In honour of this special month in 2018, the Blackstarline Readers hosted B. Denham Jolly at A Different Booklist in Toronto. It was a well-attended affair and a celebration of his seminal memoir, In the Black.
In the Black is the memoir of one of Canada’s trailblazers. From his roots in Hanover Parish, Jamaica to Toronto, In the Black takes the reader on the journey of his remarkable life. The book tackles not only B. Denham Jolly’s personal story but also chronicles the struggles of Black Canadian immigrants from the 1950’s to present day. The issues of social justice, equity and the fight for self-determination which many in Mr. Jolly’s generation fought for, are highlighted throughout.
B. Denham Jolly, like many in his generation left the country of his birth, Jamaica to seek the adventure and opportunity life abroad in Canada promised. After his initial foray as an educator, he was able to use his ingenuity to amass wealth in real estate which grew into successful endeavours in media and social justice work. Notable are his achievements in helping support many important community and social justice initiatives. Also notable, the founding of the BBPA (Black Business Professional Association) and a groundbreaking radio station, Flow 93.5FM. Many know him most for the latter accomplishment.
The book is as much an engaging chronicle of Mr. Jolly’s life as it is a testimony to the many Canadian activists who helped pave the way for social justice. These include Dudley Laws of the Black Action Defence Committee and Al Hamilton of Contrast Newspaper, one of Canada’s oldest Black community newspapers.
During the meeting, Mr. Jolly was candid and fielded many questions from the audience, which ranged from teenagers to mature adults, all inspired by his life story and achievements. He did not disappoint, he ably recounted his journey as a new immigrant in Canada and the trials and tribulations he and his contemporaries overcame in the face of racism and inequity. When asked about retirement, Mr. Jolly’s reply was, “I am working on building a hotel on the beach in Jamaica.” His entrepreneurial drive and vitality continues well into his 80s.