Rev John C Holland remembered

Exactly 60 years ago, a prominent member of Hamilton’s black community passed away after dedicating his life to helping others. Today, those who knew Rev. John Christie Holland personally, as well as those who know him through his great accomplishments, gathered together to celebrate his life.The Stewart Memorial Church was packed with people wanting to honour Rev. Holland’s memory. There were politicians, police officers, community leaders, as well as family members who came all the way from California.The ceremony lasted a few hours, but it could have been an all-day event with all that the reverend achieved in his lifetime.Music, laughter, and memories fill the stewart memorial church, celebrating the full life of a prominent figure in the community.“He was an inspirational man who despite the obstacles faced as an African-Canadian person, was able to triumph over those, and he really inspires us to not looking at the glass as half empty but but as half full,” said Evelyn Myrie, co-founder of the Rev. John C. Holland Awards.Rev. Holland was a community leader who helped out those in need, no matter their skin colour, even though he lived in a time when that mattered. It’s been 60 years since he passed away, but as the packed room full of people at the memorial shows, his memory is alive and well.“What’s important is what’s come out of it. The lessons my Uncle John taught me that, you know, in my family we’re now dedicated to combating racism in the city, doing presentations all across the region, to educate, to educate students and to educate adults,” said Nerene Virgin, a great niece of Rev. Holland.It’s fitting that Rev. Holland’s life is being celebrated here at the Stewart Memorial Church. He was instrumental in keeping it going during financial difficulties, essentially saving an important piece of black history for not only Hamiltonians, but Canadians as well.The church was one of the first places of refuge for slaves who fled the U.S. through the underground railroad.“In the history of fighting for human rights and dignity, in terms of supporting the underground railroad, we here in Hamilton were a key component of that, and it was John C. Holland that brought that history to life, and made it part of our current and future celebrations and we’ll always be proud of that and it was John C. Holland that gave us that,” said David Christopherson, MP for Hamilton-Centre.Holland became the first Canadian of African descent to be named citizen of the year shortly before he passed away, and coming full-circle, his great, great, great nephew was a recipient of the same award this year.“The time we live in right now, being a black male myself, it’s so fortunate that I don’t have to deal with the things he dealt with, because of people like him who were trailblazers and set the bar for equality,” said Jackson Virgin-Holland.Showing that Holland’s hard work in the past continues to be a lasting legacy, making an impact here in the present.Each year, a young person in the community is given the John C. Holland Award. It was established to recognize the contributions of volunteers and professional leaders, and the winner is awarded a $1,000 scholarship.Rev. Holland continues to be remembered and honoured here in our community in a meaningful way.

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