JON BLAK: Eglinton West may be referred to as “Little Jamaica” however people from almost 30 different islands from the greater and lesser Antilles have made a home here. Some might call the strip, which stretches from Marlee Ave. to Dufferin St., the “Harlem” of Toronto as it was and still is a major pulse for the Caribbean diaspora, as well as an economic hub for black Canadian businesses. In its prime, the Eglinton strip boasted more barbershops per square km than anywhere else in Canada. It was a ritual to grab a patty, lime at the barbershop, get a fresh cut, and listen to tunes thumping from bass-induced car stereos and storefronts. Come summer time, the neighbourhood would be transformed by Caribana costumes as the elders of the community would work tirelessly into the night fastening sequins and putting in the last touches before the big parade.
Like most diasporic sites, Eglinton West was never just a place of revelry, it was a platform for social justice where black Canadians felt safe to air their frustrations. And in an increasingly gentrified Toronto, Eglinton West is no exception. While the strip has changed, a lot, there are some important gems that still remain. For the latest reggae music straight from yaad check Trea-Jah Isles, the patties are still poppin at Randy’s, and the barbers of Eglinton will keep you looking fresh. (With notes from Natasha Daniel)