By Murissa Barrington
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau praised recipients of the 2017 Harry Jerome Awards last Saturday night, describing them as “extraordinary Canadians” who chose to be ” agents of change.”
The Prime Minister was the keynote speaker at the Awards ceremony at the International Centre in Mississauga.
“Trailblazers, young entrepreneurs, lifetime achievers, entertainers – the recipients of this year’s Harry Jerome Awards – are shaping Canada into a place we are even prouder to call home,” he said
He noted that this year marks the 35th anniversary of the Awards, “which also coincides with the 35th anniversary of the Charter of Rights and Freedom.
” Which is fitting, since both are, at their core, a celebration of fairness, liberty, and justice.”
But he reminded the gathering that “it’s been a long road to reach progress and equality in this country ” and that” racism persists even in Canada “and inequality lingers.”
“That’s why we need trailblazers to team up with entertainers and young entrepreneurs to help others become agents of change,” he said.
Toronto Mayor John Tory, also spoke about racism in a brief address at the ceremony.
He noted that the municipal government has been making efforts to deal with this problem and has been meeting with community leadersin various neighbourhoods to discuss possible solutions.
The Harry Jerome Awards is dedicated to honouring the accomplishments of the African-Canadian community in the categories of Academics, Arts, Athletics, Leadership,Business,Entertainment,Professional Excellence, Health Science,Technology and Innovation, Community Service,Lifetime Achievement,Diversity, Trailblazer,Social Advocacy,Volunteer, Public Advocacy, Youth Advancement and the President’s Award.
“Beyond Excellence” was the theme for this year’s awards.
Among those recognized as achieving “beyond excellence” wasKeith Spence who received the Professional Excellence award for his work in the natural resources sector and corporate finance. Spence who was born in Trinidad, told the Caribbean Camera that “it’s always a pleasure to be honoured by my own people.”
Spence is the president and CEO of Global Mining Capital which is a private equity investment company that works mainly in the mining and metals resources sector.
“Canada is the world leader in mining knowledge,” said Spence. “I like to tell people that Toronto – this is something people don’t know – is the Silicon Valley for resources in mining.”
Spence went on to explain that Canada sets the standards for the rules and regulations within the mining industry. With Canada being a global mining powerhouse, he said, he’s simply a “product of what we’re really good at ”and he has been encouraging young black students to pursue careers in the natural resources sector.
In addition to his impressive resume of achievements, Spence has been awarded the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Award for his contributions to Canada.
Another outstanding honouree was Leanne Prendergast who received this year’s Leadership award.
Prendergast is the President and Co-founder of Love Our Lives, a not-for-profit organization. When she was only 12, she created Love Our Lives, after being the victim of bullying by her peers. She then went on to write a book about her experience called “Getting to Know Me” which is used as a guide by support workers looking to identify signs of bullying.
In his keynote address, Prime Minister Trudeau noted that putting a stop to bullying became Prendergast’s mission.
” She wrote a book based on her experience to help young girls in need. To me, that’s what resilience and courage looks like,” said the prime minister.
“The book basically spoke about how it felt to be teased and left out and not fitting in and finding my way through that journey,” said Prendergast.
One of Prendergast’s biggest role models is her mother, who she says she admires for her ability to balance motherhood, marriage and a PhD. She also says her mother taught her important life principles like how “to love and treat others who may not treat you the same way.”
Prendergast told the Caribbean Camera that it’s important to have events like the Harry Jerome Awards, where young black women like herself can have a chance to be recognized and encouraged to reach for excellence.
The Harry Jerome Awards is established in memory of Harry Jerome, an African-Canadian Olympic athlete, scholar and social advocate. It is organized by the Black Business and Professional Association.
The other award recipients were as follows:
Rev. Dr. Audley N. James (Lifetime Achievement Award)
Harriet Thornhill (Youth Advancement Award)
Dr. Everton Gooden (Trailblazers Award)
George Frempong (Business Award)
Isobel Granger (Public Advocacy Award)
Sharon Riley (Entertainment Award)
Gabrielle Fletcher (Academics Award)
Dr. Barbara Trieloff-Deane (Diversity Award)
Wesley J. Hall (President’s Award)
Chris Campbell (Volunteer Award)
Andre De Grasse (Athletics Award)
Ron Cunningham (Community Service Award)
Dr. Juliet M. Daniel (Technology and Innovation Award)
Cheryl Nembhard (Social Advocacy Award)
Fabienne Colas (Arts Award)
Dr. Boluwaji Ogunyemi (Health Science Award)