Former Contrast editor fondly remembered
May 31, 2019
As a co-founder of the defunct Contrast community newspaper that served Canada’s Black community in the 1970s and early 80s, Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange hired Harold Hoyte to be the editor.
Their paths didn’t cross much since she returned to Jamaica to enter politics and he helped found Nation News in Barbados.
Grange was unaware that Hoyte suffered an aneurysm on December 31, 2017 while in Florida for a family reunion. He never fully recovered and passed away on May 12 at age 78.
She was shocked to learn about his death.
“I just wish I could have been with him one more time before his passing,” said a distraught Grange who is Jamaica’s Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment & Sport.
She fondly recalled his time with the community newspaper.
“When Harold joined, he was very conservative, soft spoken and well groomed,” said Grange. “The Black Power Movement was at its zenith and I remember getting a hair pick for him because his hair was far too neat. I urged him to grow an Afro. I ‘bruck’ him out and gave him that edge to look militant.”
When Hoyte returned to Barbados to bury his father in the early 1970s, Grange remembered him saying he was going to change careers.
“He said he would stay there and get involved in the travel business just like his dad did and I told him he loved journalism too much to change course,” she said. “When he made the decision to help start the Nation, my first thought was, ‘Harold is with his first love’.
Starting as a copy writer with the Barbados Advocate, Hoyte relocated to Canada in the 1960s and worked with the Globe & Mail and the Toronto Telegram before joining Contrast.
Grange’s younger brother, Hamlin Grange, received his first writing assignment from Hoyte.
“My first ‘professional’ relationship with Harold was as an overambitious high school student who badly wanted to be a reporter,” he said. “So I asked Al Hamilton (Contrast publisher) and he said, ‘talk to Harold’. I can’t remember what we talked about, but I must have impressed him as I was assigned to do the ‘Man about Town’ column for which I was paid the princely sum of $5 per column.
“It was because of Harold that I got my first gig as a reporter and I was forever changed. He will forever be associated with Contrast. He was a solid journalist with high standards and he made Contrast a force to be reckoned with. Years later, I would become Contrast Managing Editor and when there were difficult journalistic decisions to be made, I often asked myself, ‘What would Harold do’?”
During his time in Toronto, Hoyte and fellow Barbadian Itah Sadu became close friends.
When she and her husband, Miguel San Vicente, bought ‘A Different Booklist’ from Dr. Wesley Crichlow in 1999, they reached out to mentors and community leaders for advice as they embarked on the new project.
Hoyte told them, ‘every single thing in the city that moves, the bookstore must be connected with it because everything in the world has a book’.
“Those words helped to shape the strategy that informs our survival to this day,” said Sadu. “I thank him for being a mentor and a trailblazer. More importantly, I salute him for being someone who provided a platform for young people. He was one of my heroes.”
Hoyte attained a Communications diploma from Centennial College and a Business Management diploma from Ryerson University during the five years he spent in the Greater Toronto Area before returning to Barbados in 1973 to become editor of the Caribbean Contact prior to co-founding the Nation.
While researching for her PhD. in Sociolinguistics, Hoyte contracted Barbados Consul General in Toronto Sonia Marville-Carter in 2012 as his Administrative Assistant to conduct research for books he was writing while giving her the flexibility to earn some money while pursuing her doctorate.
“The five years working with him directly were the most significant in our relationship as I got to know him and his family,” the diplomat said. “I got to know Harold the devoted family man and Christian and Harold the writer – the quick witted, sharp, knowledgeable individual who had a wealth of information on most topics, but particularly Barbadian politics, then and now. I got to know Harold the journalist – fair in his assessment, eloquent and complimentary at times, but biting and scathing when it was warranted.
“I got know Harold the manager who was forever concerned with the well-being of his employees, their career paths, their health and their families. I got to know Harold the businessman, the father, the counsellor and the champion of the ordinary man. Barbados has lost a true son of the soil, a journalistic icon, a brilliant political analyst, a fierce activist against injustices, a man who was not only gifted in the use of words and writing, but who employed that gift for the betterment of not just Barbadian, but Caribbean people as he sought to revolutionize journalism through the Caribbean.”
Angela Carter, the United Achievers’ Community Services Executive Director, met Hoyte in the late 1970s when she was a member of the Barbados Rifle & Pistol Federation that met with the Nation to discuss a story that was written about the federation.
Former sports reporter Trevor Thorpe introduced her to Hoyte after the meeting.
“I was at that time looking for a job and the Nation was planning to expand its twice weekly paper to three times a week with the addition of the Sunday Sun,” said Carter. “Harold asked me if I could write and my response was, ‘Yes, of course’.
She spent a decade with the newspaper up until March 1989 and was the project executive with Nation Publishing Company Ltd. for 2007 World Cup Cricket official publications.
Carter said Hoyte had a sharp mind and was a champion of the under-served.
“He treated everyone with respect as he considered no one inferior or superior to him,” added the former Cricket Legends of Barbados General Manager who founded the defunct Nation newspaper Canadian edition in 2005. “He was comfortable in the House of Parliament and at Sandy Lane Hotel as he was in the fish market chatting with fishermen.”
To coincide with Barbados’ 50th independence anniversary in 2016, Hoyte authored ‘Political Warriors of Barbados: Generals, Lieutenants and Foot Soldiers’ that tells the stories of Barbadians who have had a political effect on the country.
He dedicated the book to Barbados Advocate reporter and Nation editorial board founding member Joe Brome who died in London in 1976 at age 71.
An avid gardener and cricket fan, Hoyte was the only Caribbean journalist to travel with the six Barbadian ‘rebel’ cricketers on the first phase of their journey from Barbados to Miami in 1983 to join their fellow colleagues en route to South Africa.