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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

OPP recognizes Dr. Bryan and Anna Walls with certificate of appreciation

Dr. Bryan Walls and Anna Walls receive a certificate of appreciation from the OPP for participating in their Black History Month program, which highlighted inclusion, while sharing their family’s story.

by Garrett Fodor

The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) celebrated and recognized the efforts of a Lakeshore couple, who are sharing their ancestors’ story to highlight unity, inclusiveness, and diversity within the province.

  Last Wednesday, OPP Engagement Liaison Officer and Staff Sergeant Wesley Erskine and Detective Sergeant Charles Lorway presented Dr. Bryan Walls and Anna Walls with a certificate of appreciation for the work they have done within Proverbs Heritage Organization and for their participation in the OPP’s Black History Month.

  The Walls conducted a one-on-one interview with Erskine, which aired within the OPP, highlighting their family’s story. They also shared concepts and facts about the story contained within the pages of Dr. Bryan’s book, “The Road that Led to Somewhere.”

  Since 1976, Dr. Bryan Walls and Anna Walls have run the John Freeman Walls Historic Site, which is situated on Puce Road in Lakeshore. The site was the final destination for John Freeman Walls and Jane King Walls on their journey using the Underground Railroad as they escaped slavery. Their journey started in Troublesome Creek, in Rockingham County, North Carolina.

  Upon arriving in Canada in 1846, the two would purchase 12-acres of land from the Refugee Home Society, which they used to create their homestead. The homestead can still be seen on the grounds today.

  The historic site highlights the love-story of John and Jane Walls and the adversity they overcame at the time being a bi-racial couple. John was black and formerly a slave, and Jane was white. Dr. Bryan added the family cemetery on the land dramatically lends itself to presenting the importance of mutual respect, reconciliation, and keeping love in our hearts for one another.

  “The Underground Railroad was the first great freedom movement in the Americas and the fact that good people – black and white and of different races and faiths – worked together for freedom and for justice,” Dr. Bryan said. “The Underground Railroad story of John and Jane Walls is a neutral history, it does not point fingers, it applauds unity, diversity, and inclusiveness, in an interesting, storytelling manner.”

  Dr. Bryan credits the long line of family ancestors before him, who shared the story and instilled the values and beliefs he has and shares today. He often says that he and others of the family stand on the shoulders of great men and women, who have gone before them and who have encouraged them to give back a thank you to Canada. Included in that, and who Dr. Bryan wrote about as the protagonist in his book “The Road that Lead to Somewhere,’’ would be Heavyweight Boxing Champion of Canada, and his uncle, Earl Walls.

  “Uncle Earl retired Champion of Canada between 1952 and 1956, lived in Toronto for 40-years and made friends wherever he went,” Dr. Bryan recalled. “He assisted Sunshine Village in Toronto and the Toronto Police Service, and OPP through his friend, the Honourable Lincoln Alexander. They both had a heart to reach out to youth, who were at risk of making bad life decisions, or as we now say to students who visit the John Freeman Walls Historic Site and Underground Railroad Museum, do not choose modern day enslavers. Modern day enslavers could be hatred, violence, drugs, poor self-esteem, bullying. If you do not love yourself, how are you going to love me.”

Both Dr. Bryan and Anna Walls are thankful to have been honoured by the OPP and are grateful for the opportunity to participate in the program as a part of its Black History Month. Both parties, the Walls and the OPP, are hopeful to continue to grow their relationship and the Office of Professionalism, Respect, Inclusion, and Leadership within the OPP.

  They are also all optimistic and hope to see the programs grow and continue to raise awareness and share stories like these, which are there within each community.

  “We can see the partnership growing by continuing what we have done in the past and adding a unique online course through a new diversity training educational guide that Proverbs and the Historic Site has just completed with Professors and Masters Students as the writing team,” Dr. Bryan said.

  “Also, as we further develop the Historic Site, we envision a retreat and educational field studies facility for police officers and other emergency services on the 20-acre site to enjoy and learn from on a constructivist, hands-on educational way. It could also be enjoyed as a mental health retreat from the stresses of law enforcement. We also can serve our community as a major tourist attraction and student educational facility.”


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