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Famous Jamaicans In Toronto
by Mahogany Saunders

Donovan Bailey at a track meet.
(Photograph used with permission.)

Jamaicans in TV, Film and Theatre

Miss Lou, a national icon, lives in the GTA. So does Calvin Butler, producer of Jamaica's Oliver at Large TV series and Honor Forde-Smith, the Jamaican actress and acting teacher who founded Jamaica's Sistren theatrical collective. Leonie Forbes has appeared on stage in Toronto and as one of the stars of the TV series, Lord of Mercy that is produced in Toronto. Jamaican-born TV actor Peter Williams (Stargate, Neon Rider, Da Vinci's Inquest) got his start here, as well as Delroy Lindo (Going to Extremes, MalcolmX) and Tonya Lee Williams (The Young and the Restless) who were both born in England to Jamaican parents.

Jamaicans in Music

Johnnie Osbourne (who was then known as Bumpy) used to live and perform in Toronto. Heptones singer Leroy Sibbles has made Toronto his home. The late Jackie Mitoo also made his home here. So did Ernie Smith of Duppy Gunman fame. Carlene Davis launched her reggae career in Toronto.

Jamaicans in Politics

Jamaicans in the GTA have also made their mark in the political arena. Marcus Garvey spent some time in Toronto and set up a branch of the UNIA, which is still active. Lincoln Alexander, whose mother was a Jamaican immigrant, was the first elected official in the Canadian parliament. He represented Hamilton West. Between 1985 and 1991, he was the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. The late Rosemary Brown was active in politics here and the head of the Ontario Human Rights Commission. Alvin Curling has been a member of the provincial parliament (MPP).

Jamaican-born Athletes

Of course, who could forget Ben Johnson and Donovan Bailey, who have made their mark on a global scale at the Olympics. Laurie Silvera has owned and trained horses for 29 years at Toronto's Woodbine racetrack. Prior to coming to Canada, Laurie was a leading horse trainer in Jamaica for many years at Caymanas Park. Arthur Silvera is following in his father's footsteps and he is also training horses at Woodbine.

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