The Black Business and Professional Association (BBPA) recently celebrated the achievements of several men at a ‘distinguished men of honour’ awards event conceived by its president, Pauline Christian.
Keynote speaker, Alex Nosa Ihama, a life coach, author and an inspirational speaker, told the men that the organization's recognition of them is encouragement to keep moving.
Ihama told the intimate gathering inside the Pantages Hotel conference room that 'greatness, not greatest' is being honoured in the recipients: spoken word artist Al St. Louis, rapper and record producer Kardinal Offishall, NBA basketball player Jamaal Magloire, banker Marlon Reid, journalist Dwight Drummond, journalist Nathan Downer, construction executive Lytton Barrett, lawyer Julian Falconer, banker Mark Cummings and banker Mark Beckles.
“We are here today, not only to celebrate the greatness, but also to celebrate men who have consistently embodied greatness in our community.” Mark Beckles, regional vice president of the Royal Bank of Canada compared his award to the theme of building bridges, crossing bridges or becoming bridges.
"I am now a bridge and hopefully taken all the investment people have made in me and laid myself down so that other people can cross," he said, thanking his aunt, Peggy and uncle, Tony who were in attendance.
Recognition - “By recognizing me, by recognizing my colleagues is something that makes us feel like we are not forgotten, but there are people that are forgotten, right now,” said human rights lawyer, Julian Falconer.
He was referring to the black youth in the educational system today. Falconer spoke about the courage of US president, Barack Obama who allowed the 'reality of speaking truth' to be revealed in The Civil Rights Data Collection, that just three weeks ago released the 2009-2010 statistics, which showed, that of the 72,000 schools across the United States, black students accounted for 18%.
“While black students accounted for 18%, they accounted for 35% of the students suspended once. They also accounted for 46% of the students suspended more than once and they reflected 39% of the students expelled,” Falconer said.
Dwight Drummond, of the CBC News and the first anchor team of colour on a flagship television newscast, reminisced about coming from Jamaica with his parents and growing up in the projects alongside fellow award recipients, Al St. Louis and Kardinal Offishall to achieve the 'Canadian dream'.
"I take pride in what I do," said Jamaal Magloire, a professional basketball player with the NBA. "I dedicate this award to my late brother, Justin Sheppard, that should be here with me right now, but because again, there is such a void and a need in our community for these youth to get the hint of something other than violence and trouble, we're going to continue, along with my colleagues here, giving back to the community and trying to make change," he said.
Nineteen-year-old Justin Sheppard, was shot and killed in Toronto on June 23, 2001 and to date, the killing remains unsolved.