Born in Whitney Pier in Sydney, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada |
Clarence is a fifth generation Canadian. His father’s family, former slaves, arrived in Canada as Loyalists who fought in the American Revolution with the British Army. He was raised in Sydney until the age of nine when his parents separated and he eventually moved, with his mother, to Toronto’s diverse Kensington Market area. Prior to the civil rights movement, black people were not welcome in many parts of the city but Kensington Market, predominantly Jewish in the 1950s, was one of the few areas that welcomed them into the community.
“The civility of the people is something that has really struck me as unique here in Toronto.”
Most of his friends are now here in the city; even those from Sydney and this helps them retain a strong sense of community. Clarence keeps connected to his community by attending reunions at St. Christopher House and their Club 65 meetings, a club made up mostly of black Canadians like himself. Clarence worked as the traffic manager at Ontario Hardwoods, opened the Scarborough YMCA, and finished his career as a life and disability insurance broker.
Toronto as Home
Clarence wanted to be photographed in front of First Baptist Church in Kensington Market, one of the oldest black churches in Toronto. This church is where Clarence was baptized as a teenager and it has been significant place for both he and his mother. It provided them with a sense of community in the city, particularly when they first moved to Toronto and didn’t know a lot of people.
Connection with the Past
Clarence holds two photographs that are of particular significance to him. The top picture is of his Cub Scout troop when he was about eight years old.
“My whole cub scout troop from Whitney Pier in Sydney was black.”
The second picture, taken in the early 1940s at a military camp in Nova Scotia, is of his father (on the right).