, Anita, Gertrude, Ridley and Ashley. He is survived by his three children, Caroline, Wendy and Eddy, siblings Irma, Gwen and Farley, eight grandchildren (Michael, Tisha, Danielle, Akir, Diarra, Elijah, Nya and Isaiah), great-grandchild Shamarra, as well as his loving nephews and nieces, cousins, extended and chosen family.
All are thankful for E. Oscar Brathwaite’s life and contributions to his family, friends, loved ones and community.