Black Women: From Citizen Judge to Gospel and Jazz Singers

Carol RoachStarred Page By Carol Roach, 28th Oct 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Culture>General

American celebrate Black history month, Canadians do as well. On December 14, 1995 the Canadian government declared Black history month for all Canadians including Montrealers.

Veronica Johnson citizenship judge

Black history month is of particular importance to women who have known oppression all their lives. Black history is a celebration of triumph over diversity. It is a women’s issue to the highest degree.

Montreal CTV News has highlighted Veronica Johnson as today’s Black history month contributor

Veronica Johnson was born in Jamaica and first learned about Canada through one of her classes in high school. She was very captivated by the country and found her way to Canada and to her new home in Montreal when she was just 21-years-old.

She began working as a teacher; working hard to teach about Canada and its wonder for 40 years. Her dreams paid off because she is now a citizenship judge and she gets to share her love of Canada with the most impressionable people of all, the new citizens of Canada.

She has inspired a lot of people along the way. Akwasi Yeboah was an immigrant from Ghana who took her history class. He says she was very strict but very good and taught him so much about Montreal and Canada. He is now working for Montreal’s West Island Black Community Association. Yeboah credits Veronica Johnson for showing him how to mingle with different people in his new home.

What Veronica Johnson says about Black History Month?

"It's a time for me to do personal reflection. "It's a time for me to read a little bit more about some of the ancestors, some of the people who did amazing things, in spite of the challenges they faced."

She says she gets to live her live to the fullest by inspiring others.

Montreal CTV reporter Maya Johnson is her daughter.

Gospel singer Tobi Lark

Today we celebrate a Black Montreal Gospel singer by the name of Tobi lark.

Tobi is also known by the name of Bessie Watson and Tobi Legend. Tobi was originally from Alabama and immigrated to Montreal, Quebec. Her brand of music is called Northern soul. Tobi’s mother was a gospel singer in the USA by the name of Emma Washington.

Tobi started out in gospel in Detroit just like her mother. She toured with her mother’s band for 10 years starting when she was just a child of nine-years-old. Her first professional job was B.B. King’s backup singer. She performed with, “the Impressions, the Four Tops, Ben E. King, Wilson Pickett, King Curtis, and Duke Ellington, among others.”

Then in the 1960s she decided to move to Montreal with her husband and small child. She performed in Montreal clubs and Montreal’s world fair – Expo 67.

She then moved to Toronto and worked with Ronnie Hawkins. She was successful at landing the leading role in the musical "Hair". Her style of music also gave her some notoriety in the UK where Northern Soul was quite popular at the time. She made several records and still works in Toronto, Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.

Jazz singer Ranee Lee

Today we celebrate a Black Montreal Jazz singer by the name of Ranee Lee

Ranee Lee is one of Montreal’s best Jazz performers, her voice is just incredible. Ranee was originally from New York but Montrealers are really lucky to have her with us these last 30 years or so. I got to hear her voice years back at one of Montreal’s Jazz clubs. The performance was live at the Bijou.

Ranee actually started out as a dancer. Then she settled in Toronto and learned the drums and the saxophone. In 1969 she came to Montreal where she fell in love and remained to raise her family. Ranee maintains that Montreal is a wonderful city for Jazz players giving credit to the International Jazz Festival.

Ranee Lee teaches Jazz singers at Montreal’s McGill University since 1985. She works with the University of Laval in the same capacity working with each student on an individual basis to find and perfect their unique voice.

Ranee played Billie Holiday in Lady Day at Montreal’s Emerson’s Bar and Grill. She also played at La Diligence, Club Soda, and the Centaur Theatre. She also acted in Having Our Say as one of the two Delaney sisters at the Saidye Bronfman Center.

“Ranee conceived, wrote and performed in Dark Divas, a musical and double CD set about the lives and experiences of prominent black female performers such as Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington, Pearl Bailey and others from that period. The recording won a Juno nomination in 2001.”

Her Awards include

  • Dora Mavor Moore Award
  • Member of Order of Canada
  • 2010 Juno Award for her Album; 'Ranee Lee Lives Upstairs'

All photos taken from the public domain
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Black Female Jazz Singer, Fewamle Gospel Singers, Gospel Singer, Gospel Singer Tobi Lark, Ranee Lee, Tobi Lark, Veronica Johnson Citizenship Judge

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author avatar Carol Roach
Retired therapist and author of two books, freelance writer, newsletter editor, and blogger. I write, health, mental health, women's issues, animal , celebrity, history, and SEO articles.

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author avatar Fern Mc Costigan
29th Oct 2015 (#)

Interesting post!

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author avatar writestuff
30th Oct 2015 (#)

Thanks for this informative and interesting post. Great tribute to these Divas of music.

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