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Friday, May 26, 2006

Every Little Thing # 8

Afro-Canadian filmmaker explores the ties that bind
Michael A Edwards, Entertainment Editor
Thursday, February 23, 2006
From left: Canadian High Commissioner to Jamaica Claudio Valle, Kingston Mayor Desmond McKenzie and Canadian author Cheryl Foggo in discussion during a special reception/presentation at the Canadian High Commissioner's residence in Kingston on Monday.

The last thing many of the incoming guests expected to be greeted by in the patio of the Canadian High Commissioner's residence this past Monday was a movie.

Yet, by evening's end, not only did all present come to thoroughly enjoy the film, but everyone was brought to the realisation of just how deep the connections are between peoples of this hemisphere and our varied Continental (Africa, Asia and Europe) forebears.

The film in question was The Journey of Lesra Martin, a biographical feature. The subject may not at present be a household name to Jamaicans, but those who witnessed Denzel Washington's performance as Reuben 'Hurricane' Carter may have heard the name mentioned a few times.

It was a young Lesra Martin, native to an already depressed Brooklyn neighbourhood, who was instrumental in bringing attention to Carter's case and precipitating his eventual release.

But what, you may ask, are the connections between these characters, and further, how is a Canadian so integrally involved?

The Canadian, multi-talented writer-producer-director Cheryl Foggo, who was guest-of-honour at said reception, is in fact the writer and director of Lesra Martin's journey. Cerebral yet entirely personable, Foggo has her own interesting journey, but more on that shortly.

Lesra Martin of Brooklyn was able to escape the ghetto grind when he caught the attention of visiting Canadian entrepreneurs while on an internship programme.
This meant eventually Lesra (a combination of the biblical Lazarus and Ezra) settling in Canada, where he
considerably augmented his then meagre education, fulfilled his eighth grade dream of becoming an attorney
and met and married the woman of his dreams.

He would also meet Reuben Carter, whom he first came across via a book picked up from a discount bin. The two
became fast friends - more like father and son - and of course, on the release of the movie, celebrities in their
own right. Lesra managed to parlay his fame into a lucrative and important career as a full-time motivational speaker.
But of course, journeys tend to cover valleys as well as peaks, and Lesra has had to deal with loss in his family,
including two brothers (one to AIDS, another to a shooting incident) and both of his parents.

These misfortunes, however, make his story more, rather than less, compelling, and the film ends with Lesra
"coming home" to face the things that have changed, as well as those that remain.

The Journey of Lesra Martin is but one arrow in a quiver full of interesting projects that Cheryl Foggo has undertaken.
One of the others is Pourin' Down Rain, a family memoir outlining Foggo's own multiracial heritage. It's a heritage
that incorporates Native American, African and European elements, and which geographically pulls in Bermuda, Oklahoma,
and Alberta, Canada, where her forebears established the northernmost Black community in the world in the early 20th Century.

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