Sunday, April 3, 2011

Dudley Laws, 1934-2011, leading Toronto anti-racist fighter

by Norman 'Otis' Richmond, radio broadcaster for 25 years, Black community activist

Dudley Laws was known as a fear-free activist who would stand up to police brutality when many of us were too afraid to step up to the plate.


Laws joined the ancestors on March 24th after battling kidney disease. The Jamaican born Laws had stared death in the face many times. It is amazing the he lived 76 years. I always said "
Dudley was like a cat, He had nine lives."  He was born in St. Thomas Parish, Jamaica on May 7, 1934 to Ezekiel and Agatha Laws, and was a brother to three siblings. A welder and mechanic by trade, he worked at Standard Engineering Works until he emigrated to the United Kingdom in 1955 and became involved in defending the Caribbean community. In 1965, he relocated to Toronto, Canada, where he worked as a welder and taxi driver.

Laws was most known for founding the Black Action Defence Committee in 1988 following the
Toronto police shooting of Lester Donaldson. He was once the head of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, a Marcus Garvey-inspired organization. Under his leadership its name was changed to the Universal African Improvement Association. He was deeply concerned with the education of youth and helped many young people, including my son.

Laws became prominent in the 1970s and 1980s as a critic of the then Metro Toronto Police Force, due to a number of young black men being shot by police constables, as well as leveling other allegations of racist practices against the police. He has also been prominent as an advocate for immigrants and refugees, and worked as an immigration consultant in the 1990s. He was able to travel to
Cuba and spoke highly of what he saw in that society.

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