GM donates van for youth at Planet Africa awards



Youth participants in a community mentorship program now have a brand new vehicle at their disposal to transport them on field trips to meet business leaders in the community and participate in other learning and development activities.

Kevin Williams, president and managing director of General Motors of Canada Ltd., handed over the keys for the 2012 seven-seat Chevrolet Orlando at Planet Africa’s eighth annual awards gala.

Silvertrust Communications and its Planet Africa subsidiary established the Crossover Mentorship initiative three years ago to equip youth with skills to make wise choices, lead healthy lifestyles and make positive contributions to society.

Williams, who assumed his Canadian duties in April 2010, was one of 16 Planet Africa Award recipients.

Born in 1961 and raised in Lexington Park, Maryland, Williams earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Tennessee State University in 1983 and a Masters in Business Administration from Central Michigan University in 1989. Nine years ago, he completed the GM Senior Executive Development Program.

“I am deeply honoured to be considered for this prestigious honour,” said the youngest of 12 children. “My father left when I was nine years old, I lived in the ghetto and I grew up poor and not having enough to eat. I could tell you that story all day long. But I stand here today representing a $20 billion company called General Motors.

“For me to accept this award for Professional Excellence is about what I tell my kids everyday. Since they were three years old, I would meet them at the front door of our home and ask them two questions. The first was ‘What’s the word?’ to which they would respond, ‘excellence’, and then I would ask them why excellence and they would say ‘because we are capable’.”

Williams’ eldest daughter is enrolled in Yale while his youngest girl is an honour student at York University.

Dr. Ola Kassim, who came to Canada 37 years ago from Nigeria, dedicated his Science and Technology Award to the youth.  He paid for 10 high school students to attend the event.

“Our youth are the most important people in the world,” said the chief pathologist and director of laboratory services at West Parry Sound Health Centre. “Most of us would never have amounted to much in life had it not being for people encouraging us when we were young. It really doesn’t matter what we as individuals or a community of adults achieve because, at some point in time, we have to leave the stage and it’s young people who are going to take our place.”

Jamaican singer/songwriter Bob Marley, who died in May 1981, was posthumously honoured with an Icon Award.

“Bob made the land of his birth, Jamaica, and the world a better place for all humanity,” said lawyer Julian Falconer who made the presentation to Marley’s daughter, Sharon Marley-Prendergast and granddaughter Donisha Prendergast. “When we talk of humanity, we speak of names such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama. But that list is never complete without the name, Bob Marley.”

Revivaltime Tabernacle Ministries Inc. founder and senior pastor, Dr. Audley James, was honoured for his pastoral and community work with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Born in Trelawny, Jamaica, Dr. James was a police officer and health inspector before coming to Canada in 1969 to wed his fiancée, Rosenda, and start a new chapter in his life.

He joined West End Revival Temple where he was soon elevated to the Board of Deacons, the first Black to be named to the position in that church’s history. His desire to lead while at the same time justifying his belief in economic empowerment led to the establishment of Revivaltime Tabernacle in 1980 with a small congregation of 36, including 13 children. Three of the children belonged to him and his wife and they are all now fully involved in ministry.

James, who was ordained a Bishop by Canada Christian College five years ago, spearheaded the drive to purchase 3.5 acres of land in Downsview to set up the church’s headquarters which now includes a mortgage-free sanctuary, a gymnasium and a school. He presides over three churches in Canada with a congregation of some 3,200, two churches in Jamaica and one in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

With the assistance of Ontario’s Ministry of Housing, James spearheaded the development of a building in Mississauga in 1993 which houses 45 three-bedroom units of affordable housing.

David Mark, the president of Nigeria’s Senate, was recognized with the Leadership Award; New York-based, Sudanese-born humanitarian, diplomat and entrepreneur, Dr. David Bassiouni, was presented with the African Renaissance Award; Dance Immersion founder and artistic director, Vivine Scarlett, received the Heritage Award and lawyer Courtney Betty was honoured with the Marcus Garvey Memorial Award.

Retired Jamaica Defence Force captain, former Olympic bobsledder and motivational speaker, Devon Harris, was recognized with the Sports & Athletics Award; York Regional Police Service Constable Don Yirenkyi received the Volunteer of the Year Award; Ryerson University journalism graduate Pia Bahile was the recipient of the Academic Achievement Award; Dr. Anthony Sterling received the Nelson Mandela Humanitarian Award and South African musical superstar and goodwill ambassador for the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, received the Development Award.

Other Planet Africa winners were Grammy award-winning opera singer, Mark Doss; Nigerian industrialist and philanthropist, Cosmos Maduka; Juno award winning hip hop artist, Shadrach Kabango and Nollywood film producer and director, Lancelot Imasuen.

In addition, Harmony Awards were presented to Canadian Law Enforcement College founder and director, Roberto Hausman; World Vision Canada president, Dave Toycen; Scarborough-Agincourt Member of Parliament, Jim Karygiannis; Rogers Communications vice-president, Madeline Ziniak; Toronto Argonauts Football Club’s chief executive officer, Michael “Pinball” Clemons and War Child Canada founder Dr. Samantha Nutt.

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