A bust of Lincoln Alexander, Canada’s first Black member of Parliament and a former lieutenant governor of Ontario, was unveiled at Queen’s Park on Sunday.
Alexander was a trailblazer in Canadian public lifeCBC News
· Posted: Jan 21, 2024 3:56 PM EST | Last Updated: January 21
A newly unveiled bust of Lincoln Alexander, Canada’s first Black MP and Ontario’s first Black lieutenant governor, stands at the provincial legislature in Toronto. (Jason Trout/CBC)A bust of Lincoln Alexander, Canada’s first Black member of Parliament and a former lieutenant governor of Ontario, was unveiled at Queen’s Park on Sunday.
The statue of Alexander, who was born in Toronto and went on to represent a Hamilton riding as an MP for 12 years between 1968 and 1980, is the first of a Black politician to stand in the Ontario Legislature.
The bust was sculpted by award-winning Toronto artist Quentin VerCetty.
“In my opinion, he was one of the greatest Canadians,” VerCetty said of Alexander in an interview with CBC Radio’s Metro Morning on Friday.
“He’s one of the most decorated Canadians of all time — a war veteran, lawyer, community activist, so many titles,” he added.
Alexander served as the province’s lieutenant governor from 1985 to 1990, the first Black person to hold a viceregal position in Canada. He would go on to spend 16 years as the chancellor of the University of Guelph while remaining a vocal advocate for Black Canadians. He died in 2012 at the age of 90.
The province officially proclaimed Jan. 21 as “Lincoln Alexander Day” in 2013, and it was recognized nationwide in 2015.
VerCetty recalled a chance encounter with Alexander as a teen in the halls of his high school — Lincoln M. Alexander Secondary School in Malton — though at the time he didn’t know he was speaking to the giant of Canadian history for whom the school was named.
“I wasn’t a good student. I was skipping class,” VerCetty said. “He walked right up to me and he said, ‘Young man, I can see you doing great things.'”
It took some time for that message to sink in. VerCetty eventually dropped out of high school, and it would be another five years before he went back to get his diploma. He went on to graduate from OCAD University, and he also holds a master’s of art education from Concordia University.
“Looking back I realized that Lincoln saw something in me before I could see it. And before anyone else could. All my teachers told me I was going to be a failure, and I almost proved them right,” he said.
LISTEN | Artist Quentin VerCetty on his bust of Lincoln Alexander:
Metro Morning7:33Toronto artist remembers ‘great Canadian’ Lincoln Alexander with an Afro Futuristic sculpture at Queen’s Park
Quentin VerCetty created a bust of Lincoln Alexander, the first sculpture of a Black Canadian at Queen’s Park.
The bust was sculpted in the tradition of “Afrofuturism,” VerCetty said, a school of art and philosophy that aims to tell the stories of Black communities and people by combining history, science fiction and fantasy. It includes elements from Alexander’s life from before, during and after he was Ontario’s lieutenant governor.
It even has a subtle nod to Star Wars. VerCetty said he learned in conversations with Alexander’s family that Alexander had attended the 1977 Canadian premiere of the first Star Wars film and remained a fan of the beloved science fiction anthology throughout his life.
Ultimately, VerCetty said, he hopes that those who see the sculpture will be inspired by Alexander to “think about how they can embody their own greatness.”
With files from CBC Radio’s Metro Morning