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Arnold Auguste reflects on career spent sharing marginalized voices

Arnold Auguste reflects on career spent sharing marginalized voices

At York University’s Spring Convocation ceremony on the morning of June 20, an honorary degree was presented to Arnold Auguste, president and publisher of the newspaper Share, which has been serving the Greater Toronto Area’s Black and Caribbean communities since 1978.

Born and raised in Trinidad, Auguste always had a fondness for Canada, so when he had the opportunity to move to Toronto in 1970, he didn’t hesitate. Two years later, a friend asked him if he would be interested in writing a column for community newspaper called Contrast, which covered issues affecting the Black community. And although writing was not something he had ever contemplated or felt capable of doing, he agreed. That was 52 years ago.

“Today, I am proud to say that I’m a journalist,” said Auguste. “But this profession found me; I didn’t go looking for it.”

Growing up in Trinidad, Auguste naturally gravitated towards news media. He had access to three daily newspapers and three weekend tabloids, and he read every one. “I never, in my wildest dreams, thought I would ever write for one – let alone own one,” he admitted.

As Auguste became more involved with Toronto’s Black community, he learned that people were raising funds to provide university scholarships for ambitious youth. He felt a pull to pursue that path, to gain the skills necessary to help him tell the stories of his community in the most compelling way possible. “I felt that if stories needed to be told, they needed to be told well,” he said. “So I entered university to study journalism, where I had the privilege of learning from some of the best people in the business.”

After completing his studies, Auguste worked briefly as an editor at two Black community newspapers, before differences of opinion led to a parting of ways and to Auguste’s eventual decision to start his own publication. Looking to provide a forum where important issues affecting his community could be discussed and debated, he launched Share.

“I never wanted to own a newspaper,” he said, “but if I was to continue working in the Black community, I didn’t see another option.”

Before long, Share took over the market, and the other two publications went out of business.

Auguste was adamant that his newspaper would be free; that it would only publish positive news; that it would not accept any advertising that wasn’t in the best interests of its readers; and that it would not accept government funding. “If the paper was to be successful, it should be supported by the readers,” he believed. And supported it was.

Pictured, from left to right: Chancellor Kathleen Taylor, Arnold Auguste, President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton.

Over the years, Auguste has considered closing his paper several times, but each time that decision has been met with resistance from its steadfast supporters. Last year, he decided again that, after 45 years, it was time to cease publication. This time, he didn’t tell anyone – “I thought I would just sneak out the back door and nobody would notice,” he said.

After the first few weeks, people started calling to find out why they couldn’t find the paper anywhere. Then, the number of calls increased. Eventually, people began offering financial support, thinking that was the reason for the shutdown. Others said they were willing to start paying for the paper that had been free for 45 years. The community had spoken: Share wasn’t going anywhere.

“This experience has instilled in us a renewed sense of Share‘s relevance,” said Auguste, finally realizing how critical his publication is to his community.

With people of colour now working in important positions in Canadian media, academia, the labour movement, police services, the medical profession, as lawyers and judges, at every level of government and in just about every walk of life, Share‘s role, Auguste explained, is to honour those who sacrificed to make that happen.

“As a dear friend reminded me,” said Auguste, “if our history is not written, it is as though we did not exist. Share proves that we existed.”

To conclude his speech, Auguste left graduands with some sage words of advice.

“You have been educated by one of the top universities in the world,” he said. “You are ready to take your place among the movers and shakers. Accept the challenge. Go forward with confidence in yourself and in your training. Be good people. Be honest people. Be kind. Be generous of spirit. Live a life of purpose and help make this world a better place.”

Originally published in YFile.