BY SARA MILLER
Though the weather outside was chilly, the atmosphere at the Queens Rising Together Award Show was nothing but warm and inviting. On Sunday, February 21st, at the FUSE Dining restaurant located in Toronto’s historic Corktown district, authors, performers, entrepreneurs, motivational speakers and educators came together to celebrate and recognize the achievements of ten phenomenal women who are empowering others to do good in their communities and live out their dreams.
Hosted and organized by Dianna Jerry, founder of Love INCS, the night was filled with energy, laughter and positivity among guests who mingled with friends, old and new. Jerry, who is a lifestyle coach, certified esthetician, stylist, lifestyle coach, self-love advocate and Reiki practitioner, created her business to help other ambitious women be successful in their endeavors as well as in their private lives. After losing her mother to pancreatic cancer and dealing with the stress of being a young mother herself, Jerry hopes that her business is used as a helpful support system by other women who are having struggles within their own lives. She also strives for others to love themselves and enjoy life to the fullest.
The award show started off on an inspirational high note with motivational music speaker, Roxanne Christian using her musical talents to empower the audience with messages of self-love and inspiration. While guests dined on appetizers and drinks, the show commenced with each award recipient telling the audience a little bit about their work background. Afterwards, they were each presented with a framed award and their own crowns to honor their accomplishments.
One of the honorees of the night, Tanya Callaghan was awarded for her work in Girls Addicted to Basketball (g.a.b.), a non-for-profit organization founded by Callaghan helping girls ages eleven to eighteen not only gain expertise in the sport of basketball but also receive life and leadership skills that are provided by mentors and guest speakers.
Callaghan is no stranger to the sport of basketball, as her expertise and training go as far back as 1995. During her career as a player and educator, she has held prestigious positions such as coaching for the University of Toronto’s Women’s basketball team, the Toronto Raptors Basketball Academy for youth and Canada’s Basketball Center of Performance Development program for women. Her inspiration for the program started after a trip to Swaziland in 2005. There, Callaghan volunteered with the Swaziland National Basketball Association (SNBA) to help local young girls lead healthier lifestyles. After spending two months in the country and seeing how the program affected each girl positively, Callaghan returned to Toronto with the hopes of creating a program in which she could influence young girls in the city as well.
“I really encourage young women to improve upon their self-esteem. There are too many instances of girls dropping out of school, having early childhood pregnancies or getting into drugs. I use basketball as a vehicle to grab young girls and get them hooked on something more positive,” Callaghan said during her acceptance speech.
Sekhemet Richardson was also honored at the award show for her entrepreneurship of her business, Finish3d Body Jewelz, where she creates jewelry such as waist beads, rings and necklaces using beads and gemstones that are known for healing, balancing and strengthening the wearer. During her entertaining speech, she tells the story of how she first started her business after trying to find a safe and healthy method to lose weight. “I had just had my second child and I wanted to lose weight. But instead of using corsets and cinching up my body, I wanted to find a natural alternative method,” she said.
After seeing a friend who used waist beads, which can be used as an indicator to measure weight gain or loss, Richardson used her art background to create her own set which caused her to eventually lose three inches around her waist. “My whole reason for making body jewelry is to empower women and make them feel beautiful. It doesn’t matter what shape or size you are,” she said.
After each awardee was given their crown, the highlight of the night was when Jerry’s children surprised their mother awarding her with her own rising queen award, which highlighted her determination and dedication to helping other women on their journey to self-love.
As the night came to a close, each guest left the event feeling more inspired and motivated to not only pursue their own aspirations and dreams but to also support others like themselves in their own communities, a sentiment that Jerry hopes attendees take away from the Queens Rising Together Award Show.
“People always feel the need to compete with each other or judge one another. But the truth is there is more power coming together. By collaborating with each other, we can become more powerful to do a greater good in the world”.