On the evening of January 20, 1995, Angela Lawrence sat in disbelief as she watched a TV Ontario program featuring a panel discussion on diversity in Canadian newsrooms. Among the four panelists was radio and television commentator Dick Smythe, who argued that the dearth of newsroom diversity was due to a lack of qualified candidates in the field. “How many dark-skinned people do we see out there?” he asked, noting how few minorities there were in the audience of mainly journalism students.
Like many of her peers, Lawrence, senior editor of Canadian Select Homes, had been hearing about an idea to form an association for black journalists for years, but nothing had come of it. Inflamed by Smythe’s comments and inspired by her sister, who had helped form the Black Law Students Association of Canada while studying at the University of Toronto, Lawrence decided to pursue the idea. She tracked down CBC Evening News reporter Hamlin Grange, who had once discussed the prospect of forming a group with a few fellow journalists. He told her that if she was willing to put in the time, then he was willing to help. A year later, on February 2, 1996, at Ryerson Polytechnic University, approximately 200 people attended the launch of the Canadian Association of Black Journalists with Lawrence as its president. For many in the black community, the common sentiment was that it was about time. Excerpt from: “Equality, Fraternity, Opportunity” By: Shee-Mee Yeh, Ryerson Review of Journalism, Spring, 1997
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