Civil Rights Activist / Executive Director, Black Action Defence Committee, Toronto, ON. Born: Jamaica.
Celebrating Dudley’s life & contributions:
May 7, 1934 – March 24, 2011
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A welder and mechanic by trade, Dudley Laws emigrated to the United Kingdom in 1955 and became involved in defending the West Indian community. In 1965, he relocated to Toronto, Canada, where he worked as a welder and taxi driver. He joined the Universal African Improvement Association, a Garveyite organization. In 1988, he founded the Black Action Defence Committee.
Dudley is best known for his unmitigated stand against police violence toward members of the Black community, poor Whites, First Nation, and oppressed people nationally and internationally.
Dudley passed away recently after battling cancer and kidney disease. We’re proud to honour his legacy – 50 years of community activism – by profiling his life’s perspective…as written by Dudley.
The journey that I have traveled over the past seventy-six years has brought me enormous knowledge and wisdom. The developing years of my childhood, with my parents, siblings, my extended family and community has instilled in me the precious value for honour and respect of human lives.
Living in Jamaica the first twenty years of my life has taught me respect for my elders, the beauty of nature, and the expectation of a better life and a more caring world. As I traveled to England in the late fifties and went through a transformation from a warm people and climate to a cold and racist country, I was compelled to fight discrimination and racism. My ten years of residing in England ended in 1965, the year I came to Canada.
These forty-four years of living in Toronto, Canada have caused me to be involved in many different struggles, including the criminal justice system, immigration, public housing, police community relationship, racial profiling, and many other issues of concern to the Afro-Canadian community, and to society in general.
One of the first lessons that I learned and that was very clear to me, was that a community must be organized if that community hopes to achieve and sustain progress, justice and respect. Because of this view, and the historic philosophic teachings of the Honourable Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and many others, I have joined and co-founded many organizations in England and in Canada. The need for community-based organizations, national, and international groups of cultural and political organization cannot be overstated.
Soon after my arrival in Canada, I became a member of the Jamaican-Canadian Association, of which I am still a member. Then I joined the Universal African Improvement Association (the Garvey movement), and became its President in 1972. Some of the organizations that I co-founded were: The Brixton Neighbourhood Association, and the Standing Conference of the West Indies (in England); the Black Youth Community Action Project (BYCAP), Black Inmates & Friends Assembly (BIFA), the Black Action Defence Committee, of which I am now its executive director (in Canada), and the various other committees that were formed in support of victims and their families due to the police’s use of deadly force.
In continuation of my community involvement, I am always inspired by the teachings of the Honourable Marcus Garvey in his Philosophy and Opinions, he tells us, “Chance has never yet satisfied the hope of a suffering people; action, self-reliance, the vision of self, and the future has been the only means by which the oppressed has seen and realized the hope of their own freedom.”
At the present time in Toronto, and other parts of Canada, the African-Canadian community has extreme problems of internal acts of crime that has taken the lives of hundreds of young Black men since the early 1990’s. There is the problem of unemployment and unskilled youth; there are problems of young African-Canadian youth who are dropping out or being pushed out of the educational system; there are also problems of and the condition of public housing. All these issues are of urgent concern to most of us in the African-Canadian community.
For many years, individuals and organizations have made enormous attempts in consulting with the three levels of government to address these problems in our community; these efforts have not been addressed, nor have they been achieved to a satisfactory degree.
The failure of government to ban the manufacturing, sales, and distribution of guns has caused the unlimited usages of these deadly weapons in the African-Canadian community and the destabilization of hundreds of families, the deaths of hundreds of Black youths, and the imprisonment of hundreds more.
For many years, the Black Action Defence Committee has been at the forefront of the struggle for the establishment of an Independent Civilian Oversight to investigate police misconduct. Although the government has called many commissions of inquiries, which have recommended the establishment of such a body, the government is reluctant to do so.
It is my opinion, and the opinion of others in and outside of our community, that if such a body is established, and citizens of Ontario and Canada have the means by which to make complaints on police abuse, this would greatly improve the relationship between the African-Canadian community and the police.
Over the past few years, the provincial government has spent over two billion dollars in the building of “super jails” in Maple Hurst and Penetanguishine, and the planning of a youth jail in Brampton. To my knowledge, the provincial government has not built a training centre where young adults could be trained with skills for gainful employment.
The establishment of the Afro-centric School is a very positive advancement in the lives of some of our children especially those who are unable to cope in the present school system. Some of our children need a more tender approach; a culturally sensitive place of acceptance and welcome that would develop the intelligence and genius in them.
These seventy-seven years have given me unlimited knowledge of my community and its people. Many persons living and deceased have given years of their lives for the betterment of our children and community; the continuation of this process is now the task of the growing youth leadership in which I have tremendous confidence. My hope is that they will call upon the knowledge, experience, and wisdom of those of us who have traveled the path of leadership.
In my visitations to the jails and prisons, I saw the hundreds of young Black men in these institutions and reflected on the various problems in our community. I must say, that no child was born a criminal; it is the environment in which they grew that made them what they have become.
All of us must, therefore, accept our responsibilities and work to change the acts of violence, poverty, unemployment, and economic dependency. Those of us who have gained reorganization have achieved honour because of the sacrifices men and women that have preceded us made. We must now prepare our children to climb on our shoulders to the pinnacle of greatness that they must achieve.