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Obituary of Edward Oscar Brathwaite
Edward Oscar Brathwaite was born in 1940 in the seaside village of Penny Hole (now called Gemswick), in St. Philip, Barbados. He was the fourth of nine children born to Ophelia (née Pilgrim) and Milton Brathwaite, and had three older paternal siblings. Oscar was a proud student of St. Martin’s Boys School, and went on to apprentice in the carpentry trade as a youth.
At the age of 19, this young Bajan left his island nation home for the first time to travel across the sea by ship to England, following his older sister, and leading the way for his other siblings. He became part of the Windrush generation of young people seeking opportunities abroad, building new lives, and transporting their skills and culture with them. For 5 years, he worked in England as a skilled carpenter while also pursuing night school studying drafting and the building trades. The sounds of ska, rocksteady, soul and blues that he enjoyed, would go on to be part of the soundtrack of his life and inspire his lifelong love of music.
His next life-changing stop in the mid-60’s was Toronto, Canada, where again he joined a growing population of Caribbean, African, Afro-American and Black Canadian communities during a vibrant and transformative period in the city. While studying architectural technology at Ryerson Polytechnic, he became active in Black community organizations including the UNIA Toronto chapter and Black Education Project. He would go on to earn his BA and Bachelor of Education degrees at the University of Toronto.
Here in Toronto, he got married, and became a technical education teacher with the Toronto Board of Education, teaching woodworking and carpentry for over 30 years at schools such as Lakeview Secondary and Western Technical Commercial School. Here he mentored countless students, while becoming an engaged leader. He received his MEd from the University of Toronto, and earned the role of Head of Department: Construction Technology at Western Tech. He was also the founding president of CABE (Canadian Alliance of Black Educators), established to empower and advance Black teachers in the education system, and advocate for the achievement of African Canadian students .
In between, he expanded his horizons once again, embarking on an exciting journey. He fulfilled his lifelong dream of travelling to Africa and following his roots, and moved to Southern Africa to train teachers at Botswana Polytechnic. Ultimately, he would go on to travel to 13 African countries including Zimbabwe, Zambia, Kenya and Swaziland, as well as throughout the Caribbean, and Brazil, to teach, consult, lead workshops, publish writings, participate in conferences, and connect with people of African descent from all over the world. This strengthened his passionate commitment to bridge the divides between the continent and the Diaspora.
Oscar was a board member of the Black Tradesmen and Women of Ontario and African Canadian Legal Clinic, founder of Technical Education and Training International (TETIN), an active member of SRDC (6th Region Diaspora Caucus), and many other organizations. With a lifelong love of travel and adventure, a pioneering spirit and a Pan-Africanist worldview, he took every opportunity to support and contribute to his local and global communities. In Toronto, he loved to attend community events such as AfroFest, Caribana and Barbados on the Water, as well as Cornerstone Baptist’s Men’s Fellowship group. His lifelong friends and many acquaintances describe him as warm, sociable and humorous. His comrades title him as a change-maker, a man of perseverance and conviction. His family knows him as a caring father, a loving grandfather, an inspiring brother, a beloved uncle and cousin, and the eldest member of our family who will be dearly missed.
Oscar transitioned on May 6th, 2023 in Toronto, Canada. He was predeceased by his siblings Cleanthe, Edsel, Clanis, John, Anita, Gertrude, Ridley and Ashley. He is survived by his three children, Caroline, Wendy and Eddy, siblings Irma, Gwen and Farley, eight grandchildren (Michael, Tisha, Danielle, Akir, Diarra, Elijah, Nya and Isaiah), great-grandchild Shamarra, as well as his loving nephews and nieces, cousins, extended and chosen family.
All are thankful for E. Oscar Brathwaite’s life and contributions to his family, friends, loved ones and community as he goes home to his Creator, and joins his ancestors.
May he rise in power, and rest in peace.
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