African-American billionaire Deryl McKissack to speak at Building Diversity Awards Gala

by Lincoln DePradine

Some of the people, who best demonstrate leadership in diversity, equity and inclusion in the construction industry in Ontario, will be awarded next week in Toronto, at an event that will be addressed by African-American billionaire Deryl McKissack.

Deryl McKissack

The awards’ ceremony – an initiative of Toronto Community Benefits Network (TCBN) – will be “inspirational’’, said the organization’s executive director Rosemarie Powell.

“I think it will be very inspirational. We are showcasing awardees who are doing intentional work on the ground,’’ Powell told The Caribbean Camera.

It’s the second year of the Building Diversity Awards’ (BDA) Gala of TCBN, a coalition of community organizations, trade unions and other groups that was founded in 2013.

According to TCBN, the coalition is committed to negotiating Community Benefits Agreements (CBAs) with the aim of “ensuring that community members are accessing publicly funded jobs resulting from infrastructure construction contracts, and that hiring targets for diverse groups are met’’.

“Community Benefits’ movements are really growing here in Ontario and in Toronto, especially. They’re working and they’re changing lives,’’ Powell said.

“We want to see that they become the standard operating procedure whenever there is a major urban development project being built. We have to look at how we ensure equity and how we ensure that the full representation of the city gets reflected on these job sites.’’

The 2022 BDA Gala is Tuesday, May 10, 6 pm, at the Design Exchange, 234 Bay Street. Guests have an option of attending in person or participating online.

Rosemarie Powell

Deryl McKissack, the keynote speaker, is from a family described as the oldest Black-owned architecture, construction, and engineering company in the United States. The McKissack & McKissack company was started by two brothers in 1905.

The business has continued with subsequent generations of McKissacks including Deryl and her twin sister, Cheryl. Both are civil engineers and graduates of Howard University.

Deryl McKissack overseas company offices in Washington D.C., Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Texas, Los Angeles, Miami and Atlanta. The firm currently is said to be working on more than US$15 billion in projects nationwide.

 “We wanted to showcase a Black woman in such a strong leadership position,’’ Powell said, explaining the reason for choosing McKissack to deliver the featured address.

A high volume of nominations was received for this year’s awards, including candidates not employed in the construction industry, Powell disclosed. “But, we’re really highlighting those candidates who are connected to the construction industry for their work on equity, diversity and inclusion. We’re not ready yet to expand,’’ she said.

TCBN shortlisted 18 potential winners. From that number, a final seven were chosen to receive 2022 BDAs.

The Community Benefits’ Champion – unlike the other BDA winners that were selected by a panel of judges – was determined by “people’s choice’’ through community voting, said Powell.

“We put it out to our network members and asked them to vote. We had over 300 votes come in,’’ she said.

The Community Benefits’ Champion, she said, is someone who was able to obtain “buy-in’’ on diversity, equity and inclusion from the leadership at their workplace.

For both “Leading on Diversity’’ and “NextGen Builders Champion’’, there are three winners in each category.

NextGen Builders Champions are people who have benefited from TCBN opportunities and now “are developing a career for themselves. But, they themselves are turning back to their community and bringing others up and are mentoring’’, said Powell.

 In this NextGen category, she added, recognition also is being given to a company “that has demonstrated that within their workplace they give opportunities to people from underrepresented groups; and they’re also having programs that support their success on the job’’.

The “Leading on Diversity’’ BDAs are for “client-owners, contractors and unions that have really gone over and above to change their internal practices to welcome diversity. We looked at those who were at leading edge of best practices’’, said Powell.

Tickets to next Tuesday’s BDA Gala can be purchased by visiting