BY KEISHA JOHNSON
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calls them, “trailblazers, high achievers, unsung heroes, exceptional women who have made significant contributions to their communities and to Canada in all fields of endeavour”.
Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, Her Excellency Elizabeth Dowdeswell, commends them as “courageous women who broke down biases and barriers so that others may have greater opportunities for engagement and fulfillment.”
Ontario’s Premier Kathryn Wynne congratulates them for their “enormous accomplishments and thanks them for the example they are to women throughout the province and across the country.”
Who are these women? They are the many accomplished Black Canadian women leading change across all fields of industry and impacting society within Canada. And one hundred of them were honored at a gala in June 2016 and profiled in the premier publication of the same name: 100 Accomplished Black Canadian Women.
Co-authored by three women who themselves are trailblazers, the 100 ABC Women is the first publication recognizing so many Black Canadian women.
“With the goal of promoting the social, educational, political and professional advancement and contributions that Black Canadian women have made to our nation, this publication is an idea whose time has come and this should be celebrated,” commented Her Excellency Elizabeth Dowdeswell.
“I would like to commend the authors – The Hon. Jean Augustine, Dauna Jones Simmonds and Dr. Denise O’Niel Green for bringing the stories of these inspiring women to a wider audience,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau contributed.
The three women masterminded the publication having recognized that nothing of its kind existed. In its introduction they shared that, “The impetus for this book came when we three Black Canadian women, were at a breakfast meeting and the question arose, “Where are all the accomplished Black Canadian Women?”
We realized that the Black Canadian women have had a long history of quiet accomplishment that has for the most part, gone under-reported. We wanted to highlight, document and make visible the accomplishments of Black Canadian women while simultaneously supporting the social, educational, political and professional advancement of Black Canadian women.
The co-authors convened a working group and the public was invited to submit nominations which were judged on four criteria: support efforts of Black women and girls; lives or works in Canada at time of application; supports activities with organizations and groups working for the advancement of Black women and girls and demonstrate leadership through role modelling or volunteer activities. One can only imagine the tremendous feat it was to narrow the hundreds of nominees to one hundred honorees.
The final list of the inaugural 100 ABC Women honorees included ninety one living legends and nine posthumous recognitions. The book is formatted into biographies with a list of greatest accomplishments and advice for the next generation from each of these trailblazing Black women.
As a first of its kind, the publication serves many purposes. For the authors it is not just a touchstone but it is their hope that it will “contribute to reflection, open dialogue, interdisciplinary education and shared advocacy initiatives.”
“I hope that this recognition inspires younger generations of women and girls, and teaches all Canadians about the strength of our country’s diversity,” Andrea Horwath, leader of Ontario’s NDP commented in her message to the inaugural 100 ABC Women honorees.
“As we recognize the accomplishments of Black Canadian women we must not forget that there is still work to be done in our own province [Ontario]. We must work together in order to create ways to expand business opportunities, support balance between work and family and improve economic job opportunities for vulnerable communities,” Patrick Brown leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario noted in his tribute.
The 100 ABC Women publication is currently available in bookstores in Canada and online on Amazon.