Saturday, 18 of January of 2020

Brother Dudley: Radical Rebel

“What we have done for ourselves dies with us, but what we have done for others is immortal,”
were the words of former Deputy Police Chief, Keith Ford. He said these words at the funeral
of activist Dudley Laws, an important leader in Toronto’s Black community. My first memories
of him were back in the ’80’s when I first came to the city. I often saw him with Lennox Farrell
and Charles Roach. At the funeral I learnt that he was a welder by trade and a colleague of my
father’s. He often attended events of the Afro-Canadian Caribbean Association in Hamilton, an
organization my father helped found and still runs over 30 years later.

A testament to his dedication and hard work, Laws’ funeral was the largest I’d ever been to.
Thousands flooded the church. They stood in the aisles when there were no more seats. The
balcony filled up and folks spilled into a basement room to listen on the audio feed.

The Honourable Jean Augustine, the first Black woman elected to a federal riding, spoke about
her long-time collaboration and friendship with Laws pre-dating organizations that have been
instrumental in advocating on behalf of the Black community. Thando Hyman, principal of the
Africentric school sang a tearful and soulful good-bye while politicians Alvin Curling, Mary Anne
Chambers, Margarett Best and Mike Colle sat behind her on stage.

Ford noted that Laws was labelled a radical for defying unjust laws and daring to demand equality.
Charles Roach, who must have been devastated to lose his close friend and collaborator he had
worked with for over 40 years noted that radical/rebel is how he was referred to for giving voice to
the voiceless.

After listening to accolade after accolade, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Who will replace Dudley
Laws?” Who among has the courage to stand up to the police and keep standing and speaking,
unrelenting until change happens? Who among us truly cares enough to not just complain about
social conditions, but actually start organizations to address issues affecting our people like Black
Inmates and Friends Assembly or the Black Action Defence Committee? If we say we honour
Dudley’s memory, then we need to continue to make change happen. What or whom are we
waiting for? A quote that comes to mind by African-American novelist, June Jordan, used by
Barack Obama is, “We are the ones we have been waiting for.”

Dudley Laws was motivated by the life and words of the Honourable Marcus Garvey. We leave
you with a Garvey quote that inspired Brother Dudley:

“Chance has never yet satisfied the hope of a suffering people; action, self-reliance, the vision of
self, and the future has been the only means by which the oppressed has seen and realized the
hope of their own freedom.”

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