By Sam Laskaris

Though it originated in the United States, Black History Month is now also an annual celebration in Canada. The annual observance celebrates and recognizes the numerous achievements of Black people. Stay tuned as we profile, various former and current members of the Brooklin Lacrosse Club organization.

Today’s story is on CORY UPSHAW.

Upshaw has had his share of successes throughout his lacrosse career. But one of the things Upshaw is most proud of is some recognition that was earned by his late grandfather Fred. Last year the Coalition of Racialized Workers held a celebration to honour Upshaw’s grandfather, who served as president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) from 1990-95. He was the first Black trade unionist to lead a major Canadian union.

Upshaw is also a leader himself. Though he’s played some contests with the Brooklin Lacrosse Club (formerly Brooklin Redmen) in Major Series Lacrosse over the years, Upshaw has primarily provided a veteran defensive presence with Brooklin’s affiliate, the Merchants Lacrosse Club.

Upshaw, who started playing lacrosse in Whitby at the age of four, said throughout his career he was often the only Black player on his teams. And though he encountered racism throughout the sport while growing up, he stuck with it. “It was always an issue,” Upshaw said. “It was one of those unfortunate things. Mom had to sit me down and tell me what to expect being a person of colour.”

For Upshaw, his situation was perhaps even a bit different than other Black players as he has mixed heritage.

While his father, who is also named Fred is Black, his mother, Darlene Rich, is Caucasian. Upshaw said he hasn’t experienced any racism while playing his chosen sport in recent years. “I haven’t experienced it as an adult,” he said. “I don’t remember anything happening in the last six or seven years.”

But Upshaw said racism still exists in the sport. Since there are not an overabundance of Black lacrosse players at elite levels, he said that racism is mostly directed at the large number of Indigenous players in the game.

Though he would like to see more Black youth playing the sport, Upshaw is glad to help the sport grow with all players.

During the past couple of years he has volunteered his time to help out at various clinics/camps in Durham Region that have been organized by MSL commissioner Doug Luey, who is also the president of the Clarington-based Green Gaels’ Junior B team.

“I’ve just sort of responded to every situation when I can help out,” Upshaw said. Upshaw, who played in the NCAA Division II ranks with California’s Notre Dame de Namur University, has also helped various teams to championships in recent years.

He was a member of the Merchants who captured the Ontario Senior B title in 2016. And he was also on the roster of the Barrie Blizzard, which won the C-LAX championship in 2015. Brad MacArthur, the current head coach/GM of Brooklin Lacrosse Club, was Barrie’s head coach.

Upshaw was also a member of the MacArthur-coached Whitby Steelhawks that won the Arena Lacrosse League title in 2018.