Jamaica-born businessman B. Denham Jolly honoured by city of Toronto

Jamaica-born businessman B. Denham Jolly honoured by city of Toronto
B. Denham Jolly (centre) with Mayor John Tory (right) and Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson at the unveiling of a sign officially naming a street Jolly Way in honour of Jolly, the Jamaica-born philanthropist, in February.

(JAMAICA GLEANER) —   Jamaican-Canadian businessman, pioneering broadcaster, philanthropist, entrepreneur, author and human rights activist, B. Denham Jolly, has been honoured by the city of Toronto – the place he has called home for several decades.

On February 1, Toronto Mayor John Tory, Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson and nearly 100 invited guests unveiled a sign officially naming a street Jolly Way after the iconic community leader.

“It’s a great honour, which I am humbled and appreciate very much,” Jolly told The Gleaner on Monday.

“I also feel that it’s a recognition that blacks really have contributed a lot to the development of Toronto in particular and Canada in general, and I am happy that this recognition is finally manifesting itself in an occasion like this.”

Located in a new subdivision near the intersection of Ellesmere Road and Kennedy in Scarborough, Jolly Way recognises Jolly’s outstanding achievements in Toronto’s Caribbean-Canadian community.

“Denham Jolly is a legend in our city,” said Thompson.


“His achievements in business alone are noteworthy, but they are dwarfed by his contributions to diversity, culture and social justice in our city. I am delighted to officiate at the unveiling of this sign, which will serve as a lasting, public reminder of his outstanding legacy.”

Jolly’s business career reflected his Jamaican roots and interest in cultural diversity. He founded the Black Business Professional Association (BBPA) in 1982, and Canada’s first black-owned radio station, Toronto’s FLOW 93.5, in 2001.

Jolly provided a voice for the black community as publisher and financial backer for the weekly newspaper, Contrast. He also owned and operated Tyndall Nursing Homes.

“B. Denham Jolly has played a large role in building up our city. Whether it is through his radio gigs or his leadership in advancing the black community – he always put our city and its residents first,” said Mayor Tory.

“It is only fitting that we name a street after this well-established and caring community leader who has impacted the lives of many people in our city.”

Jolly also served as a director of the Toronto International Film Festival and as a board member of the Jamaican Canadian Association, the Black Action Defense Committee, the Committee for Due Process, the Daphne DaCosta Cancer Association, the Jane and Finch Concerned Citizens Movement, the Black Inmates Organization, the Harriett Tubman Games, the YMCA and Toronto’s annual Caribbean Festival.

His contributions to Canada have earned him the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal, Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, Canada’s 125th Confederation Medal for contributions to community development and the City Soul Award.

Today, he continues his work as a philanthropist and community activist, operating a breakfast programme for needy students at Cornwall College, his alma mater in Montego Bay, and sponsoring a boys’ soccer team at Regent Park in Toronto. In August 2019, Jolly donated CAD$312,000 to pay off the outstanding mortgage of the Jamaican Canadian Association.

“I have made contributions to Jamaica and to Jamaicans here. I haven’t forgotten where I came from so I try to maintain our dignity and honour here,” Jolly told The Gleaner.

His autobiography, In the Black: My Life, won the 2017 Toronto Book Award.

Jolly told The Gleaner that what Toronto has done sends a message that recognition will come to the efforts that blacks have made.

“It also says that if you work hard, your efforts will be recognised,” he said.

“One of the things I pointed out at the ceremony was that blacks have fought in every Canadian war from 1812 to Afghanistan, and blacks have made significant contributions to the development of the city and of Canada.”


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