Hamil­ton’s black com­mu­nity cel­e­brates the con­tri­bu­tions of present and fu­ture lead­ers at the Hol­land Awards

Black com­mu­nity award re­cip­i­ents hon­oured for work

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - STEVE BUIST sbuist@thes­pec.com 905-526-3226

The best and bright­est of Hamil­ton’s black com­mu­nity were hon­oured Satur­day evening at LIUNA Sta­tion as part of the Rev. John C. Hol­land Awards.

It marked the 21st edi­tion of the awards pre­sen­ta­tion, co-founded by Mar­lene Thomas-Os­bourne and Eve­lyn Myrie. This year’s event marked the pass­ing of the torch as a new or­ga­niz­ing com­mit­tee stepped in place.

“As we look at the first 100 days of the leader of the free world, we can’t help but be ner­vous,” co-chair Kathryn Crooks said to close out the cer­e­mony. “But as I look at these award win­ners, I know these are young peo­ple who aren’t go­ing to be voice­less.”

Here is the list of 2017 award win­ners:

Award of Merit – Jo­vaune Rhodes

The Rhodes fam­ily, one of the first black fam­i­lies in Hamil­ton, ar­rived in Canada via the Un­der­ground Rail­road in the 1800s. In the 1980s, Rhodes earned a so­cial work de­gree from McMaster Univer­sity as an adult stu­dent and then helped pi­o­neer sev­eral pro­grams for young black peo­ple in Hamil­ton. Event cochair Mar­lene Thomas-Os­bourne called Rhodes “a walk­ing his­tory book.”

Nel­son Man­dela Award – Gachi Issa

Issa is an ex­ec­u­tive mem­ber of the McMaster Wo­man­ists or­ga­ni­za­tion and a founder of sev­eral clubs at West­dale Sec­ondary School, in­clud­ing the So­cial Ac­tion com­mit­tee and the Black His­tory Month com­mit­tee. “These or­ga­ni­za­tions have helped me to fur­ther my iden­tity as an ac­tivist, as a youth or­ga­nizer, and help me es­tab­lish my role in the com­mu­nity,” Issa stated.

Com­mu­nity Ser­vice Award – Mau­rice Brown Jr.

Brown has helped run pro­grams for thou­sands of chil­dren at the Les Chater Fam­ily YMCA. Be­fore that, he was an as­sis­tant coach with Spe­cial Olympics Canada, coach­ing bas­ket­ball. He played var­sity foot­ball at McMaster and is now on Redeemer Univer­sity Col­lege’s bas­ket­ball team. Brown also helps atrisk youth through an or­ga­ni­za­tion called Lib­erty for Youth.

Lin­coln Alexan­der Award – Sheilah Mwaura

Mwaura came to Canada from Kenya when she was child. She is part of her school’s Di­ver­sity Com­mit­tee, the Best Buddies pro­gram and the Christmas Mir­a­cle pro­gram, and is a ju­nior leader at her church’s sum­mer camp. She plans to study ac­count­ing at Brock Univer­sity.

Ray­mond G. Lewis Award – Michael Sse­manda

Sse­manda has vol­un­teered to raise funds for poor peo­ple in Uganda, Haiti and the Do­mini­can Re­pub­lic and has also col­lected food in door-to-door drives. He has been a stu­dent coun­cil mem­ber and hon­our roll stu­dent at Cathe­dral High School and will be at­tend­ing Cani­sius Col­lege in Buf­falo this fall on a base­ball schol­ar­ship. Ally Award – Bob Mor­row Mor­row, for­mer mayor of Hamil­ton, was rec­og­nized for his po­lit­i­cal stand against racism back in the 1980s when a lo­cal taxi com­pany fired a num­ber of vis­i­ble-mi­nor­ity driv­ers. He later helped es­tab­lish the Mayor’s Race Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee, which set a prece­dent for other Cana­dian cities.

Jackie Wash­ing­ton Award for Arts – Michael St. Ge­orge

Orig­i­nally from Kingston, Ja­maica, St. Ge­orge’s mu­si­cal work is ded­i­cated to jus­tice and so­cial eq­uity. He has worked with a num­ber of mu­si­cians around the world, and his mu­sic is in­fused with reg­gae, ska, jazz and rhythm and blues. St. Ge­orge is a past win­ner of the On­tario Fed­er­a­tion of Labour Art and Cul­ture Award.

Youth Award – Hai­ley Sum­mers

Hai­ley and sports go hand in hand. She is an ac­com­plished cross-coun­try run­ner, track and field ath­lete, soc­cer player and bas­ket­ball player. She is a past win­ner of St. Mary’s High School bas­ket­ball MVP award. She has re­ceived a full schol­ar­ship to play soc­cer at the State Univer­sity of New York at Al­bany.

Au­dre Lorde Schol­ar­ship Award – Natasha Martin

The schol­ar­ship is for LGBTQ young peo­ple. Martin is cur­rently in the So­cial Ser­vice Worker pro­gram at Mo­hawk Col­lege and she hopes to help LGBTQ youth in the com­mu­nity when she com­pletes the pro­gram. “My fam­ily did not ac­cept the fact that I am les­bian. As I got older and more com­fort­able in my own skin, I was able to start to ad­vo­cate for oth­ers around me who I knew were strug­gling to come out,” Martin stated.

Youth Achieve­ment Award – Isa­iah Wil­liams

Wil­liams cer­tainly has a busy sched­ule. At West­mount Sec­ondary School, he is head of the en­vi­ron­men­tal team, the business club, the fu­ture health care pro­fes­sion­als club and the Model United Na­tions. Out­side of school, he vol­un­teers at St. Joseph’s Hos­pi­tal. Wil­liams’ goal is to be­come a sur­geon.

In­spi­ra­tion Award – David Parkes

Parkes, a Grade 12 stu­dent at Cathe­dral High School, is an hon­our roll stu­dent and a mem­ber of the school band and choir. He vol­un­teers as a coach and men­tor for Spell­ing Bee of Canada and he hopes to grad­u­ate from univer­sity with a dou­ble ma­jor in mu­sic and math­e­mat­ics and sta­tis­tics.

Eve­lyn Myrie Po­lit­i­cal Ac­tion Award – Sarah Jama

Jama has been the On­tario di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Ed­u­ca­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Dis­abled Stu­dents and the Ori­en­ta­tion and Tran­si­tion As­sis­tant at McMaster Univer­sity, as well as an ad­vo­cate for stu­dent rights at the univer­sity, where she has been a so­cial psy­chol­ogy stu­dent.


John C. Hol­land award win­ners, back row, from left, Natasha Martin, Michael Sse­manda, Hai­ley Sum­mers, Michael St. Ge­orge, Isa­iah Wil­liams, Sheilah Mwaura, David Parkes and Gachi Issa. Front row, Sarah Jama and Jo­vaune Rhodes.

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