By RON FANFAIR
The founders of a community mentoring and training organization and one of the youth participants were honoured at the recently held Toronto Police Service’s 17th annual Black History Month celebration.
Dr. Juliet Daniel, Wendy Beckles, Nicole Baxter and Catherine Bruce established the Leadership, Empowerment, Achievement and Determination (LEAD) program while University of Toronto first-year student Anthonette Erhabor was one of the nearly 70 high school students exposed to the program since it started four years ago.
Erhabor was also the recipient of the first Keith Forde Youth of Excellence service award established by the Black Community Police Consultative Committee (BCPCC).
Forde, who retired last year, is an advocate for the advancement of young people. He donates scholarships in Canada and Barbados and was instrumental in creating the Youth in Policing Initiative (YIPI) that exposes youths, mainly from the city’s designated priority neighbourhoods, to a work environment through diverse, educational and productive work assignments.
“This award seeks to recognize young people who have worked to build their community and have overcome incredible odds,” said BCPCC vice-chair Margaret Brimpong. “It’s going to recognize those who demonstrate dedication, integrity and compassion in the communities they serve. This award also demonstrates that youth of distinction can be found in diverse neighbourhoods and in diverse fields.”
Erhabor, who is pursuing Health Science Studies at the University of Toronto, graduated from Milliken Mills High School with honours. Last September, she was presented with the Allon McKenzie Memorial award at the Markham African Canadian Association’s annual scholarship ceremony.
The award is given to a student who best exemplifies leadership, community involvement and the best and brightest that society has to offer.
The aspiring oncologist acknowledged the LEAD program for boosting her confidence and leadership skills.
“In my final years of high school, I was honoured to meet four women who did not only agree with my realization, but who lived by it,” said Erhabor in her keynote address. “These women have passion which is bigger than themselves. Through mentorship, they set out to create leaders, promote empowerment, induce achievement and create determined youth who would settle for nothing less than their personal best.
“When you walked out of the program on a Saturday, you left with more knowledge, motivation and feeling more unstoppable than when you entered a few hours earlier.”
The TPS recognized the LEAD program founders for taking time from their busy professional lives to start the organization that helps young people transition from high school to tertiary level education.
Daniel is an associate professor in the Biology department at McMaster University, Beckles is a certified general accountant and chief financial officer at Kensington Health Charities and Baxter and Bruce are public school teachers.
“Each year, the service has taken the time to honour trailblazers within the community,” said deputy chief Mike Federico. “This year, the focus is on four remarkable women who, through their organization and dedication, have helped better youth in our underserved and high-risk neighbourhoods through education, employment opportunities and social support.
“They have broken down walls and replaced them with bridges. They have also created lasting partnerships and have changed the life course of many of our city’s youths. These women embody the principles of volunteerism, achievement, leadership, sacrifice, commitment and passion. Their dedication to Toronto’s young people has never wavered.
“Your actions, ladies, speak louder than words. You are role models and pioneers and you are writing a new chapter in the history books, clearly leaving an imprint not only upon the Black community, but within all of our communities.”
Toronto Police Service Board chair Dr. Alok Mukherjee also lauded the four honourees for their vision in creating the organization.
“Through their actions, these tremendous women lead by example,” he said. “Each of them embodies the qualities of the LEAD program in demonstrating leadership, empowerment, achievement and determination.”
Community Mobilization Unit commander Supt. James Ramer awarded Certificates of Appreciation to Daniel, Beckles, Baxter, Bruce and Erhabor while artist Robert Small presented this year’s Black History Month Legacy Poster to Mukherjee and Federico. The poster highlights billionaire Michael Lee-Chin, health care executive Delores Lawrence, Canadian Aboriginal & Minority Supplier Council president Cassandra Dorrington, IT Interactive Services president and chief executive officer Barbara Manning and Michael Duck who invented the Sure Shot machine that regulates the amount of cream poured into a cup of coffee.
Ontario Health Promotion and Sports Minister Margarett Best represented the provincial government while TPS board vice-chair Michael Thompson joined senior police officers, including deputy chief Peter Sloly and chief administrative officer Tony Veneziano at the launch that featured the Revivaltime Tabernacle Youth Choir, Porjek Raw dancers, the Living Youth Name Christ (LYNC) acapella gospel group and vocalist Natasha Waterman.
The organizers presented auxiliary officer Eselyn Ince with a Certificate of Appreciation for dedicated service.
Now retired Sgt. Terry James conceived the idea in 1984 for the TPS Black History Month celebration.