The powerful reminder B. Denham Jolly's memoir gave Donna Bailey Nurse
Born in Jamaica, B. Denham Jolly is an activist and media pioneer who came to Canada during the mid-1950s to go to university. His memoir, In the Black: My Life, follows his journey from teaching high school students to licensing a Black-owned radio station in Toronto.
The Next Chapter columnist Donna Bailey Nurse explains how Jolly's unique upbringing led him to social activism and how his memoir explores more than the contents of his life.
Why he started a radio station
"If you wanted to listen to Black music with any kind of regularity, you tuned into U.S.-based urban contemporary FM radio station WBLK, which was in Buffalo. And if you were a concert promoter and you wanted to advertise a local Black artist, you would actually have to run your ad on WBLK and Black people in Toronto would hear it. But on top of that, the mainstream stations — for the most part — would not run those ads. At that time, Jolly decided we needed a voice that would be more far-reaching than a local newspaper."
When money meets generosity
"His father's name was Benjamin and he was quite an entrepreneur. In fact, he was such an entrepreneur that his nickname was 'Cappie' — short for capitalist. He drilled into Jolly two pieces of advice: try to be your own boss and always own property. Jolly's mom was the area's first Justice of the Peace. She was known for her exceptional generosity, which is a very big deal because in Jamaica generosity is the norm. To stand out is a really big deal. These qualities seem opposite — this love of money and this deep generosity — but they come together in Denham Jolly to shape his character. He becomes a man who always has his eye on a business opportunity, but he also becomes a great radical giver."
A powerful reminder
"Often, for me, the words 'rich' and 'powerful' are not a compliment because so many people who have money use that power to do the wrong thing. With this book, I was reminded that money and power can come in handy when you want to do the right thing."
Donna Bailey Nurse's comments have been edited and condensed.