Remembering Sylvia Draper-Fernandez


February 2021 / Toronto

It is with a heavy heart that we entered this month, with the news that OCASI’s long-term accountant Sylvia Draper-Fernandez had transitioned.

A stalwart in Toronto’s non-profit sector, Sylvia, the owner and principal of Progressive Accounting (PAS) Services was the Council’s accountant since its inception almost forty-three years ago.

The accountant for many OCASI member agencies and sister organizations across the city, she sat on many founding steering committees and Boards of grassroots and emerging organizations ensuring that they had sound accounting policies and practices in place. She saw her role not only as contractor or consultant to non-profits, but as a champion of their causes often working far into the early mornings on their behalf.

She was a woman who believed in excellence. In transparency in governance. In progressive social change. Sylvia didn’t mince words and called out (and fired) clients who she believed contravened good practices and who after many, many interventions continued behaviours not conducive to good public service. She walked her talk.

Plans for a celebration of her life are still in the works and may occur sometime in summer given the health pandemic we’re in. Her daughter Brigitte, known to many in the non-profit sector- particularly the community legal sector- has been overly generous with her efforts to ensure all of PAS clients have the information they require to continue their day to day business. We are thankful.

Sylvia- you have walked beside OCASI every step of the way. We are eternally grateful for your deep throat chuckles and wise guidance over the decades. Rest well my friend.

Do Not Stand at my Grave and Weep

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn’s rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.
(Mary Frye)

Black Liberation Month

Afro-futurism/African-Canadian Liberation/Black histories/ month- all contested and complex concepts. Not surprising given our people’s four hundred plus year presence on these Indigenous lands colonized and settled by the colonizers. Our place in the meta-narratives of what we now call Canada, diminished when not completely erased. Still. 2021.

For many in Canada’s African diaspora-whether of the nth generation or arrived last month, February is seen as a moment each year in our ongoing liberation struggle to remind ourselves of how we survived and continue to survive laws and social mores meant to bury us. As the saying goes (I paraphrase) - they tried to bury us; they did not know we were/are seeds.

This February 2021 I pay homage to the ancestors whose sacrifices have birthed the generations they dreamed of as they threw off their shackles of oppression knowing that freedom of mind would ensure the continuation of resistance until we are all free.

In solidarity and struggle