Unusual friendship is at the heart of York prof’s next book

[American slave girl Cecelia Jane Reynolds’] escape to Canada [in 1846] might have been forgotten by history had it not been for some remarkable letters preserved today, and now the basis of an upcoming book by archaeologist and historian Karolyn Smardz Frost, of York University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, wrote the Ottawa Citizen Feb. 16.

She is giving a lecture about the story underlying her future book this Sunday in Ottawa, at the Black History Month luncheon lecture at Christ Church Cathedral on Sparks Street.

She doesn’t present "a kinder, gentler slavery story. I’m very averse to that," she says, "but the relationships among people were as complicated as the circumstances, and they changed according to who people were and how they were treated."

"I am writing effectively a two-woman biography, one black and one white," Smardz Frost says. She follows both women’s lives through many sources until they died, both many years after the war. The years had brought them together again; Cecelia in the end moved back to Kentucky, near her former owner in Louisville, and maintained contact with the Thruston family.

Osgoode prof underlines need for local study on pollution

A forum held last week in our community has further raised the profile of pollution and its impact on our health, and underscores the need for a local study on the issue to commence immediately, wrote The Sarnia Observer Feb. 16 in an editorial.

The devastating effects of pollution were discussed at the Community Forum on Pollution and Action co-organized by Aamjiwnaang First Nation and York University. Dayna Scott, an environmental law professor at York[’s Osgoode Hall Law School], told the forum that local residents don’t have to accept pollution and its serious health consequences as a fact of life. It’s a familiar refrain for many frustrated local residents.

Scott told those in attendance that she is working closely with Aamjiwnaang to investigate the links between pollution and the health impact on residents. The province’s pollution laws were discussed in detail at the forum and Scott says the law is broken.

York grad examines the Group of Seven

They worked in what now is called graphic design, preparing brochures for shipping companies, department stores and the like in a quiet city in a quiet country a century ago, wrote Regina, Sask.’s The Leader-Post Feb. 16.

How these seven young Canadians became the hottest thing in the art world is the subject of a new book by [York grad] Ross King [PhD ’92], one of this province’s most successful literary products.

Defiant Spirits: The Modernist Revolution of the Group of Seven (published by Douglas & McIntyre/McMichael Canadian Art Collection) tells how those seven created a vibrant Canadian art scene – and were lionized abroad, too.

"I think we forget about just how well-known they became in the ’20s," said King.

King worried that Group of Seven members would be "boring Canadian guys who were very polite." Instead, he found petty rivalries, with member A.Y. Jackson, in particular, sniping at the others. And the art critic of powerful Saturday Night magazine was "absolutely vicious" in his comments.

The group’s members are gone, but never forgotten in Canada and King has noticed renewed interest in them overseas, with major shows planned for the Dulwich Gallery in London and possibly galleries in Hanover and Paris. Said King: "They really were our first cultural superstars."

Pursuit of truth flourishes at faith-based schools

I have taught at both a major public university and a small Christian university college (Tyndale University College & Seminary in Toronto), wrote Ian Gentles, history professor at York’s Glendon College in a letter to the National Post Feb. 16, in response to a letter by Ian Hunter. In my experience, the spirit of free inquiry and the uninhibited pursuit of truth flourish more at the Christian institution than at the public, secular one.

Those who are truly committed to academic freedom should welcome the growth of Christian institutions of higher learning alongside the existing public ones. And it is right to call attention to the repressive attitude of officials of the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) in conducting investigations of Christian institutions for policies about which no one has complained. CAUT certainly does not represent my views.

Active harpy eagle nest found in Maya Mountains of Belize

Recently, the [Belize Foundation for Research and Environmental Education] has grown to include collaboration with the Institute for Bird Populations in California, BioDiversity Research Institute in Maine, and York University in Canada, wrote Science Daily online Feb. 15, in a story about the discovery of a nest of harpy eagles in Belize.

Minister blasts Iran for interference

Iranium, the 60-minute film that has caused controversy from Ottawa and Toronto to Iran, has been shown now in at least three venues in Canada: the National Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa, York University and B’nai Brith headquarters in Toronto, wrote The Jewish Tribune Feb. 15, in a story about remarks by Heritage Minister James Moore about Iranian objections to the film.

York partners with the Sault in diabetes prevention program

Sault College has partnered with York University and the Garden River First Nation to deliver a pre-diabetes detection and physical activity intervention delivery program, also known as PRE-PAID, wrote SooNews.ca Feb. 15.

The PRE-PAID project, funded by the Ministry of Health Promotion and Sport and Ontario Trillium Foundation, targets groups at high risk for diabetes and uses a community-based approach to engage them in the physical activities they enjoy. The York University study has been operational since November 2009, and several diverse ethnic neighbourhoods in the Toronto area have participated. The Sault College project will involve individuals of First Nations descent.

  • News about York University’s Faculty of Health participating in a diabetes prevention program with Sault College and the Garden River First Nation was featured on Sault Ste. Marie’s CHAS-FM and CJQM-FM radio Feb. 15.

Ursini to release solo CD

A Mississauga musician will release his first solo album, created from scratch in his basement studio, during an upcoming show at the Texas Longhorn, wrote The Mississauga News Feb. 15.

York student Michael Ursini wrote, performed, produced and mixed From My Basement To Your Ears. He’ll perform tracks from it during his CD release party on Feb. 26.

The full-time musician, who is also a part-time music teacher at the Ontario Conservatory of Music, will perform along with Joel Martin, Selyne Daia, Dale Luarca, The Morning Thieves and Paul (The Identity Crisis) Castro.

Rookie agent tops the market in just 2 years

It was those brutal early years of dating that crystallized the concept "failure is not an option" for up-and-coming Toronto sales rep [and former York student] Dave Elfassy, wrote REMonline.com Feb. 15.

“Being five-foot-seven and balding, I experienced rejection at an early age (when) dating,” he says with a laugh. “A lot of people can’t handle rejection.” But he quickly came to realize that dating – and much else in life, including sales – is “a numbers game.”

Now married with two children, 34-year-old Elfassy’s never-say-die philosophy has helped him become a top contender on Toronto’s real estate scene, after just over two years in the business.

A former student in [York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science], before entering real estate Elfassy worked in the health and fitness industry for close to a decade. He began as a personal trainer and rose up the ranks to general manager of a large health club.

On air

  • Haideh Moghissi, professor in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, took part in a panel discussion about home and nationality on TVO’s “The Agenda” Feb. 15.