Tuesday, March 01, 2011

First in Black - Black

February was Canada’s Black History Month and since this is March 1st, I reckon we’re close enough to include the following piece. It was the second of two articles I wrote in its commemoration, consecutively published in The Watford Guide-Advocate.

His parents immigrated to Canada from the West Indies. He was born in Toronto in 1922, where his father worked as a porter and his mother as a maid. This man has experienced many ‘firsts’ during his 89 years, and his influence for good has benefited many Canadian lives. This first-generation Canadian’s prodigious gamut of roles and accomplishments will go down in our provincial and national histories.
When Lincoln M. Alexander was elected Member of Parliament for Hamilton West in 1968, he was Canada’s first Black MP. Likewise, when appointed Lieutenant Governor of Ontario in 1985, he was the first black person to be appointed lieutenant governor of a province, since Confederation.
His love for Canada saw him serve in the Royal Canadian Air Force during WWII, after which he resumed his education. Lincoln’s appreciation for education and his strong work ethic were instilled by his parents, who impressed on him the value of education. He studied hard and well, graduating (1949) with a B.A. in Political Economics, and later (1953), from Osgoode Hall Law School with a law degree. He practised law for some years, becoming Queen’s Council in 1965.
In politics, Lincoln Alexander won four elections, but had no thirst for power. He sought to use whatever influence he had toward improving life for all Canadians, and was active in Ontario’s multicultural movement. He served as Minister of Labour in Joe Clark’s short-lived government, and was the first Black to become Chairman of the Ontario Workers Compensation Board (1980).
Following his term as Lieutenant Governor in 1991, Alexander was the first to serve five terms as Chancellor of The University of Guelph! The university named a special awards program in his honour – particularly in view of his championing the causes of youth and education. Such is the scope of Alexander’s inspiration that three schools were named after him.
Whenever I travel in the Hamilton area and see signs for the Lincoln Alexander Parkway I’m again reminded of the high regard in which this man is held.
Black History Month closes in a few days, but may we continue to appreciate the positive contributions Black Canadians have made – and continue to make – for good in our country. Lincoln M. Alexander is an example of one whose passion and integrity continue to inspire others. I understand that he made no big public deal of his religious background as a Baptist Christian, but rather sought to live out his faith.
An interesting factoid about the Honourable Alexander is that he has never possessed a driver’s licence. Amazing! How could he have ever succeeded without one, eh?
Last week and today’s sketches of African North Americans remind us of the value of every life, and of how a life lived well can help others live better. Those persons pursued a high and enduring vision. I thank God for friends and acquaintances of differing ethnicities and skin tone to mine, whose example, influence, and friendship have enhanced my life and stirred my faith. My gaze is raised.
Colour, per se, is only skin deep. The Scriptures say (Romans 10:12-13 NIV): For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Not colour; just people who know they need the Lord. That includes me!
© Peter A. Black - in P-Pep! ; The Watford Guide-Advocate – February 24, 2011.
(Information gleaned from various publically available sources.)
Peter writes a weekly column in The Guide.
He is the author of "Parables from the Pond";
(Word Alive Press ISBN 1897373-21-X)


Marian said...

Amen. Lincoln Alexander is a fellow who shows us our prejudices are ridiculous.

Peter Black said...

So true, Marian.
I'm forever grateful that my parents had black stewards from the sugar freighters and others from Africa stay overnight at our humble tenement apartment in Glasgow when I was a youngster. Those were great times and helped develop my openness towards and acceptance of others.

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