Madeline Blackman spent nearly three decades as Antigua & Barbuda’s Consul General in Toronto before retiring earlier this year. Now, her name and legacy are being perpetuated through a $3,000 scholarship that is being administered by the Black Business & Professional Association (BBPA).
The inaugural Madeline Blackman academic award was presented to 20-year-old George Brown College graphic design student, Melissa Sebastien recently.
“As most people will know, Madeline has always stood for three very important things,” said lawyer Verlyn Francis, who announced the scholarship initiative last year. “She has a passion for her country, the arts and education and this is a fitting way to honour her.”
Born to a Dominican father and Antiguan mother in the Greater Toronto Area, Sebastien was taken to Antigua to live with her parents when she was just three months old. In 2009, she and her twin-sister, Monique, who is enrolled at Trent University, returned to the GTA to pursue post-secondary education.
“To be the first recipient of a scholarship named after an Antiguan who represented her country well in Toronto is quite an honour for me,” said Sebastien. “I am so happy because the scholarship goes a far way in assisting me to realize my goal of becoming a creative artist.”
Blackman’s successor, Janil Greenaway, made the presentation to Sebastien who was among 49 recipients of BBPA national scholarships awarded recently at the Toronto Police College.
As a first time host of the 24-year event, the Toronto Police Service celebrated the occasion by launching the Larry McLarty scholarship to honour the organization’s first Black officer hired on January 25, 1960.
“I was shocked when I was told that a scholarship was going to be named after me,” said Jamaican-born McLarty who retired 18 years ago and spends most of his time traveling and relaxing with his family and three grandchildren. “It’s quite an honour to know your name is associated with something beneficial long after you have departed this life. I am so proud and thankful to the Toronto Police for making this happen.”
Inspector Reuben Stroble accepted the scholarship for Nova Scotia-based Edward Wright who is pursuing criminology studies at St. Mary’s University in Halifax.
“Fifty years ago, one man had the courage and determination to challenge the status quo,” said Stroble who has been a police officer for 25 years. “Larry was a leader and an ambassador and he opened the door for many of us to follow.”
The TPS employs over 1,000 Black civilians and police officers, including Deputy Chief Peter Sloly who is the organization’s highest-ranking Black officer.
“Larry was brave enough not only to have a career as a police officer, but he had a successful career which opened doors and raised ceilings for people like me and Reuben,” said Sloly.
The Larry McLarty $2,000 scholarship was made possible through donations by TPS members, including officers affiliated with the Black Internal Support Network.
A total of $161,500 in scholarships were presented at the event. Overall, the BBPA has granted 650 scholarships worth $2.5 million in the last 24 years.
“These scholarships not only recognize you for academic achievement,” Sloly told this year’s winners. “You have been active in your communities, mentoring and tutoring students, fundraising for local charities, organizing Black History Month events and volunteering at hospitals and with organizations, all of this while maintaining superior grades…What we see here in this room is what the vast majority of our young men and women do across this city, province and country. This is a true representation of who we are.”
There were 233 applicants this year for BBPA scholarships of which 98 per cent were eligible for the prestigious awards.
“Regrettably, we are only able to grant scholarships to 21 per cent of the eligible applicants,” said the organization’s national scholarship fund chair Paula Morrison. “This is disappointing and we hope by 2012, we will have the financial capacity to support at least 50 per cent and increase the total value of scholarships granted to a minimum of $300,000.
“The need is evident and I believe that with the support of the community at large, we can achieve this goal and help many more youth further their education and realize their dreams.”
Other scholarship winners this year are Ibrahim Mohamed, Nicole Jackson, Yeniva Massaquoi, Corey Sherwood, Christopher Lamm, Samuel Tecle, Gillian Mapp, Tshea Dowers, Eugene Shammwama, Oluwasorefunmi Olawale, Nicole Singh, Akosua Matthews, Sharmarkay Hersi, Rochelle Palmer, Dominic Hudlin, Ladonna Burke, Candace Harris, Damian Kellyman, Ashley Moliere and Farida Adam.
Scholarships were also presented to Talisa Dover, Kay-Dean Lazarus, Simone Samuels, Lionel Cooper, Ashleigh Montague, Janelle Hinds, Chloe Creavalle, Thabiso Tshabalala, Mukama Shamba, Mohammed Al-Hamdani, Natasha Yard, Kenzie Pulsifer, Sivale McEwen, Martina Isse, Abinoor Jelle, Rodrick Sutherland, Giselle Mapp, Camille Gordon, Gavin John, Grace Cacciatore, Abdellah Salman, Shari Campbell, Deng Ngang, Janiba Saho, Mabel Prempeh, Tristan Watson and Cinera States.