The Barbados Tourism Authority plans to use its four-time Grammy award winner and youth and cultural ambassador, Rihanna, to promote the country as a destination of choice for tourists, says the country’s Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy.
“She has agreed to do some work with the destination to promote Barbados,” Sealy said in his feature address at the eighth annual Barbados Charity Ball last Saturday night at the Toronto Congress Centre.
Sealy took time out from meetings in Montreal with senior Air Canada officials to attend the singing sensation’s concert last Friday night at the Bell Centre.
“The fans were screaming at the event and it was just amazing to see the extent to which Barbadian excellence has reached,” Sealy said. “We salute her.”
Sealy said Rihanna is among many Barbadians who have risen from humble beginnings to become household names around the world.
“When she left Barbados at age 16 with a hit song, everyone said she was a good looking girl and that she would be a one-hit wonder,” he said. “They said the same thing after her first album came out. She is now on her fifth album and is on the verge of, at age 23, becoming one of the most outstanding female vocalists this world has ever seen.”
Sealy also saluted former West Indies cricketer Sir Everton Weekes who emerged from poverty in Pickwick Gap – which is just a few metres from Parris Gap where Rihanna was raised – to become one of the world’s best batsmen.
Weekes started his career in the Barbados Cricket League (BCL) which was established in 1937 to cater to low income Blacks, especially those in the rural areas. Wealthy and middle-income Whites played for Pickwick and Wanderers at the time while Spartan’s membership was mainly confined to the Black middle-class and mulattoes.
Weekes, 86, was phenomenal in his first 13 Tests, recording 1,410 runs (av. 74) with five consecutive centuries. Overall, he scored 4,455 runs (av. 58.61) with 15 centuries in 48 Tests.
“That same standard of excellence that forged Rihanna, Sir Everton and so many other Barbadians, some of whom are in this audience tonight is really what Barbados is all about,” said Sealy who holds an MBA from the University of the West Indies. “In fact, groups like yours, the Barbados Ball Canada Aid (BBCA) committee, also continue to do excellent work because they recognize that the real value of Barbados is in citizenry, its people and its Diaspora.”
Former Barbados Consul General in Toronto Kay McConney conceived the idea to set up the organization to provide annual post secondary bursaries and financial assistance to charitable organizations that offer health care services and programs and assist youth with disabilities.
This year’s John Rollock Memorial Scholarship winners were Tina Dowridge, Sharon Edghill, Ryan Headley, Maya Conliffe-Lane St.Kitts, Keneca Pingue-Giles and Nadia Thompson.
Dowridge, 18, graduated from St. Stephen Lewis Secondary School and will enter the University of Guelph in the fall to pursue Commerce studies while Edghill is enrolled in York University’s Human Rights and Equity program.
Born in Canada to a Barbadian father and British mother, Edghill spent 17 years in Barbados before returning to Canada in 2008 to pursue paralegal studies at Sheridan College. She graduated with honours last year.
A graduate of Lawrence Park Collegiate Institute, Headley is enrolled in Queen’s University Applied Science and Engineering program; Conliffe-Lane St. Kitts graduated from Lorne Park Secondary School and will begin International Relations and Language studies at the University of Toronto in September and Pingue-Giles, who lives in Manitoba, is a 2011 Harry Jerome award winner who has been on the Dean’s Distinguished Honour List at the University of Winnipeg Collegiate Institute since 2008.
Each recipient received $3,000.
Thompson, who is enrolled in York University’s International Development Studies and Sociology program, was presented with the Barbadian-Canadian Friendship $5,000 academic prize.
Retired Toronto Police Service deputy chief Keith Forde was the recipient of this year’s Barbados Charity Ball award launched in 2008 to recognize a Barbadian in the Diaspora for outstanding professional and/or community service.
“This recognition symbolizes the fact that I have always taken pride in my identity as a Barbadian and as an African-Canadian,” said Forde who made history in August 2005 by becoming the TPS’s first Black deputy chief.
In the last eight years, the BBCA has donated over $100,000 in scholarships and financial support to Barbados’ health care programs.
“We cannot do this without you,” said BBCA president Barbara Trieloff-Deane. “We need your support and we need you to lend a helping hand to those in need.”
Ontario’s Minister of Health Promotions & Sport Margarett Best read a message from Premier Dalton McGuinty and reminded the audience of the importance of health investment.
“Your health is your wealth and it’s the most important asset you have,” she said.
Brampton Sports Hall of Famer and Canada’s top jockey in the past decade, Patrick Husbands, who is Barbadian by birth, made a $10,000 donation to the BBCA to support its initiatives.