BY: ASHELLY SMITH
On Sunday, June 10, 2018, Congress of Black Women of Canada Mississauga and Area Chapter awarded nine scholarships in the amount of one thousand dollars each to students in pursuit of their education. There were seven students from the post-secondary schools who received scholarship awards: Hailey McCalla, Emmanuel Akpata, Najat Ahmed, Royanne Williams, Ephraim Akpata, and Saara Ricketts. The Adult Scholarship was awarded to Renisha Cox. This award is to financially assist a black woman who has a compelling desire to return to school to further her education. Renisha is currently registered in the Paralegal program at Sheridan College. Another award was given to an adult, specifically to a new teacher who has recently completed his program. This award is called The Heather Whittaker Teacher Scholarship. Whittaker was a president of the chapter who died in 2003. With this award, the chapter supports and recognizes members of the Black community who have chosen a profession in education. The chapter believes it is important that black children see positive and cultural reflections of themselves represented in their learning institutions.
At 12:45 pm Loris Thomas the fundraising coordinator, introduced MC Itah Sadu who is a distinguished storyteller and children’s author. She is also the co-owner of A Different Booklist, one of the few independent bookstores left in Toronto. She was a vibrant MC who kept the program entertaining and flowing. There were dignitaries present at the scholarship brunch: Mayor of Mississauga, Bonnie Crombie, and Member of Parliament Omar Alghabra for Mississauga Central and Peel Regional Police Deputy Chief Ingrid Berkeley-Brown. Mayor Bonnie Crombie presented a short message at the brunch:
“Your organization has an important place here in our community. The Congress of Black Women of Canada is helping to provide new opportunities and shaping brighter futures for young men and women, by offering generous scholarships that will go toward education opportunities. Each and every one of us has a responsibility to mentor, support, inspire and build the character and confidence of young women to help ensure their dreams become a reality. Once again, I would like to congratulate all the nominees and winners of the 2017-2018 post-secondary scholarships. I wish this organization many more years of continued and enriching success here in Mississauga.”
MP Omar Alghabra would not leave until he gave his remarks at the event: “Since 1985, the Mississauga Chapter has been working tirelessly to connect and empower members of the black and greater Mississauga community, the organization’s dedication and passion are inspirational and a pillar of exceptional leadership. As the Member of Parliament for Mississauga Centre, I want to laud the remarkable work the organization has done and continues to do for the community. I am honored to be a Member of Parliament from a region that has an organization such as Congress of Black Women of Canada that brings incredible enrichment to our community. Congratulations to all of the scholarship winners and to the members of the Congress of Black Women of Canada Mississauga and Area Chapter for another successful year.”
It is important to have the support of educated professionals such as Peel District School Board Director, Peter Joshua and Dufferin Peel Catholic School Board representatives. Also in attendance was Councilor Ron Starr, representatives of Peel Police Service Board and a table of all females’ officers proudly representing Peel Regional Police!
One of the most awaited times was brunch. It was served in a buffet style with a huge delectable salmon in the middle of the table. Some attendees commented that it was one of the coolest and creative presentations of food they had ever seen. The menu was appetizing with a lot of vegetables, salads and beans. It would be an understatement to comment that the food was good, it was scrumptious. Then there was a musical performance by Anthony Legore who was quite a singer! The moment everyone was waiting for finally arrived, the scholarship awards presentations led by Valerie Williams, the education coordinator.
Speaking to Toronto Caribbean reporter, Hailey Mccalla one of the scholarship recipients expressed how she felt about receiving the scholarship.
“I feel very blessed to know that I have been granted the opportunity to win this scholarship and this will be going towards my education so it is amazing to know that I have people supporting me all the way.”
Speaking of support, not everyone has a strong support system but McCalla has her grandmother who she praised highly.
“My grandmother is definitely one of my biggest supporters. She has been one of my biggest supporters over the years because growing up in Barbados she experienced a lot of poverty. However, she still pursued her dreams to become a nurse. So I definitely used that as an example of her resilience,” shared McCalla.
It is always good to show your appreciation by giving back to others. Hailey has a strong desire to do so.
“I definitely plan to volunteer with this community. I think it is very important to give back to the community seeing that they were able to give me one thousand dollars towards my education especially since I like to volunteer at the JCA as well as the WCM.”
Soon everyone sat down to listen to the keynote speaker, Kike Ojo, the founder/CEO of The Kojo Institute. Ojo is a speaker, facilitator, strategist, and advocates for social justice and systems change. She was an educated speaker who spoke about the black community oppressions by referencing statistical research to prove her points.
Toronto Caribbean spotted the Vice President of Congress of Black Women of Canada Mississauga and Area Chapter Palmonia Gordon who was excited to speak with us about raising funds for the annual scholarship awards.
“The plan is to grow ourselves as an organization because if we grow and have more members then, of course, we have more opportunity that there are people out there that can source funds for us. We also want to grow our presence on social media so people can say oh! who are these people? I see what they are doing. One of the things that is on my heart as a new officer in the organization is to connect with past recipients of the awards…Can I get your story? Let me hear how receiving this award impacted you so that we can have that to compile and we can use this as a marketing tool as proof of what we do.”
As the scholarship recipients go on to their future endeavors, Gordon would like them to know that the future has no boundary.
“The future is limitless. Whatever limit they can imagine, is a lie they have placed upon themselves because there is no limit to what they can accomplish. Whatever the mind can think, it can achieve” said Gordon.
It was a great afternoon at the 2018 Family Brunch & Scholarship Awards at the Mississauga Grand Banquet Hall. The Congress of Black Women of Canada is a national non-profit community organization with chapters across Canada. They have four programs that they consistently run effectively. They are post-secondary scholarships, teacher scholarship, adult scholarship and a non-profit housing project called Camille’s Place. Camille’s Place is a stately nine story non-profit housing that has adorned the Mississauga skyline in the Creditview and Eglinton area since 1996. It was officially opened by Mayor Hazel McCallion in the summer of 1998. Next year’s event promises to be greater with more awards, prizes and a splendid brunch. See you there next year!