By Lincoln DePradine
Few Black people in Canada have had the honour of having a street named after them. However, when the moment happened on November 1 for Jamaican-born Denham Jolly, he shared it with others, recalling the important contributions made to Canada by people such as the late community activists Dudley laws and Charles Roach; former acting Toronto Mayor William Peyton Hubbard; and paying tribute to African-Americans who fled slavery in the United States and made Canada home, many becoming entrepreneurs.
“This is a community affair; it’s not just about me,’’ Jolly said at the street dedication in his name in Scarborough.
He expressed appreciation for the official unveiling of “Jolly Way’’, near the intersection of Ellesmere Road and Kennedy Road, saying he was thankful for bein
g used “as a channel to bestow this tremendous honour not only on me but on the community, and the work the community has done, and the contributions it has made, over time’’.
Jolly Way leads to a new housing community developed by Mattamy Homes that was represented at the ceremony by senior vice president for land development, Andrew Sjogren.
Mattamy Homes, founded in 1978, is described as “North America’s largest privately owned home builder’’. The company acquires land, designs homes, plans streets, and creates “people spaces’’ such as parks and walking and biking trails.
Jolly, 84, emigrated to Canada more than 65 years ago to attend university. He worked as a high school teacher and, despite facing overt and covert discrimination, established a successful business career.
He was in the nursing home business, spearheaded the launch in 2001 of Flow 93.5 FM, and once owned and published the now defunct Contrast newspaper.
Jolly’s Canadian experience, including his community and social justice activism, is documented in his 2017 award-winning book, “In the Black: My Life’’.
“What a special day this is to be here today,’’ Toronto Mayor John Tory said at the Jolly Way street dedication ceremony that was attended by more than 100 people, including Jolly’s family members.
Other guests included representatives of the Jamaica Canadian Association (JCA) and retired politicians Jean Augustine, Mary Anne Chambers and Beverley Salmon.
Jolly was a philanthropist, a leader “in every respect’’ and “stuck to his commitment to social justice’’, Tory said.
“His philanthropy was done very quietly,’’ said Tory, who presented Jolly with a scroll.
“He was informed, he was constructive, he was intelligent, he was persistent most of all,’’ the mayor said, recalling his many interactions with Jolly. “This is precisely the kind of person that deserves to be honoured by the entire City of Toronto. The work he has done has helped us to be what we are today. There’s much work to be done. But what we’re seeing today is more inclusive than we were.’’
Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson joined the compliments to Jolly, calling him an “icon’’ and “a legend in our city’’.
Jolly’s achievements in business alone are “noteworthy’’, said Thompson. “But, they are dwarfed by his contributions to diversity, culture and social justice in our city.’’
According to Thompson, Jolly’s “rich story and history should continue to be told’’.
Jolly, a former director of the Jamaican Canadian Association, presented a cheque of $312,000 to the JCA in August to pay off the balance of the mortgage on the association’s centre and headquarters on Arrow Road.
“This is so fitting, Mr Jolly, that there is a street named after you,’’ JCA president Adaoma Patterson said at the unveiling of Jolly Way.
“Denham has been a big contributor, financially and in other ways, and always stepped up and supported the JCA during good times and bad,’’ said Patterson.
Roy Williams, first ever president of the JCA, said it’s a significant gesture to name a street after Jolly.
“Mr Jolly has contributed so much to Toronto and in support of the Black community in pursuing issues of equality, racial justice and all of those things. It is time that he be recognized and honoured,’’ Williams told The Caribbean Camera.
Jamaican-born Joe Halstead, a former senior employee with the Ontario government and the City of Toronto, called the street-naming “a monumental occasion’’, saying he’s both proud and happy for Jolly.
“It’s very deserved. He’s a man who has contributed so much to our city,’’ Halstead said. “This is a wonderful occasion for the community. Love it.’’
Jean Augustine, the former Liberal MP, has known Jolly ever since she arrived here from Grenada. The naming of Jolly Way is a “historical day’’, she said.
“This is an interesting way and this is a historical way to mark the progress of African-Canadians, those of us who have come here and have made lives for ourselves and have made contributions to Canadian society,’’ Augustine said.
Jolly said that in his “home city’’ of Toronto, he has “actively participated in all aspects of its life as a citizen and for social justice, with all my being’’.
As well, said Jolly, “I have made an exceptional living and enjoyed life and, daresay, contributed positively and paid my dues. Thank you, Toronto. I love you.’’