Wall of silence due to fear and police discrimination

Police battling an alarming surge of gun violence in Toronto’s black community once again ran up against what was long ago dubbed “the wall of silence,” reported The Globe and Mail Nov. 26 following the shooting death of Amon Beckles while attending the funeral of friend and shooting victim Jamal Hemmings. Why is nobody speaking up? “They’re scared of getting shot too,” said one of five teen-aged schoolgirls interviewed by the Globe. Add to that a mistrust of police among blacks that stretches back generations, said Carol Tator, a white anthropology professor in York’s Faculty of Arts and long-time observer of police-black dynamics. Discrimination, she said, has been systemic. “I’ve lived here since 1960 and I know literally hundreds of black people. And I don’t know a single black man, including my colleagues at York and all my students, who has not been [singled out]. That’s how separate black families are from the life experience of you and I.”

What’s your vision, Mr. Mayor? A subway to York?

In an open letter to Toronto Mayor David Miller Nov. 28, Toronto Star columnist and reluctant supporter Royson James demanded to know: “Why haven’t you outlined your vision of how to meet the city’s great challenges?” Among the questions he asked the mayor was: “Do you want to see the subway to York University built by 2015 and, concurrently, a station a year to 2020?”

Ads starring CEOs fall flat

The problem with executive hawkers like John Sleeman, who stars in his company’s ads, is “most CEOs are of utterly no interest to the average consumer of a product or a service,” says Alan Middleton, a marketing professor at York’s Schulich School of Business, reported The Globe and Mail Nov. 28. “What they are interested in are the benefits that the company or brand is going to deliver to them.” Middleton is also unimpressed with car maker Ford Motor Co., which has been featuring its CEO in its ads recently. William Clay Ford Jr., the great-grandson of company founder Henry Ford, has been trying to position the car maker as innovative by talking about gas-electric hybrid vehicles to come and its research in nanotechnology. But “his message isn’t very evocative or powerful” because “he hasn’t developed a benefit-oriented message for the car buyer who is also looking at a Chrysler, Toyota or a Honda,” Middleton says. “It fails to link it to a benefit of why somebody should buy a particular brand of Ford car now.”

Building designs include honour rolls

The “honour roll” has become a prominent feature of many new building projects, wrote the Toronto Star’s Christopher Hume (BA ’74) in a Nov. 28 column. This isn’t surprising, he suggested. After all, we live in a time of deeply diminished public resources. Without private-sector donations, nothing outside of a condo would have been built in Toronto for 20 years or more. According to Justin Young, marketing director for the Toronto-based design firm Gottschalk + Ash International, it was York’s Schulich School of Business project that marked a turning point in honour roll esthetics and awareness. The Seymour Schulich Building consists of a series of coloured glass panels that hang vertically from the main wall of the lobby, more like an artwork than an exercise in public relations.

George Best – a legend in his time

“For me, there can never be another George Best,” wrote Allan Hutchinson, an associate dean at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School in a letter published Nov. 28 in The Globe and Mail following the death of the legendary soccer player. “Best came along at a perfect time for football and me,” Hutchinson remembered. “Like all young teenagers, I was at the height of my impressionability and Best had everything that I craved – fame, glamour, fortune, girls, rebelliousness, talent, freedom etc.,” wrote Hutchinson. “The image of him twisting and turning past defenders and, then, turning around to do it again was the stuff of delight that, intensified by my adolescent adoration, still gives me shivers up and down the back of my neck. And, for some mysterious, but profound reason, it still brings tears to my eyes. Perhaps, it is because, like my youth, he will never come again.”

Betty who? Let Bowman fill you in

“Who is Bettye LaVette, you ask?” writes Rob Bowman, the Grammy Award-winning York musicologist, in his characteristically authoritative liner notes for the 60-year-old soul singer’s new disc I’ve Got My Own Hell to Raise, reported the Toronto Star’s music critic Vit Wagner Nov. 28 in a feature about her current tour. Wagner quoted more of Bowman’s notes: “The simple answer is that [she] is one of the greatest soul singers in American music history, possessed of an incredibly expressive voice that one moment will exude a formidable level of strength and intensity and the next will appear vulnerable, reflective, reeking of heartbreak. Unfortunately, it says much about the vagaries of the popular music industry that up to this point she has remained criminally unknown.”

Toronto rapper attended York

Kardinal Offishall, the Canadian rapper known both internationally and in Toronto’s urban neighbourhoods, is up for his sixth Canadian Urban Music Award Tuesday, reported the Toronto Star Nov. 28. Offishall’s alter ego, twentysomething Jason Harrow, took six courses at York during the 1996 and 1997 academic years (he is not a graduate of York’s mass communication program, as reported).