The return of the Martin Luther King Awards

By Lincoln DePradine

Dr Calvin Watkins

Educator and author Rosemary Sadlier has spent much of her adult life as a social justice advocate and has been recognized for her work, especially her contribution to Canada’s Black community.

She has just received another of many awards and calls this latest one, “very meaningful’’.

Sadlier was among a group recognized for their hard work and community-building efforts and presented with Martin Luther King (MLK) Awards last Saturday, before a packed hall at the Canada Christian College in Whitby, by members of the Educational Foundation for Children’s Care Canada (EFCCC) that is headed by motivational speaker and award-winning entrepreneur, Pauline Christian, as president.

“It is very meaningful to me,’’ Sadlier told The Caribbean Camera, in describing her EFCCC MLK Award. “It connects me with the legacy and the work of Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.; and, to be connected to an international icon who was committed to social justice, fairness, equity and representation – somebody who was at the beginning stages of the modern civil rights movement – this is an incredibly high honour.’’

Osborne Barnwell and Pauline Christian

Sadlier, a public speaker and former president of the Ontario Black History Society, also paid tribute to the other MLK Award recipients, saying she’s “very fortunate to share this honour with some really important people’’.

The other awardees were:

Alex Ihama, principal of the School of Greatness and founder of the Canadian Diversity Summit. Following the murder of George Floyd, Alex worked diligently to bring the police, academia, governments and the community together around the atrocity.

Eslyn Blair, president of Everest Home Health Care (EHHC), which provides care for people in their homes. The organisation was active in supporting the community financially, and have received several awards for their fine work.

Lawyer and activist Osborne Barnwell received his award for his work with the marginalized, immigrants and refugees.

Patricia Deguire, chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, was recognised for “pushing boundaries” to ensure access to justice, equality, and equity, commitment to public service, mentoring, coaching, and legal education.

Wendy Cukeir, advocate for woman and racialized groups, and head of the Diversity Institute at the Toronto Metropolitan University and head of the Ted Rogers School of Business, was gracious in accepting her award.

(from l-r) Osborne Barnwell, Wendy Cukeir, Rosemary Sadlier, Patricia Deguire,
Eslyn Blair and Alex Ihama

The EFCCC is a registered non-profit corporation, whose mandate includes educational advancement “by providing scholarships, bursaries, awards and other forms of assistance to needy students wishing to enter a post-secondary institution’’; and whose mission is to “provide a safe home environment, holistic care, spiritual and psychological nurturing and education for the advancement and development of the general welfare of children and youth who are abandoned, abused, neglected and orphaned’’.

The annual MLK event, which included the presentation of Martin Luther King Scholarships to students, was the first in-person live gathering in more than two years. It was held virtually during the two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Martin Luther King’s life deserves this as it is a collective agenda,’’ Christian said of the EFCCC event. “Coming together is critical in moving the dial forward.’’

This year’s 24th annual MLK celebration was titled, “Overcoming Adversities, Empowering Communities’’.

Among the features were cultural performances and a keynote address from African-American author and lecturer Dr Calvin Watkins, vice president of the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists and founder of the University of the Saints that has four extension schools operating in English and one in Spanish.

“Dr Watkins is an incredibly powerful orator. For a minute you might even think that Martin Luther King was in the room. He has that Southern American accent and a very engaging style of speaking,’’ said, Sadlier, who also commended the event’s organizing committee.

“Pauline Christian always does an amazing job at putting this event on, and I know she does it with her committee. I think that they did a great job. It was really well done.’’

Martin Luther King, an ordained Baptist minister and avowed non-violent activist, was the leading civil rights figure in the United States, until his assassination on April 4, 1968. He was 39.