The Black Action Defense Committee is needed ‘ now more than ever’ – Valerie Steele

By Lincoln DePradine

From Left: Kingsley Gilliam Director Communication BADC; Gerry Mcneal, Director OPIRD; Valarie Steele VP BADC and PRESIDENT JDCF, Hewitt Loague, President BADC and Selwyn Pieters Atorney for BADC on Andrew Luko Inquest and other cases.

Nelson Mandela served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999.

But, according to veteran Toronto educator and community activist, Dr Clem Guracha Marshall, if “principle’’ was given greater credence over having a huge “personality’’, then Winnie Mandela would have been president instead of her husband.

“It’s alright to have big personalities; but, we must never put personality before principle,’’ Marshall commented on Sunday, after receiving an award from the Black Action Defense Committee (BADC).

Marshall was one of the 2021 recipients at BADC’s “Dudley Laws Memorial Scholarship and Recognition Awards’’.

Valerie Steele

He credited Winnie Mandela for her leadership role against Apartheid in the 27 years while her husband was imprisoned.

Nelson Mandela was freed in 1990. The couple, married for 38 years, formally divorced in March 1996. He died on December 5, 2013, at the age of 95. Winnie Mandela was 81 when she died on April 2, 2018.

If the “principle of righteous rewards’’ was applied, “Winnie Mandela would have been the first President of South

B. Denham Jolly

Africa,’’ Marshall said. “The personality of her husband was so big at the time, it took over the world.’’

The virtual event on Sunday, which coincided with Mothers’ Day observance, included remarks from BADC executive members, as well as from Denham Jolly, the Jamaican-born businessman, author and philanthropist.

Laws, once amongst the most prominent social justice advocates in Canada, died March 24, 2011, at Humber River Regional Hospital. He was 76.

Dr Clem Guracha Marshall

On leaving his Jamaican homeland in 1955, Laws travelled to the England and later moved to Canada.

He was the first executive director of BADC  which was founded in 1988 in response to a series of police killings of Black people. dating back to the late 1970s.

BADC led protest marches demanding an end to the shootings and calling for an end to the practice of “police investigating police’’ after each cop shooting.

“We were on the streets on a weekly basis,’’ recalled former Canadian MP Dr Jean Augustine.  “Toronto is quiet now.’’

, BADC presented Augustine with a “Legend Service Award’’ for “longstanding dedication’’ and her contribution to the organization.

Phillip Mascoll

“You have been there from the beginning,’’ BADC executive member Valerie Steele told Augustine. “Thank you, very much, for sticking and standing with us all these years.’’

“I am happy to receive this award on this very special day,’’ Augustine responded.

She reflected on the occasions, years ago, when on Saturday and Sunday, “there was a demonstration, there was a sit-in, there was a march, there were community meetings on social justice issues’’.

According to Augustine, “there is still a need for that activism, that advocacy’’.

The slogan, “no justice, no peace’’, was coined by American author, activist and musician, Sister Souljah.

It was first used in Toronto on a BADC banner during one of its demonstrations, said Marshall.

 “We made that banner at the Black Secretariat. Two young sisters from Regent Park did it; stayed up all night,’’ said Marshall, a BADC founding member.

BADC is needed “now more than ever’’, Steele said. “Some things have remained the same, which means we have to remain vigilant and awake.’’

Mark Brown and Lee Miller, two award recipients, equated Laws’s advocacy to the current philosophy of “Black Lives Matter’’.

“Way back in the 80s,’’ said Lee, “he told us that Black lives matter.’’

Dr Jean Augustine

As a youth growing up in Toronto, Brown said he witnessed Laws fighting “tirelessly’’ on behalf of young people.

“I saw him fight on behalf of my peers and my fellow schoolmates,’’ said Brown, a member of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists. “What I didn’t know then, and what I believe I understand now, was that Dudley Laws was fighting to add peace, justice and value as a prefix to every Black life.’’

Another trade unionist honored for his support of BADC was Chris Campbell, business representative of Local 27 of the Carpenters’ Union.

He’s also equity and diversity representative of the Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario and a co-chair of the Toronto Community Benefits Network, which has a mentorship program preparing racialized workers, women, and newcomers to enter the workforce of skilled trades’ employees.

“As a father five, it’s very dear to me to do everything I can to assist these young people, change their lives, and try to bring them into the construction trades, if that’s a career they want to pursue,’’ said Campbell. “Continue with the essential service work you’re doing for the community,’’ he encouraged BADC.

Retired Toronto Star reporter Phillip Mascoll was also recognized with an award from BADC.

The award is “something for which I would forever be proud. I thank the committee for judging me worthy. I am grateful’’, said Mascol.

“I would try to continue to serve and encourage my children and grandchildren to step forward and lift their voices and fists,’’ Mascoll said.

BADC launched its bursary and scholarship program in Laws’s name in 2012. Immelia Browne-Hall was the recipient of Sunday’s $500 bursary.

“Brother Dudley was a true believer in the teachings of the Honourable Marcus Garvey, that education is the way to succeed in this world,’’ said BADC’s president Hewitt Loague. “That’s why BADC and our sponsors will continue to provide this help to our future leaders.’’

The virtual event was  hosted by educator Thando Hyman.