BY: JELANI GRANT
The BBPA (Black Business and Professional Associates) honoured three historic members of the black community as a part of their Black Roots Bear Fruit event.
Hosted by Enterprise Canada consultant Tiffany Gooch, the event was held at Apple Creek Community Church to acknowledge three people who have made momentous achievements during their political careers.
The main level of the Seventh-Day Adventist community church was filled to remember and celebrate the many black people who greatly impacted Canada’s history. The night began with Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have A Dream Speech’, where he proclaimed his vision of desegregation and peace to approximately 250,000 people.
The Black Anthem was sung by Tullochs and Rhonelle Patrick sang the Canadian National Anthem. Pastor Robert Greaves associate pastor of Apple Creek Seventh-Day Adventist said the opening prayer. He also spoke on the first slave brought to Canada in 1628, who was six when he was first bought and was traded by his masters five times as a testament to how long black people have faced oppression in Canada.
Before the program began, Gooch shared the story of her grandmother who lived to the age of 113, after raising a large family that empowered their women and young girls during a time of oppression. She demonstrated her vocal ability by singing a song she created but didn’t name, dedicated to the powerful women in her family who worked to enabled her to become an educated and powerful black woman.
Jamaica’s Consul General of Toronto Lloyd Wilks commended the BBPA for putting together a night celebrating black pioneers, saying “I couldn’t think of a better way to depict the celebration of Black History Month…it is right that we must celebrate black history every day”.
Performances continued with Marcylita Javier-Griffith who demonstrated sign language routine to gospel. The King’s Kids then sang their cover of “God is Great” for the crowd. The night featured other talents of the community including The Heritage Singers, Norwill Simmonds, Sandria Ricketts, Francis Atta, Karl Hutchinson, Errol Lee, and distinguished poet Nadine Williams.
Senator Anne Cools, Honourable Mitzi Hunter, Senator Don Meredith were all recognized with BBPA awards. Cools is the first black person to be appointed to the Senate of Canada in 1984. Hunter was made Minister of Education in 2016, making her the first black woman to be named Minister of Education. Meredith became the first Jamaican to serve in the Senate of Canada and is the fourth person of African descent to be appointed to senate.
During her speech, Hunter recalled the countless moments she spent in Apple Creek praying, reading to children or being baptized before she became Ontario’s first black Minister of Education. She spoke on her role models as a child who taught her to never give up and always demonstrating confidence and her grandmother, described as a powerful matriarch, regarding the event’s theme of black roots bearing fruit.
The keynote speaker for the evening was North Caribbean University President Dr. Lincoln Edwards. Dr. Edwards said “he has seen strength through turbulent times demonstrated here in Canada. Regardless of the hardships that you face, you are strong.” Before his election, in June 2016, the dental surgeon would take dental students on mission trips to Kingston, St. Catherine, Clarendon and Manchester providing hundreds of individuals with free dental care.
Below the main stage, the basement floor of the church held the Mobile International Inventor’s Museum. On either side of the room, lined up back to back were brief descriptions of black people who have made a constructive mark in North American history. The list included inventors, such as the founder of three-dimensional viewing glasses Kenneth J. Dunkley, civil rights leaders as well as anyone who, like Hunter, became the first black man or woman to hold their prestigious position. Bessie Coleman, the first African-American woman to earn a pilot’s license, and the first black doctor of Canada Dr. Alexander Augusta, were also included among the greats.
All of the night’s speakers endorsed the practice of extending the celebration and teaching of black history beyond February. Considering that black history can be synonymous with Canadian history, there is no mystery as to how the list of black accomplishers became so lengthy. As this event became the second of a musically saturated night of inspiration, the BBPA made a statement expecting future generations to continue making history to expand the list for next year.