EGLINTON WEST PICTOGRAPH: Tribute or Diss? Controversial alleyway behind Eglinton & Oakwood designated “Reggae Lane” by City officials


reggae lane eight

reggae lane eleven

reggae lane fifteen

reggae lane four

reggae lane fourteen

reggae lane nine

reggae lane nine

reggae lane one

reggae lane seven

reggae lane six

reggae lane ten

reggae lane thirteen

reggae lane twelve

reggae lane three

reggae lane ten

reffae lane five







Report Request – Lane Naming – South of Eglinton Avenue West, East of Oakwood Avenue as “Reggae Lane”
Community Council Decision
North York Community Council:

1. Requested the Manager, Land and Property Surveys to investigate and report to the August 12, 2014 meeting of North York Community Council on the suitability of naming the laneway located south of Eglinton Avenue West and extending easterly from Oakwood Avenue as “Reggae Lane”.
(June 17, 2014) Memo from Councillor Colle
In order to recognize the important music history of Eglinton Avenue West, especially amidst such rapid change in this community, along with the local Business Improvement Area and key stakeholders, I am requesting naming the laneway south of Eglinton Avenue West and extending easterly from Oakwood Avenue as “Reggae Lane”.
Background Information
(June 17, 2014) Memo from Councillor Colle on Lane Naming, South of Eglinton Avenue West, East of Oakwood Avenue as “Reggae Lane”


Home / National News / ‘Reggae Lane’ To Be Unveiled In The Eglinton Avenue West/Oakwood Area
‘Reggae Lane’ To Be Unveiled In The Eglinton Avenue West/Oakwood Area
‘Reggae Lane’ To Be Unveiled In The Eglinton Avenue West/Oakwood Area
in National News September 4, 2014 Comments Off 233 Views

