BY JELANI GRANT
Members of the Guyanese community celebrated fifty years of independence by awarding astounding persons with Golden Jubilee Awards. Brighton Convention & Events Centre held only a fraction of the more than 60,000 Guyanese people in Canada.
Trumpeter Ian Morgan played both the Canadian and Guyanese National Anthems, followed by introductory words from Guyana’s High Commissioner to Canada and keynote speaker, Clarissa Sabita Riehl. She touched on the ongoing trend of diversity within the Guyanese culture. “I’ve been to other affairs such as this gala, but the diversity that I see here is fantastic. As you know, in Guyana we have ten geographic regions. But we call Canada, Region 11”, she said remarking to the significant number of Guyanese people who have immigrated to Canada in the past decade.
Winston Kassim also spoke on the community gathering, remarking on the inclusive cultural traditions of being a part of the Guyanese-Canadian communal. “There is an old Guyanese saying…Once you associate with a Guyanese, you are Guyanese”. Kassim is head of the Royal Bank of Canada’s Canadian banking strategic initiatives but is famously recognized for being the first Guyanese-Canadian to be recognized as a member of the Order of Canada. “Being Canadian means getting involved in your community. Doing good work that helps others, sharing your culture with people from different backgrounds. It also means breaking free from your local community”, he said.
Kassim addressed the award recipients thanking them for their continuous work within the Guyanese community inside and outside of Canada. “You have also maintained a link to our homeland, with a good number of you donating money and your expertise to work on houses back home and investing in Guyanese business initiatives”.
The Royal Bank of Canada representative Mark Beckles offered a few words to help recognize the contributions of Guyanese people in Canada. He said, “Guyana has long been recognized for its diversity as a strength…Guyana has played a pivotal role in shaping a sense of nationhood across the entire Caribbean.”
Musicians Bill Newman and Bash Nandalall provided musical entertainment and funny Guyanese cultural references. DJ Jones and Solid Gold played reggae and calypso throughout the night.
Organized by the Consulate General of Guyana-Toronto, awards were presented in categories such as Arts and Culture, Academic Excellence, Business Excellence, Organization and Individual Community Service, Education, Individual Under 30, Professional, Science and Technology and Sports. Recipients were chosen based on their contribution to Guyana and the Guyanese community. Award recipients included, but were not limited to, Senior Pastor of the Family Worship Centre, Bishop Joseph Fisher, who won the Professional Excellence Award, Guyana Goldfields Inc. Country Manager Violet Smith and Norman Sue of Norman Sue Bakery.
The meal included hors d’oeuvres of Bahamian coconut shrimp, crab cakes, chicken satays and mini vegetable samosas. Guests had three main course options of rosemary roasted chicken breast, broiled filet of salmon or a vegetarian option of basil-balsamic glazed veggie-kebabs. Following dinner was a graceful performance by three members of the Tarana Dance Company and capping off that experience, raspberry & lemon sorbet with starfruit and wafer biscuit was served as a dessert.
In addition to celebrating the unity and independence of Guyana with food, music, socializing and dancing, the gala highlighted some of the incredible people of the Guyanese community who continue to contribute to the growth of a nation over on the island and as well as a growing incorporation of Guyanese within the Canadian society.