BY: ALYSSA MAHADEO
Excellence can be defined as greatness, and those that are recognized for their greatness are the very best at what they do. Achieving excellence is no easy feat, but it is an accomplishment admired for its unique and outstanding nature. To reach beyond excellence means that a person has committed to reaching accomplishments of the highest degree. Nothing can stop them, and they will continue to manifest greatness in each of their endeavors.
On April 22nd, 2017 the Black Business Professional Association (BBPA) presented the 35th annual Harry Jerome Awards in collaboration with TD Bank where eighteen individuals were honored for reaching beyond excellence in the fields of leadership, community service, social advocacy and so much more.
Revered throughout the nation as an event dedicated to recognizing and honoring the excellence of African Canadian Achievement, the Harry Jerome Awards were established in the memory of Harry Jerome, an outstanding African Canadian Athlete, scholar and social advocate. The BBPA Harry Jerome Awards is recognized as one of the most prestigious national awards gala in the African-Canadian community and a coveted symbol of achievement.
A scholar, Olympic athlete, and social advocate, Harry Jerome embodied the will to succeed despite all odds and demonstrated a strong social conscience and commitment to the community. He was always conscious of the challenges faced by African Canadians, and was a vocal opponent of the misrepresentation of African Canadians in Canadian Television and wage discrimination barriers they faced. In 1982 Harry Jerome died suddenly at the age of 42. He took the concerns of a community and a country, epitomizing excellence determination and dedication. A true Canadian Hero.
BBPA President Pauline Christian stated, “The winners of the BBPA 35th Anniversary Harry Jerome Awards are truly symbolic of this year’s theme “Beyond Excellence”. As the BBPA celebrates this significant milestone alongside Canada’s 150th Birthday, it is our hope that the entire Canadian family will come onside in acknowledging the United Nation’s Decade of recognizing people of African descent 2015-2024.”
The evening was a very special event for BBPA President Pauline Christian who has dedicated many years of service to the community, finishing her final term as president, but will continue to service the community in any way that she can.
Guests at this year’s awards ceremonies were buzzing with excitement and anticipation as they were in for a special treat. The Honourable Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie Grégoire Trudeau were in attendance at this year’s celebrations to recognize the beyond excellence achieved by this year’s Harry Jerome Award recipients.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was the keynote speaker for the evening’s proceedings, taking the time to meet and speak with award recipients, and congratulate them on their accomplishments before taking the podium.
“I want to start congratulating tonight’s eighteen award recipients, your passion, your dedication and your achievements are an inspiration to us all. Every year the Harry Jerome Awards gives us the opportunity to recognize the achievements of African-Canadians who have proudly carried the legacy of the late Harry Jerome.” Trudeau said.
“We remember Harry not only for what he achieved but for the man he was, once the fastest man in the world he was also a dedicated student and a pillar of his community who extended opportunities to others. Tonight, we celebrate extraordinary Canadians, who like Harry chose to be agents of change, trailblazers, young entrepreneurs, lifetime achievers, and entertainers. The recipients of these awards are shaping Canada into a place we will be even prouder to call home in the coming years.”
The award recipients are individuals who are leaders in the community contributing to the development and advancement of society whether it is in the field of business, medical studies arts and science, academics, entertainment, public advocacy and youth advancement.
“I used to take a holiday, and go back to my native country of Jamaica and help inner city kids,” shares Ronald Cunningham recipient of the Community Service Award. “In 2005 when Jane Creba was shot on Yonge Street a chord was struck with me and I decided that I had to do something about it. I thought here I am running off to Jamaica to do this work when the same thing is happening here in my own backyard.”
“I’m always reminded by my wife that the work that I do isn’t for me, but for the people I could potentially inspire.” says George Frempong recipient of the Business Award, a native Ghanaian and co-founder of Herjavec Group the world’s largest privately held information security firm.
In addition to the recipients awarded four individuals received honorary mentions posthumously in recognition of their significant contributions to the community, namely: Dr. Trevor Ian Robinson, Raphaelita Walker, Dr. David Bell, and Dr. Inez Elliston.
One by one each award recipient was called to the stage to be recognized and acknowledged for the work they have done before being presented with a Harry Jerome Award. Guests were entertained by the ONQ Crew world-class live entertainers, TD Dancers, Sage and the vocal talents of Sharon Riley & Faith Chorale, as well as an explosive performance by headliner Divine Brown.
“Every year it is amazing to see the community come out to support the BBPA in all the work they do as service to the community,” said Pauline Christian. “I want to thank my community, as we have the best community in the world here in Canada. There is no place like Canada that would allow a little nineteen-year-old girl to come here from Jamaica and to be what I am today.”
For thirty-five years the BBPA has been a charitable organization whose mission is to advance Canada’s Black community by facilitating the delivery of programs that support business and professional excellence, higher education and economic development. The BBPA presents the Annual Harry Jerome Awards, the BBPA National Scholarships and the National Black Business and Professional Convention (NBBPC), alongside workshops and programs at the BBPA Centre of Excellence. The BBPA would like to thank all of the sponsors that made this event possible TD Bank, Scotia Bank, RBC, The Province of Ontario, Carpenters Allied Workers Local 27, Brand EQ, AfroGlobal Television, Bell, Guy Steer, CBC News, Jamaica National Group, Nursing Homemakers Inc. and G98.7.
In the coming years, they will continue to promote and encourage excellence by highlighting those selfless leaders that help each and every one of us stand proud and tall.