Fitzroy Gordon left a legacy of resilience and inclusion

This editorial first appeared in the Toronto Star on Sunday, May 5, 2019. 

The Canadian media landscape lost a great leader this week, with the passing of Fitzroy “Mr. G” Gordon, founder and chief executive officer of G98.7FM, at age 65.

Mr. G took pride in combining music programming with meaningful political and social discourse and ensuring the content was available online for listeners around the world to engage. He built the radio station, with the tag line, “The way we groove,” as a space for Black and Caribbean communities in Toronto, Milton, Oakville, Brampton, Aurora and Pickering to come together.

On Sunday afternoons, as the baseline of the Marvin Gaye classic “Heard it Through the Grapevine” hit the airwaves, listeners knew a dynamic political discussion was underway. Mr. G hosted the weekly Grapevine show himself with an aim to share important information on policy, politics and process to cultivate stronger civic engagement among his broad audience. Politicians on all sides of the political spectrum frequented the program in an effort to get their messages out, and Gordon ensured the platform was available to community organizers and grassroots movements alike.

The political impact left by Mr. G is immense. Upon his passing, statements were released by politicians at all levels of government in Canada and abroad. The trail he blazed by founding and sustaining G98.7 is one that will continue to be built on for years to come.

Mr. G was a champion for Canadian newcomer communities. He immigrated to Canada from Jamaica in his 20s and worked initially as a medical equipment technologist before carving out space as a sports journalist, contributing to both Canadian and Caribbean publications. He believed there was lost potential in professionals immigrating to Canada and struggling to find work in their own fields.

The path to launching G98.7 was lined with hurdles. The Canadian institutions Mr. G navigated were complex and took years to overcome. The CBC opposed his initial application on technical grounds with support from Rogers Media, Astral Media, Bell Media and Durham Radio. In the end, Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission testing proved no disturbance of the CBC signal. Each challenge faced along the way would have been enough to force most to give up — but not Mr. G.

The legacy he left is one of resilience in building what many deemed to be an impossible dream.

I met Mr. G for the first time at a youth event at Queen’s Park in 2012. He had just completed his decade long journey to launch his station, and shared the need to be resilient when working within Canadian institutions. If we were to find barriers, he encouraged our group to be creative, patient, learn from the process and find a new way.

He taught by example, illustrating the need to do more than take up space as a leader, but create more space for the sharing of Black Canadian stories in mainstream media.

Mr. G endeavoured to cover both local and international news so those with families and interests spread across Africa and the Caribbean could feel a connection to the political realities and current issues beyond Canadian borders. He reported on elections, promoted travel and tirelessly supported disaster relief efforts.

In my final conversation with Mr. G before his passing, he was in the process of launching a representative body called the National Congress of Black Canadians. He was working with a team to lay the foundation for the organization with an aim to uplift Black Canadian populations, and as the website describes, “shed the vestiges of historical and systemic discrimination.”

Mr. G was also in the process of expanding into television. His vision was to connect Black populations from Halifax to Windsor on political issues and beyond. He wanted to bring Black Canadians together, build leaders and build bridges regionally and intergenerationally.

I stand among the thousands of Canadians who found a home in G98.7FM. I’m thankful for the sacrifices Mr. G made in order to dedicate his life to creating this space to connect the music and stories of the diverse African diaspora in Canada.

This week we lost a giant, but he left us with a dream. More than that, he left us with an increased capacity to dream for ourselves and work relentlessly until those dreams are realized.

Tiffany Gooch is a Toronto-based Liberal strategist at public affairs firms Enterprise and Ensight. She is a freelance contributor for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @goocht