By Darren Lum
It’s a matter of when now.
Justice will be served. It’s been a long time coming to properly recognize Haliburton’s only Olympian Lesley Tashlin and the area’s first pro football player Taly Williams with a place among the community’s great athletes on the wall of murals on the side of the A.J. LaRue Arena.
This was made possible by the determination of a J. Douglas Hodgson Elementary School Grade 7/8 French immersion class guided by their teacher Marina Thomazo, which started a year ago following a morning announcement raising awareness of the two Black athletes.
The teacher recently met with the Montreal-based artist Annie Hamel who was commissioned to complete the murals. Hamel came to Haliburton on Nov. 26 to visit the community and see the wall of murals where her work will live and be an example of the concerted efforts by JDHES students to ensure Tashlin and William were recognized in this community. Thomazo said Hamel was working on the mock-ups.
Coincidentally, the news of how the murals are edging closer to being realized came just before the American federal holiday, Martin Luther King Day on Monday, Jan. 17. This day, which is held annually every third Monday of January, recognizes the Baptist minister for his achievements in raising awareness and rallying people during the civil rights movement of the 1960s in the U.S.
Growing up in Scarborough during the 1980s, I had a challenging time growing up as a visible minority in the suburbs where the number of visible minorities at my elementary school could be counted on two hands.
I was different from other children being Chinese. My dark hair, skin colour and lunches that periodically didn’t match the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches given to other students proved it to others. And, if it wasn’t apparent with what I did, the differences in others who looked similar to me (with features similar to other Asians – dark hair and complexion to match), reminded me I didn’t belong. This didn’t come from everyone, but it was from enough to question my belonging.
Williams has expressed a similar experience, growing up here. This isn’t an indictment for retribution. It simply was.
When I saw and heard Baptist minister Martin Luther King give the speech, I have a dream in a documentary it spoke to me as a visible minority. He delivered it long before I was born on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 28, 1963. And, yet, I never forgot the universal sentiment that we all want to be judged by the content of our character.
An excerpt of the speech: ‘So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal … I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.’
King was killled for his efforts by James Earl Ray in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968.
The students here and King are not the same. The magnitude of issues King faced and his achievements are on a entirely different level, but every effort towards equal treatment of others counts and the local students did their part to that end. Without knowing it they followed in his hallowed steps. They didn’t face the threat of a noose, a swing of a baton, or the bite of a German shepherd, but they helped in their way disrupting what was by inspiring others with what should be … just.
The murals are expected to be installed this spring.