Honoring Black Excellence and Achievement in Black Canada
In 1982, Jamaican Canadian businessman Denham Jolly called a meeting of community leaders to discuss supporting Black businesses. This resulted in the founding of the Black Business and Professional Association (BBPA) in Toronto.
The association sponsors the BBPA National Scholarship Fund, which provides financial support to Black Canadian youth pursuing higher education. Nadine Spencer is the Interim CEO of the BBPA and leads the organization’s efforts to advance Canada’s Black community through equity and programming initiatives. Ross Cadastre, an accomplished recruitment executive, and an active community member, is the board chair.
The Harry Jerome Scholarship Program, now the BBPA National Scholarships, was proposed by Hamlin Grange and realized through the efforts of Kamala-Jean Gopie, Pamela Appelt, Sheila Simpson, Beverly Mascoll, and BBPA President Cynthia Reyes. Verlyn Francis led the scholarship fund, established an endowment fund, and secured corporate sponsorship in 1996. Today, the fund awards more than 30 scholarships each year.
The Awards, named after Canadian track and field runner and Olympic athlete Henry “Harry” Winston Jerome, recognize deserving members of the Black community. This year, the awards will honor 13 members of the community, including Agunbiade Seun Richards, a social entrepreneur and researcher committed to creative thinking, cognitive learning, and volunteering; he will receive the Young Entrepreneur Award.
Ngozi Paul, an award-winning stage and screen actor, writer, director, and producer, will receive the Arts Award. Spider “Chuck” Jones, an award-winning journalist in both the music and boxing fields, gets the Lifetime Achievement Award. Lindell Wigginton, a Canadian professional basketball player for the Milwaukee Bucks of the National Basketball Association (NBA), will receive the Jerome Family Athletics Award.
Other recipeints are Rick Gosling, a social worker and theologian, founded The Children’s Breakfast Club in 1984, which provides healthy breakfasts to children from working mother-led families in Toronto’s Jane and Falstaff area. The program has grown rapidly and is still volunteer and privately funded, with $0.87 of every dollar going directly to feeding children; Rosemarie Powell, the Executive Director of the Toronto Community Benefits Network (TCBN), a passionate advocate for social, economic, and environmental justice. She has managed and developed several innovative and impactful community programs and services to support underrepresented groups’ access to the labor market. Emma Todd, the CEO of MMH Technology Group, which specializes in data systems, blockchain consulting, communication, and events for emerging technology organizations, will receive the Leadership Award.
The Harry Jerome Awards recognize deserving members of the Black community, and this year’s awardees include social entrepreneurs, artists, athletes, and advocates for social justice.