On Wednesday evening, not far from the law office that was shuttered shortly after Roach’s death at age 79 in 2012, the City of Toronto will unveil “Charley Roach Lane” — a single lane, east-west ribbon of road tucked immediately north of St. Clair, between Rushton Rd. and Arlington Ave. — in honour of his life and work.
“I think it’s important because it’s near where many people came to get help from Charley,” said Rosenthal, who worked out of the office as well. “The office there was very important for helping a lot of individuals with their problems, but also a very large number of fights for social justice were launched and aided from that office.”
Rosenthal and Ward 21 city councillor Joe Mihevic, who represents the area, made the laneway honour happen. The two are scheduled to speak at the unveiling, which begins at 7 p.m.. Also expected to speak are social justice warriors Lennox Farrell and Zanana Akande, as as well as Toronto Caribbean Carnival CEO Denise Herrera Jackson and Sunset Roach, Roach’s daughter, an elementary school teacher with the Toronto District School Board.
“I am just blown over, it’s great,” Roach says of her father’s laneway honour. It comes during a spike in gun violence in a city he deeply cared about, notes Roach. “I think if my dad was around he’d be very much concerned and involved and searching for solutions to this rash of violence,” she says. “When I think back to my mom and dad, they were very optimistic people.”
Roach, a poet, painter and musician, was a founding member of Caribana and one of four founders, including Farrell, of the Black Action Defence Committee, created in the 80s in response to police killings of Black citizens, and a big reason why Ontario has the civilian-led Special Investigations Unit. His was a voice that commanded attention and inspired others.