BBPA honours distinguished Black men

By RON FANFAIR

When you place an order at Tim Horton’s, the “double double” – two cream and two sugars in your coffee – is evenly dispensed by a machine invented by Michael Duck.

Duck owns A.C. Dispensing Equipment Inc. which manufactures and sells the Sure Shot machine that regulates the amount of cream poured into a cup of coffee.

Larry Gibson founded the Dartmouth-based Install-A-Flor company that’s a major exporter of flooring and other interior business products.

In addition to being visionaries and successful entrepreneurs, Duck and Gibson have a few other things in common. They are Black Nova Scotians who have been honored with Harry Jerome awards for excellence in business.

Whenever he gets the opportunity, Kittitian-born Rustum Southwell lauds Duck and Gibson’s accomplishments and presents them as inspiration for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Southwell owned a Harvey’s franchise for 11 years before becoming the chief executive officer of the Halifax-based Black Business Initiative (BBI) which has helped to create over 300 Black businesses and nearly 700 jobs in Nova Scotia since it was created 14 years ago.

In 1996, the federal and Nova Scotia governments established the BBI to address the unique needs confronting the province’s Black community. The organization is committed to growing the Black presence in a diverse range of business sectors, including technology, manufacturing, tourism and culture.

“We aim to help young entrepreneurs with growth strategies,” said Southwell who was among nine African-Canadians honoured with the Black Business and Professional Association’s Men of Distinction awards last week at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel. “We have had a strong 14 years despite the fact that we have had to turn down companies who have approached us without strong business cases.

“Unfortunately, the Black community tends to go into low-return service industries. We have tried to get people to look at non-traditional types of operations. The majority are into retail services and construction. We also try to get people away from Black hair care and the restaurant businesses and we encourage them to look at the information technology and environmental sectors.”

Southwell, whose Dominican-born father Paul was the first Chief Minister of St. Kitts, Nevis & Anguilla and later Premier following the death of Robert Bradshaw, said his organization has been working with the BBPA and groups in other metropolitan cities, including Montreal and Vancouver, to set up national Black business networks similar to the BBI.

A student teacher in St. Kitts who aborted medical studies after a year at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill campus in Barbados, Southwell migrated to Halifax in 1972 and immersed himself in business.

Brandon Hay is in the business of helping young Black fathers become better parents and role models for their children. The Malvern resident founded the Black Daddies Club three years ago in response to the absence of male figures in a large number of Black households.

The 30-year-old father of three young boys said the motivation to form the support group came after the violent death of his dad, with whom he had an unsettled relationship.

In March 2004, Brian Hay was shot nine times while playing dominoes outside a bar he owned in Spanish Town, Jamaica.

“I grew up with my mom and my father was really never part of my life,” said Hay who came to Canada at age 10. “When I returned to Jamaica for the first time in six years, we had a heart-to-heart discussion. We were on the verge of getting a little closer when he was killed by a young suspect who himself was murdered two weeks after my dad’s death.

“It was difficult going back to Jamaica to bury him and even more disconcerting when the police officer in charge of the case told me matter-of-factly that this (murder) is a normal happening after I went to the station to inquire about the investigation. A light switch went on in my head there and then and I decided that I had to step outside of my bubble. The question was not what I could do for my sons but rather what could I do for the community?”

Lloyd McKell’s business is education where he has a complete understanding of equity and human rights issues and policy in education. In August 2005, he was appointed the Toronto District School Board’s first Executive Officer, Student and Community Equity.

“I feel very humbled to be honoured by the BBPA that has done incredible work in the community,” said McKell who has been with the public school board since 1976. “This honour is important because it’s as an educator that I have made my career and to be recognized for my contributions hopefully will send a positive signal to other educators out there who are doing their best in the classroom. I also hope that young people will view my honour as a signal that being an educator is a respected profession.”

Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) co-founder Cameron Bailey knows the value of the BBPA’s work since his father, Cameron Bailey Sr., was once involved in the organization.

“I grew up learning about the BBPA from him and that’s why it’s such a big deal for me to be receiving this recognition,” he said.

The BBPA’s inaugural event, sponsored by Sterling Dentistry, celebrated male African-Canadian trailblazers.

The other honourees included former BBPA president and retired banking executive Hugh Graham, Senator Donald Oliver, award-winning author Lawrence Hill, music promoter and motivational speaker Farley Flex and Ontario Seventh-day Adventist Church president Dr. Mansfield Edwards.

 

 

 

 

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