BBPA challenged to be relevant


Faced with declining membership and the need to broaden its appeal beyond the centerpiece Harry Jerome awards, York Regional Police chaplain and honorary Inspector Mansfield Edwards has challenged the Black Business and Professional Association (BBPA) to revisit its mission and magnify its vision as the organization moves closer towards its third decade of existence.

“If you go to the Internet and Google the BBPA, the two organizations that come up with that acronym is your association and the British Beer and Pub Association,” Edwards said in his keynote address at last week’s annual general meeting at the University Club of Toronto. “The expectations of the British Beer and Pub Association are different from that of your organization.

“By virtue of your name, your mission begins to declare itself. Now, it’s therefore up to you to understand that the expectation level for you is high…I challenge you not to lose your vision. I challenge you to understand that every now and then, you have to do an upgrade and keep fine tuning your vision so that, as an organization, you can continue to be more relevant and our impact will continue to climb the rungs of achievement. Function with a sense of responsibility and accountability to each other and to your community.”

Edwards, the newly appointed president of the Ontario Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, commended the organization for affirming excellence and inspiring educational advancement through the Harry Jerome awards and the national Black scholarship program.

He however told the board and its members that they need to develop a clear picture of where they want to take their organization in a constantly evolving environment.

“It cannot be business as usual,” he said. “It must be business unusual. It’s necessary to be sensitive to what’s around us. If we are to be relevant, we must know what are the human needs around us…An association like this is very important because it gives a sense of belonging and friendship which must give birth to benefits outside the context of your operation. If we are only fellowshipping within the context of the safety of our association, then our mission to the community is at risk.

“Leaders have got to be clear in their minds that everyone of us has much to offer, but understand there are people looking to you, whether you know it or not, as an example and model to influence their choices. When you fail as leaders, you will be surprised how many give up because of your failure. When you succeed and persevere in spite of challenges, they will see that they too can succeed.”

Pauline Christian, who joined the association in 1999 as a volunteer and served as chair of the Harry Jerome awards committee and second and first vice-president, was unanimously elected the president. She replaced lawyer Howard Wright who served on an interim basis after Audrey Walters – who was installed at the last AGM in September 2007 – stepped aside after her first term to pursue personal business interests. The AGM was not held last year because of an incomplete audit.

Christian promised a new era of “transformation, reformation, inspiration, stimulation, delivery and growth”.

“The BBPA needs to reposition itself to be the preferred voice of choice for the Black business community here,” said Christian, the chief executive officer of Best Lifestyle Residence retirement home in Simcoe. “Our name should resonate within the walls of conference rooms and become a critical thread within the fabric of Canada’s economic community.”

The new president shared some of her goals for the organization that include increasing the BBPA’s presence across the country, enhancing youth focus and fundraising strategies and launching a national Black Business and Professional convention.

“These are some of the areas of opportunity that we will explore,” Christian said. “It’s my hope that this will help us shape the vision of the organization as we move forward.”

The other BBPA executive board members are Floyd Wilson (first vice-president), Mayvia Morrison (second vice-president), Alvin Lee (treasurer), Osborne Barnwell (corporate governance), Karlyn Percil (Harry Jerome awards chair), Renee Robinson (communications director), Michelle Ambrose (events director), Joanne St. Bernard (young professionals chair) and Nicole Guthrie (membership chair).

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