By Neil Armstrong
Pride Contributing Writer
TORONTO, Ontario – The changes taking place in the Eglinton Avenue West area of Toronto have prompted a city councillor to propose naming a public lane, “Reggae Lane” to recognize the history and legacy of reggae music in what is unofficially known as “Little Jamaica.”
The lane is behind several Jamaican-owned businesses in the Eglinton Avenue West and Oakwood Avenue. Signs are now being printed and there will be an official unveiling of the new name in the fall, after the municipal election.
While the move seems to have the support of local business owners who say the lane needs a revamp first, some reggae music aficionados have mixed reactions.
josh colle
Toronto city coucillor, Josh Colle
On August 13, Josh Colle, Toronto city councillor for Ward 15, Eglinton-Lawrence, sent a letter to the community announcing that the North York Community had approved his motion for the lane renaming. Currently, the laneway does not have a name.
“To recognize the area’s rich music history, the laneway located south of Eglinton Avenue West and extending easterly from Oakwood Avenue will now be called “Reggae Lane,” said Colle who grew up in the area.
He notes that, “In the 1970s and 80s, Toronto was the epicenter of reggae music after Jamaica, and much of that activity could be found in the vibrant stretch of music stores, labels, studios and venues along Eglinton Avenue West.”
Colle said the city’s policy for renaming civic properties is a great way to honour and promote this heritage.
He notes, “As Eglinton West continues to transform with the coming Eglinton Crosstown and Oakwood Station, it is more important than ever to remember and celebrate this rich history. I think Toronto needs to do a better job of recognizing its history – especially its music history. Like the Yonge Street strip, Yorkville, and Queen Street, Eglinton West has a music history and story that should be shared.”
A report dated July 11, 2014 from Shirley Wilson, the director, engineering services of the city, to the Community Council, notes that the proposed name has been circulated for comment and is acceptable to Toronto Police Service, Toronto Fire Services and Toronto Emergency Medical Services.
It said community support had been provided. But the North York Preservation Panel objected, proposing instead the name “Captain Jessop Lane” after an historical figure.
Arnold Rowe, vice chair of the York-Eglinton BIA, said Councillor Colle introduced the idea in March of this year.
He said that having grown up in the area Colle knew from his childhood how the influence of Jamaicans affected the area colloquially known as “Little Jamaica” from Marlee to Oakwood, Glenholme Ave., and Dufferin St.
“This particular area was the embryo of the Jamaican migration from 1958 coming on up when the first set of Jamaican immigrants came into Toronto under the household helper program. This was the area in which they stayed; they lived and took root here.”
Rowe said these Jamaicans brought along their culture – dance and music – and when Jamaican artists were invited to Toronto this was the area in which they came.
The record shops, which were mainly between Marlee Ave. and Oakwood Ave., sold vinyl — 45s and LPs — and people came from all over to buy their music there.
Arnold L. Rowe, President of Rapid Remittance
Toronto businessman, Arnold Rowe
Rowe said when Colle came up with the idea; he contacted him, veteran reggae singer, Jay Douglas, and others like him who grew up with the music in the area.
They had consultative meetings, which did not only include Jamaicans but people from other ethnicities, who lived in the area who “understood the value and the vibrance, and effect that the music had on the area.”
There was a vote and it was agreed that it would be called “Reggae Lane.”
The BIA vice chair said the laneway will be upgraded and efforts will be made to identify the forerunners of the people who carried the music here so that second and third generation Jamaicans will know their history.
“It is intended to set up murals where pictures of these artists would be there to be seen. Blurbs under their picture would be there for the younger folks to go and read about these people. That’s the essential idea. It’s going to be like a cultural park with an emphasis on reggae music from Jamaica as the Jamaicans contributed to this area.”
He said there were no other options offered as the lane is the only thoroughfare that the city has governance over. All the other areas facing Eglinton Avenue are private property.
Douglas grew up in the area and said the main concern of Councillor Colle and others, like himself, is that Toronto has not done well with its history, especially arts and culture.
“Now that they’re building the rapid transit, Eglinton is going to be changing rapidly and we’re concerned that we’ll lose more of the history and the legacy that has built up there for years.”
The veteran musician said, “Lester and Monica of Monica’s Beauty Salon & Cosmetic Supply started from the late 1960s, and many artists have passed through there.”
He said one of the biggest distributors of reggae music was Cookie of Cooks Distributors and his entrance was from the lane. Joe Gibbs Records used to be along the strip as well.
Douglas said Colle spoke with all the vendors there and they were in agreement with him to name it “Reggae Lane.”
He said this means the city has started to appreciate what the West Indian culture is all about. “More than anytime now, reggae is getting its recognition in Toronto,” he said, noting that he sang Bob Marley’s “One Love” inside City Hall at the invitation of all the councilors.
Douglas said this is a start and a step forward, there is a bigger picture ahead.
“I like the idea and the concept. Personally, I think it should have been the street instead of the lane cause that’s just one side the road. Both sides of the street right here on Eglinton contributed a lot when it came to music, especially in the reggae industry” said deejay Chozen, of Trea-jah-Isle Records, located on the north side.
He said the store, from the days when Duke Reid and Nana McLean owned it, and record stores, like Jammy’s and Record Factory, contributed to the prolific reggae music in the area.
Vernal Small, proprietor of Jamall Caribbean Custom Tailors, who on September 1 celebrated the 40th anniversary of his store being on Oakwood Ave. and located at the entrance of the laneway, welcomes the naming.
Some customers and staff in Randy’s Take-Out, which backs onto the lane and has been around for 36 years, also agree with it but recommend that the city clean it up and install lights.
One person said the laneway is a popular location for drug addicts to hang out and they do not represent reggae. She said that while Eglinton Ave. West represents reggae, the back of it does not.
“If they’re going to clean it up and make it presentable, I’m okay with that. It’s in poor condition in the back there. It’s very, very bad, all types of people. Would they monitor it? We all know it’s a place for businesses to come in with their products and trucks come into the lane to deliver. We all know these things, but at the same time, will law enforcement monitor in the back there? Make sure they’re going to clean it up because it’s the culture of a people. You just can’t give a name and disrespect people,” said Michael Moore, the popular calypsonian ‘Beginner’ whose barbershop backs onto the lane.
Mavis Palmer of Discount Beauty Supplies & Salon says she supports it since it is an initiative of the city councillor. She also mentioned the changes in the area with the building of the subway and new condominiums.
Dalton Higgins, a music programmer, pop culture critic, author, broadcaster and journalist, grew up in the area and lives there with his wife, Karen; daughter, Shiloh and son, Solomon.
“Will a re-naming of the lane do much, if anything, to help with some of the more pressing issues in the community, like economic development, helping to keep the mom and pop shops out there open, given the LRT construction and gentrification creeping in? There’s a condo development happening right next to this proposed Reggae Lane, so I can tell you that the people in the community are a lot more concerned with how that will impact the small black businesses out there,” said Higgins.
He said the men in the barbershops, where he has been facilitating black fatherhood workshops for many years, view these kinds of things as token gestures.
“They want to know how these initiatives translate into direct economic benefits for black businesses and the wider black community, and they seem less interested in just getting another feel good moment.”
Says Higgins: “I remember walking into the nearby condo developer’s sales office to check out what they were up to, and the woman at the front desk told my wife and me that the neighborhood would be changing for the better, not to worry, and I wondered what she meant by that – less black businesses, more Starbucks and Rexall’s, less reggae?”
Reggae music historian, Klive Walker, thinks the move is a positive one as the area has been home to businesses and residents of English Caribbean heritage for many decades.
He notes that the gentrification of that area is already underway and the arrival of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT will further accelerate that urban renewal.
“Not sure exactly what that would mean for the current Caribbean residents and businesses in that neighbourhood but it is safe to assume that many may not survive the neighbourhood make-over. It may be in the decades to come that one of the few remaining reminders of the Caribbean presence in that neighbourhood is the street name: Reggae Lane.”
Walker thinks though that the larger issue here is how the Caribbean presence and subsequent displacement in that neighbourhood is negotiated and understood as part of the city’s historical record. “The act of naming that lane should be the beginning of a discussion not the conclusion,” he said.
Denise Jones of the Jambana One World Festival
Denise Jones, an event manager and producer of the JAMBANA festival, said it is a good start.
“Acknowledgment of our music is a good thing but I think reggae and our community really are above the laneway. That’s not really our history. I hope that’s no indication of the level of our brand and the community. And I hope this is not someone’s political move.”
She said reggae music is global and demands the name of a street. “If we’re going to acknowledge reggae, let’s acknowledge it in a way that’s significant to the contribution that it had globally and certainly on the Canadian music industry.”
Victor ‘Tipper’ Henry, one of the pioneers of Jamaican sound systems in the early 70s in Toronto, said he is not against the idea but totally against the location.
He and Terry Brown, who has been involved in the reggae business for 40 years, believe there should be a “Reggae Village” instead of a laneway. They propose that this should be between Marlee Avenue and Oakwood Avenue or Dufferin St. along Eglinton Ave.
Leroy Gibbon, reggae musician, said the naming is a good idea because reggae music pioneer, Jo Jo Bennett, used to be there teaching reggae music for a long time.
In February, Wedge Curatorial Projects presented “Home: Photographs by Jon Blak” as part of the TD Then & Now Black History Month Series curated by Black Artists’ Networks Dialogue (BAND).
Blak’s work examined Jamaican and Canadian art and music industries with a particular focus on Caribbean youth culture to examine Canada’s inter-cultural heritage.
The exhibition featured many of the businesses in the Eglinton Ave. West/Oakwood Ave. area of the city.


