U of T Alumni Reunion to highlight Lesra Martin’s inspiring story
University of Toronto alumnus Lesra Martin has uplifted scores of people through his book The Power of a Promise – and through the 1999 Hollywood film The Hurricane, which took inspiration from Martin’s own inspiring journey as a teenager.
“I believe we all have, in our DNA, a desire to be the best we can be,” Martin says.
“To make a meaningful, positive impact when and where we can. Like orbs of light, set out on a mutual mission, U of T alumni are achievers, doers, believers and leaders.”
Martin’s journey began in New York City, where he was working to help feed his family at the age of 10. He was offered a chance to go back to school in Canada when he was 15. He began learning to read for the first time, despite his fears that he couldn’t succeed academically.
Martin went on to attend U of T’s Innis College and earned a degree in anthropology in 1988.
His activism was sparked after reading The Sixteenth Round written by former boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter. It told the story of how Carter had been wrongfully imprisoned for murder in the 1960s.
Moved by Carter’s story, Martin wrote a letter of support – sparking a friendship with the former boxer. Soon, Martin was convincing his foster family to advocate on Carter’s behalf. Five years of activism later, Carter walked free.
Martin’s story of resilience and perseverance provided a foundation for his career as a lawyer, the making of The Hurricane film, his advocacy for literacy and an invitation to speak at the United Nations.
“I believe that sharing our stories can help shore each other up,” he says.
“When we share our lived experiences, we learn from one another and strengthen our resolve to forge new paths forward.”