Pickering’s Spider Jones honoured with Harry Jerome Lifetime Achievement Award

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Published April 20, 2023 at 4:13 pm

Boxing was more of a lifestyle for Charles ‘Spider’ Jones and it led him down a path of crime and a stint in prison.

Music was his passion but stardom was out of his reach, despite a love for performing – Spider Jones singing Motown hits is something not to be missed – that continues to this day.

Education, however, was his ticket to success and took Jones – the 2023 recipient of the Harry Jones Lifetime Achievement Award – into the world of radio and eventually a career breaking down barriers and empowering the youth of today.

“It’s humbling to be the company of some of those people,” Jones said of the honour, which he learned of March 31. “It’s a pretty big deal.”

Spider Jones and George Chuvalo

Jones himself is a ‘pretty big deal,’ especially to the hundreds of young people he has helped believe in themselves through his Believe to Achieve youth advocacy organization that provides after-school development and mentorship programs for young people around the GTA, particularly in Pickering, where he has lived for nearly 30 years, in Oshawa, and at Spider’s Web Youth Empowerment Centre on Chalkfarm Drive in West Toronto.

The talk show host, motivational speaker, author and Canadian Boxing Hall of Fame inductee, started the Believe to Achieve program in nearly 20 years ago and considers it a labour of love, especially considering his upbringing on the streets of Windsor and Detroit.

The fact he has been recognized for what he has accomplished with youth by the Black Business & Professional Association (BBPA) – presenters of the Harry Jerome Awards – is just a bonus for Spider.

“It’s a very prestigious award but I enjoy doing this so it’s kind of icing on the cake for me.”

Bill Clinton and Spider Jones

Jones, who turned 80 today (April 20), was encouraged to get a proper education (he was a Grade 5 dropout) by his wife Jackie Robinson-Jones, prompting him to enter Seneca College as a mature student in 1981, where he became an honour student.

Already a three-time Golden Gloves amateur boxing champion (he was part of Muhammed Ali’s camp when Ali fought George Chuvalo in 1966) with a radio show on Rogers (where he interviewed numerous sports celebrities, including Ali), he achieved a measure of celebrity of his own as the only Black radio personality in the 1990s with his own prime time show – The Spider’s Web – on the Fan 590 with a young George Stroumboulopoulos as his producer.

Believe to Achieve was established, with his wife, in 2004 and Spider Jones earned plenty of accolades since, including the Edward Murrow Award for Broadcasting in 2004 and the Bob Marley Award for Education in 2007. He was appointed to the Order of Ontario in 2020.

The Harry Jerome Award, named for the famed Canadian sprinter (who died shortly before the first awards ceremony that would carry his name in 1982) and given to the “best and brightest” of the Black and ally community, still came as a surprise for Jones.

“I had no idea. It was a pleasant surprise but I didn’t see it coming, to be honest.

Spider talking to youth

Thirteen individuals in all will be honoured Saturday, April 29 at the Beanfield Centre on the Exhibition Grounds in Toronto.

“This year’s honorees have blazed the trail in their various sectors and contributed tremendously to meaningful advancement of the Black community,” said BBPA CEO Nadine Spencer. “We look forward to celebrating their accomplishments at this year’s gala event.”

The 13 winners are:

  • Lifetime Achievement Award – Spider Jones – Sponsored by BBPA
  • President’s Award – Rick Gosling – Sponsored by BBPA
  • Jerome Family Athlete Award – Lindell Wigginton – Sponsored by BBPA and Jerome Family
  • Media Award – Andria Case – Sponsored by BrandEQ Agency
  • Professional Excellence Award – Emma Todd – Sponsored by TD Bank
  • Leadership Award – Rosemarie Powell – Sponsored by E.& J. Gallo Winery Canada
  • Technology Award – Colleen Ward – Sponsored by Diversity Institute
  • Business Award – Frantz Saintellemy – Sponsored by Bell
  • Diversity Award – Deborah Richardson – Sponsored by Loblaw Companies Limited
  • Arts Award – Ngozi Paul – Sponsored by Deltech Communications Group Inc.
  • Young Entrepreneur Award – Agunbiade Seun Richards – Sponsored by ITS Global
  • Health Sector Award – Jennifer Bernard – Sponsored by Nursing Homemakers Inc (NHI)
  • Decade Leader Award – Agapi Gessesse – Sponsored by PepsiCo

Spider Jones will have a large contingent of friends on hand for the event, including his biggest supporter and partner for nearly 48 years, his wife Jackie Robinson-Jones.

Order of Ontario

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