ParkTales

ParkTales

City of Toronto poster honouring Paul Robeson 

is placed at Parkdale Library for Black History Month

By Frances Sedgwick
True North Perspective

Frances Sedgwick's keen eye and ear for the human condition reveals the heart and soul of Parkdale in southwest Toronto, one of the country's most turbulent urban areas where the best traditions of human kindness prevail against powerful forces that would grind them down. True North Perspective proudly presents a column by writer Frances Sedgwick. Her critical observation combined with a tender sense of humour will provide you with something to think about ... and something to talk about.

I went to my Parkdale Library the other day to make an appointment for a friend to use one of the services of the The Parkdale Information Centre, another cherished service in our Library.  
 
Another reason to save our Library Services! 
 
While in the Library a display of books reminded me it was Black History month. This in return reminded of me the material I had at home on Paul Robeson, a great Black American hero of my husband.
 
Paul Robeson was famous for the song, "Old Man River" and many great songs of social struggle. He was an actor, singer, one of the greatest singing voices of all time, a lawyer, athlete and he fought relentlessly against racism, oppression and injustice on behalf of all. Unfortunately, during the McCarthy period, he got "blacklisted" in the USA and his passport was taken away. As the years passed he was almost forgotten.
 
In the library I searched for the person in charge of the displays and mentioned I had material for a display of Paul Robeson. That maybe it was too late to use the material but maybe they could use a poster the City of Toronto produced honouring Robeson.
 
I explained that my husband, Paul Pauk in 1995, had started The Paul Robeson Commerorative Commitee in Toronto. His goal was to enlighten younger generations about the tremendous accomplishments of Paul Robeson and hoped to inspire them to follow his message of peace, liberation, equality and human dignty.
 
He would go to such places as schools and labour conventions, to set up his display and talk about Paul Robeson. Those  unaware of Robeson, were impressed and took the many pieces of information and tapes of his music and songs, such as Old Man River, Peace Songs, Songs of Struggle, Civil and Human Rights, that my husband had spent hours recording and copying for others to enjoy.
 
I explained to the librarian that the City of Toronto, two years ago, before Rob Ford, had a display and a ceremony at  Toronto City Hall honouring Paul Robeson during Black History Month.
 
At this time they also produced a poster commemorating his life's work. 
 
I asked if the library would like one of these posters which the City gave to me since they had used material from my husbands material on Paul Robeson for their desplay.
 
The librarian replied yes and said she had never heard of Paul Robeson. I said google him and you will be pleasantly surprised.
 
I ran home and brought back the poster.  
 
Much to my pleasant surprise when I returned to give her the poster she said, "I did google him and what a  person he was." (Http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Robeson.)
 
She looked at the poster and said, how lovely, I'll get it laminated and put up. I restated that I had a lot of material from the Paul Robeson Commemorative Committee on Paul Robeson and maybe the library can do a display.
 
Robeson's birthday is April 9. The City of Toronto, in 1998, on the 100 anniversary of his birth, designated his birthday, April 9, Paul Robeson day in Toronto. I said that would be a good time to have a display and remind, or acquaint, people with this great Black American, actor, singer, athlete, civil rights advocate.
 
Her reply was, yes we will keep this in mind for the future, and thanked me very much for all this.
 
When I got home I realised it was Valentine's Day and this was a good present to my husband, now residing in a nursing home, who spent so much of his time, energy and love promoting his "idol" Paul Robeson.  
 
My Parkdale
 

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