Reggae Lane
in Reader’s Rap September 25, 2014 0 91 Views

Dear Mr. Van Cooten:
Dear Sir:
Please allow me space in your publication to respond to an article in your September 3rd 2014 issue entitled “Toronto to unveil Reggae Lane”.
I must first express appreciation to your media for bringing this issue to our attention. I note that Pride News did not endorse or refute what was presented: Neither did Mr Neil Armstrong make his personal opinion known. I have no problem at all with any of the above.
I was appalled that such an important issue was being discussed and decided upon, without anyone that I know or acquainted with; knowing anything about it. I am not blaming anyone for that. I am just expressing my shock that after 40 plus years of continuous contribution to the development of the Canadian Reggae Industry; such thing could happen without me even hearing about it.
The passageway to be called Reggae Lane in my opinion is a gross disrespect to the industry which we have built in Canada. There is absolutely nothing in this for anyone with dignity to be proud of. Such suggestion by Toronto city councillor Colle should have been handcuffed and thrown right out the door. It is quite obvious to me that whosoever was present and allowed this disrespectful idea to gather enough energy to reach city organizers; did not understand the significance of what was at stake.
Had they been responsible concerning the value of our heritage; they would never allow the councillor to make such a move on them. This is definitely a calculated low political move; at a non-suspecting few, who evidently did not know what was really at stake. This councillor will go down in Toronto’s history; as the person responsible for conceiving this disrespectful idea. He will be entrenched solidly into our historic story: For renaming a passageway; Reggae Lane. Note: No one could have approved the RENAMING of the passageway, because it does not have a name…FACT! The report Councillor Colle sent to the community on August 13th was erroneous or fraudulent.
I will not blame councillor Colle 100% for this act, because I cannot prove his intention for suggesting and acting on an idea which was solely his. However; I must question those who were present, and who consented to this total disrespect of our heritage.
Let’s just take a look at the alternatives which were and still are present. The Toronto Reggae Music Community has been identified as an area stretching between Marlee Avenue in the east along Eglinton Avenue Westward to Dufferin Street. Why couldn’t the good-intentioned councillor see it fit to suggest naming that stretch Reggae Village? Or better yet; why didn’t those present see it fit to name the place they all agreed contributed to the Reggae Industry; Reggae Street, or Reggae Avenue?
What is being called Reggae Lane wasn’t and is not a lane, but a passageway where business owners used as back entrance to their businesses. The only other occupants were and are; drug dealers and their passing through clients. This is a well known fact to those who frequent the area and also the police who policed the area. There is no dignity in being associated with such a notorious history.
I disagree with Mrs Denise Jones of Jambana One World Festival; that naming this no-where place Reggae Lane is a good start. I think it is a very bad start. All her other points are solid, revealing and most relevant. After we have built such an enormous industry; how can we allow ourselves to be pushed into a no-where back alley; where nothing uplifting ever occurred?
I agree that business owners along the strip might think this is the greatest thing since slice bread: However; very few of them consciously contributed to the building of this industry, or understand the true significance of what we have built. The fact is that The Canadian Reggae Industry has transcended music. We have created a very vibrant industry; which incorporated fashion, beauty-care, cultural cuisine, travel, entertainment, production, manufacturing, distribution, etc.
If councillor Colle has respect for the industry we have built; with little or no help from government; he will refrain from going through with this disrespectful transgression; which seeks to belittle our integrity. He will pay immediate attention to the following recommendation given by Mrs Denise Jones “Reggae music is global and demands the name of a street”. I strongly suggest that councillor Colle respects what Mrs Jones said, because she speaks for me and those that contributed to the building and upkeep of the Canadian Reggae Industry. Anything less is definitely not acceptable.
I remain
A concerned contributor
Terry Brown
Toronto, Canada




You can be the first one to leave a comment.


Leave a Comment


You must be logged in to post a comment.