BY ALYSSA MAHADEO
Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “ If you can’t fly, then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”
MLK had a dream to end the legal segregation of African-American citizens in the south. Through his activism, he played a pivotal role in giving a voice to this cause, ending the segregation and creating the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Dr. King set out to make a difference, to create and implement positive change in our society so that people could be freed from the bonds of slavery.
We are currently living in the dream envisioned by MLK all those years ago, thankful for his movement and his ability to stand up for what he believed in, doing what is right to benefit people of society. Our job, as citizens of the new world is to maintain and continue to build that legacy that he has left behind. To continue to foster his work, address the issues of oppression and to rise above the negativity so the next generation can live in harmony.
On Saturday January 16th inside the McVety Center in Toronto, The Black Business & Professional Association (BBPA) invited distinguished members and citizens of the community to come together and celebrate the journey of Martin Luther King Jr. while also facilitating the discussion about how we can continue to carry on his work promoting equality, nurturing and recognizing excellence.
Inspired by his leadership, the 17th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebrations are a testament to his efforts. Founded in 1983, the BBPA is a non-profit, charitable organization that addresses equity and opportunity for the Black community in business, employment, education and economic development.
The evening commenced with a ceremonial fanfare as community dignitaries entered the hall. Those distinguished members of the community included Toronto Mayor John Tory, Liberal MP Ahmed Hussen, MPP Mitzie Hunter, MPP Jagmeet Singh of the NDP, Toronto Chief of Police Mark Saunders, York Region Deputy Chief of Police Andre Crawford, President of Ont. Conference Dr. Mansfield Edwards, Andre Lucas from Toronto Dominion Bank and Gwyn Chapman Strategic Youth Advisor for the City of Toronto. Dignitaries were invited to the stage to give a few words on behalf of their respective government parties and organizations to welcome the audience to the BBPA’s momentous presentation.
Throughout the evening the audience was treated to high energy, powerful and enlightening performances by the Crawford Academy Jazz Ensemble and Concert Choir, Ubuntu Drum & Dance Theatre, Dynamic Praise, Perth Exalted Praise, and Ray Robinson. Special presentations of spoken word included Ajay Lee Gordon with a rendition of MLK’s speech ‘I have a Dream’, Krystene Robinson’s ‘The Struggle is Real’, Leanne Prendergast on Empowering Women to love their lives and Nadine Williams sharing some personal and poetic lyrics entitled Pride in My Stride. All of these talented, motivated and hard working young people delivered mighty words of respect and wisdom inspired by the legacy built by Martin Luther King Jr. Each tribute offered it’s own unique restorative, about overcoming the words and actions of oppression, eradicating self-doubt and encouraging new dreams to fuel and carry on the legacy.
Pauline Christian, President of the BBPA shared, “After seventeen years we still have people who are willing to work together to make a difference. Let freedom reign, if freedom doesn’t reign there will be hate onto you; if freedom doesn’t reign we cannot help our students go to school and we may not have any students in our community able to go to school, freedom will walk away when we do not appoint our own and we wait round sitting there feeling comfortable and do not help contribute back to the legacy.”
Three young women were recognized for their hard work and dedication in academic achievements presented with the Dr. Martin Luther King Scholarships. Pursuing education at private schools in Toronto, Kahlia Picart, Shantal Small and Chrystal Pinnock were commended on their outstanding commitments in hopes that they continue to use their knowledge to carry on the legacy. These young women represent the future and aspiring leaders, people that will cultivate and sustain the dream of being free.
The diversity of Canadian living has presented the black community with a new perspective on life. Dreams cost us nothing, imagination is cheap and we can allow it to run wild with the possibilities. Our jobs are to maintain and build on the legacy left to us by Dr. King using our courage and determination to go on despite the obstacles we might face.
The Keynote address for the nights celebrations were wise words of encouragement brought by Pastor Dedrick L. Blue who proclaimed, “We all want the same thing, we all want to be heard, the cry of humanity is for peace and justice. We can measure our progress of the dream of MLK against the cost of achievement, dreams require commitment and in reality we must surmount those obstacles.”
Dr. King believed that humanity has the ability and the responsibility to bring about positive and lasting change. His messages of social justice, service and non-violent action continues to resonate within the hearts of the people and through the support of the community the message does not fall on deaf ears. “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” -MLK