Marcia Alderson happily grew up in Centennial with her mother, Yvonne, and her father, George
By Kathy McGrath
Marcia Alderson fondly remembers her childhood growing up in the Centennial. She recalls fishing in Rouge Park, riding bikes with the local kids and interacting with neighbours who became lifelong friends. From the late 1960s to the late ‘80s she was largely unaware of the realities of racism in Canada.
As she grew older Marcia came to better understand her family’s story and the difficult struggle her parents faced to establish their life together. Marcia’s mother, Yvonne, immigrated to Canada from Jamaica in the 1950s. She was a hard-working nurse at what was then called Northwestern General Hospital.
Ten years later, Yvonne decided to purchase a house from a builder at Markham and Ellesmere in Scarborough and signed a full-price offer. Her real estate agent, George Hubbs, presented the offer but when the builder learned Yvonne was a person of colour he refused to sell.
George, a Caucasian man, was just as outraged as Yvonne about this turn of events and when Yvonne took the builder to the Human Rights Commission, George testified for her. Yvonne got the house and George was fired as an agent for the building site.
What started as a story about social justice soon became a love story. George and Yvonne began dating, eventually married and Marcia was born in 1965. Four years later the couple moved onto McCulley Street in Centennial and then moved locally to Langevin Crescent where Marcia lived until she was 22.
“I remember my mother was always treated beautifully when she lived in Centennial,” Marcia said. “I don’t ever remember anyone treating my family differently.” Marcia attended Charlottetown Public School, was part of the first cohort to attend Joseph Howe Senior Public and then attended Sir Oliver Mowat High School. She stayed close to home for university, attending U of T Scarborough.
Having great respect for her father, who passed away in 1982, Marcia followed in his footsteps, working as a real estate agent from age 20. She moved to Collingwood full-time in 2012 and currently works there as a realtor.
While Marcia says her light skin shields her from the racism faced by Black men and women, she has become an advocate for change in the Black community. She is the lead singer in a band called Queen M (formerly Motown and Marley), which performs at the main stage in Blue Mountain Village and other Collingwood venues.
To honour her parents, who are both deceased, Marcia co-wrote the song “Colour of Her Skin,” which can be found on the Queen M website. She recently performed at the Royal Lepage national conference in Winnipeg and told her mother’s story of racism in the housing industry.
Since the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement, Marcia said she has “put herself out there.” The increased awareness of racism has led people to ask her questions or ask for advice about racial issues that she never got before.
“Having a Jamaican connection, I see myself as someone who can bridge the gap between cultures,” she said. If there is a question she can’t address, she takes it upon herself to ask her Jamaican relatives for their input.
A recent BLM march organized by high school students in Collingwood attracted 2,000 people, something Marcia finds encouraging.
“Kindness is a gift everyone can afford to give,” she said. “I grew up in a wonderful neighbourhood with good solid people. We were in and out of each other’s homes and backyards. I always think back to that and what an idyllic way it was to grow up.”