Black community honoured at John Holland awards

JOHN C.HOLLAND AWARD WINNERS:(from left) Natasha Martin, Michael Ssemanda, Hailey Summers, Michael St. George, Isaiah Williams, Sheilah Mwaura, David Parkes and Gachi Issa. Front row, Sarah Jama and Jovaune Rhodes.

HAMILTON, Ont. –  Several outstanding members of Hamilton’s black community were honoured on Saturday evening at the annual John C. Holland Awards presentation at LIUNA Station.

This year’s event marked the 21st edition of the awards presentation named after Holland who served as pastor of Hamilton’s  Stewart Memorial church known for its connection to the Underground Railroad.

The ceremony, which honours Hamilton’s black community and its allies, was a huge success, said Louise Noel-Ambrose, administrator for the awards.

“The John C. Holland awards came of age at the entry point of immigrants into Hamilton so many years ago. We are pleased to have the continued support and love from the people of Hamilton,” she added.

Here is the list of 2017 award winners:

Award of Merit – Jovaune Rhodes

The Rhodes family, one of the first black families in Hamilton, arrived in Canada via the Underground Railroad in the 1800s. In the 1980s, Jovaune Rhodes earned a social work degree from McMaster University as an adult student and then helped pioneer several programs for young black people in Hamilton.

Nelson Mandela Award – Gachi Issa

Issa is an executive member of the McMaster Womanists organization and a founder of several clubs at Westdale Secondary School, including the Social Action committee and the Black History Month committee.

Community Service Award – Maurice Brown Jr.

Brown has helped run programs for thousands of children at the Les Chater Family YMCA. Before that, he was an assistant coach with Special Olympics Canada, coaching basketball. He played varsity football at McMaster and is now on Redeemer University College’s basketball team. Brown also helps at-risk youth through an organization called Liberty for Youth.

Lincoln Alexander Award – Sheilah Mwaura

Mwaura came to Canada from Kenya when she was child. She is part of her school’s Diversity Committee, the Best Buddies program and the Christmas Miracle program, and is a junior leader at her church’s summer camp.

Raymond G. Lewis Award – Michael Ssemanda

Ssemanda has volunteered to raise funds for poor people in Uganda, Haiti and the Dominican Republic and has also collected food in door-to-door drives. He has been a student council member and honour roll student at Cathedral High School and will be attending Canisius College in Buffalo this fall on a baseball scholarship.

Ally Award – Bob Morrow

Morrow, former mayor of Hamilton, was recognized for his political stand against racism back in the 1980s when a local taxi company fired a number of visible-minority drivers. He later helped establish the Mayor’s Race Relations Committee, which set a precedent for other Canadian cities.

Jackie Washington Award for Arts – Michael St. George

Originally from Kingston, Jamaica, St. George’s musical work is dedicated to justice and social equity. He has worked with a number of musicians around the world, and his music is infused with reggae, ska, jazz and rhythm and blues.

Youth Award – Hailey Summers

Summers is an accomplished cross-country runner, track and field athlete, soccer player and basketball player. She is a past winner of St. Mary’s High School basketball MVP award. She has received a full scholarship to play soccer at the State University of New York at Albany.

Audre Lorde Scholarship Award – Natasha Martin

The scholarship is for LGBTQ young people. Martin is currently in the Social Service Worker program at Mohawk College and she hopes to help LGBTQ youth in the community when she completes the program

Youth Achievement Award – Isaiah Williams

. At Westmount Secondary School, Williams is head of the environmental team, the business club, the future health care professionals club and the Model United Nations. Outside of school, he volunteers at St. Joseph’s Hospital.

Inspiration Award – David Parkes

Parkes is a grade 12 honour roll student at Cathedral High school and a member of the school band and choir. He volunteers as a coach and mentor for Spelling Bee of Canada. \

Evelyn Myrie Political Action Award – Sarah Jama

Jama has been the Ontario director of the National Educational Association of Disabled Students and the Orientation and Transition Assistant at McMaster University, as well as an advocate for student rights at the university, where she has been a social psychology student.