“You are the future now.”
So said Kenneth Jeffers, Chair of the Toronto Police Service Board, to a large number of young people at the Service’s Black History Month celebration held last week at the Jamaican Canadian Centre in Toronto.
” We must acknowledge that the time to effect change, work together and make a valuable contribution is not sometime far off …but rather, right now,” he told them.
“It’s’ your talent, your ideas, your creativity, your energy and your dedication that will create your future paths and make you successful – as students, as friends, as mentors, and as community leaders.”
Highlight of the celebrations was a program of song and dance by members of the Etobicoke School of Arts choir.
Jeffers said the cultural performances reflected the spirit of Black artists like Billie Holliday and Bob Marley.
“You are the communicators of your stories and experiences through your art, your movements and your voices and you pay a great honour to our heritage,” Jeffers said.
“You too must speak for yourselves and represent your hopes and objectives. Do not always leave it up to us as adults to speak for you,” he added.
Jeffers also said that it was encouraging” to see and experience our police services taking the initiative in publicly acknowledging, recognizing and appreciating the historical presence and contributions of the Black community to the development of Canada. ”
Also addressing the gathering at the Jamaican Canadian Centre, Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders noted that “30 years ago, we wouldn’t have had a platform here.. We wouldn’t have come to a Black community as law enforcement saying. ‘Let’s work together, let’s have events together, let’s figure out how we can become stronger. ‘”
“ Thank you for allowing us into this environment that has so much history,” said Chief Saunders. who presented certificates of appreciation to both the Jamaican Canadian Association (JCA) which hosted the event, and the Caribbean African Canadian Social Services (CAFCAN).
Receiving the certificate on behalf of the JCA was Audrey Campbell, former president of the Association.
Two CAFCAN officials -Floydeen Charles-Fridal, executive director, and Maureen Henry, vice- chair – accepted the certificate on behalf of their organization.
Chief Saunders also paid tribute to Inspector Sonia Thomas, Toronto’s first Black female senior officer
“You have to understand the role you play,” he told her. “There are young women looking at you and when they do that, they see hope. That is all we want to give our kids. If we give them hope, they can move mountains.”
John O’Dell, the Black Community Consultative Committee Chair, told the young people that they have the ability and responsibility to achieve.
“Remember that you are here for a purpose. Take time to assess what that is and make that your goal. There may be bumps along the way and there will certainly be some disappointment, but you must remember we are strong, resilient and a determined people who will always persevere.”
Several “youth ambassadors” spoke at the event.
The Toronto Police Service has celebrated Black History Month since 1994.