The Coalition of Racialized Workers (CoRW) sends our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Kola Iluyomade.
We salute and honour our brother, a departed friend and comrade in the fight against anti-Black and systemic racism.
Kola’s sudden illness and untimely death on June 24, 2021 has left us all reeling in utter shock and disbelief.
He first contacted the CoRW when he sought support and assistance from his union as a Black man of African descent. His approach was unconventional and it was something that we weren’t used to. He was different in that he didn’t just come looking for help, he demanded what was his right as an OPSEU/SEFPO member.
Shortly thereafter, Kola was elected and took on a leadership role within the Coalition He did not shy away from expressing his opinions and ideas; and he often did it with great passion, purpose, and strategy. Kola’s energy, foresight, and brilliance helped us accomplish so much more than we had ever done in the history of our caucus. He moved us from a path of complacency to serious reflection of our collective consciousness, our common purpose, and our responsibility in challenging anti-Black racism and discrimination within our union.
Kola held all of us at OPSEU/SEFPO to a higher standard. But above all, he held himself to the highest standards possible. He not only walked the talk but he wrote about it as well. For those of us who were lucky enough to work closely with him, we will always remember his nightly emails. They were usually five to six pages long and outlined what needed to be done. They were also always filled with such clarity and forcefulness that he could simply not be ignored.
Within OPSEU/SEFPO, Kola’s legacy lives on. He was the driving force behind updating the union’s Statement of Respect to specifically include a direct reference to people of African descent and other racialized groups.
We also proudly acknowledge that Kola was instrumental in changing our caucus name from ‘Workers of Colour’ to the ‘Coalition of Racialized Workers’ (CoRW). He brilliantly noted that the name more aptly embodied a collective effort and was inclusive of all racialized members at OPSEU/SEFPO.
Many of us still remember OPSEU/SEFPO’s first ever Racialized Workers Conference in 2019. Kola was actively engaged in organizing the event. OPSEU/SEFPO members and staff witnessed firsthand his creative brilliance. From the Conference theme ‘The Realities of Racialization’ to the final fashion show which was branded ‘Resistance through Fashion’, Kola’s passion and focus in everything he did clearly demonstrated that, for him and for many of us, the struggle was and continues to be real.
During his time as a member from Black Creek Community Health Centre, Kola advocated to ensure that members at his workplace became structured as a single unit OPSEU/SEFPO local. Presently known as Local 5117, these OPSEU/SEFPO members service predominantly racialized communities at the Jane and Finch area in Toronto. Most notably, Kola’s final action of advocacy and resistance was recently evident at his former workplace where he stood in solidarity with his former co-workers at the picket line.
Even at his lowest, Kola was always thinking of others, especially children. He was a father to two boys and a tireless champion who worked fearlessly to bring about systemic change in the school system because it targeted Black children. Always the strategist, he organized allies and we were not surprised when he founded “Advocacy Peel” to call out anti-Black racism perpetrated on racialized children at the Peel District School Board. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/kola-iluyomade-obituary-advocacy-peel-black-children-1.6082432?__vfz=medium%3Dsharebar&fbclid=IwAR1hNyNg–LuMaAEknlnM2AjN6FglvDUffjY1a_dsZax0W7Zcyu14tDouTE
We will sorely miss Kola’s counsel, intelligence, wit, stern rebukes, deep belly laughter and more importantly, his selfless time and tireless advocacy on anti-Black racism.
Rest in Power brother Kola. The work shall continue.
OPSEU/SEFPO Coalition of Racialized Workers