I do not know why my grandmother named Dad, “Roy.” My grandmother may have told me, but I have forgotten. I remember her telling me how she named Dad “Wilfrid” after the seventh Canadian prime minister, Sir Wilfrid Laurier.
He was prime minister from 1896 until 1911. She came to Canada, from Jamaica, in 1910. Sir Wilfrid did something that impressed her to want to name her child after him. Who knows what?
We, my brother and sisters, could always tell when Mom was angry at Dad. She shouted out, “Wilfrid!” to summon him so she could scold him.
Usually, Mom called Dad, “Roy.” When he did something that made her angry, it was “Wilfrid!” I never heard Mom call Dad, “Chic.” It was always “Roy” unless she was angry.
Many people, who had known Dad for a long time, never knew his real name. They always thought it was “Chic.” They found out his real name at his funeral in 2005.
God bless Mr. Gray! He hired Dad when Black men were hired only as railway porters or for other service jobs.
In the early 1990s, I expressed my gratitude to Mr. Gray’s grandson, who owned Gray Tools. I said how I was grateful for his grandfather hiring Dad, and how he treated Dad equally.
“That’s right,” said the grandson. ” We have never discriminated against anyone because of his or her race, religion, sex, or physical or mental disability. I am constantly arguing with the government because my company is not meeting the quota for Aboriginal employees. The government is forcing me to hire people who do not want to work, and I am having all kinds of job performance issues with them. The government doesn’t care as long as I meet its quotas.”
Think about the obstacles Dad, Wilson Brooks (Toronto’s first Black school principal) and Douglas Salmon (Toronto’s first Black surgeon) faced. They did not have a Human Rights Commission or the media to assist them in dealing with discrimination. Nor did they whine about the obstacles racism threw in their paths. They moved forward no matter what.
Ancient Roman poet Ovid got it right when he said way back when,
“Dripping water hollows out stone, not through force but through persistence.”