Losing her father at an early age fuelled Christine Williams’ passion for community engagement and mentoring of young people.
As the oldest of three children, she took on the responsibility of caring for her siblings while her mother worked to put food on the table as the sole income earner.
“That sort of set the foundation for what I do today and what I have done over the years,” said Williams, who was the recipient of a Black Business & Professional Association (BBPA) Woman of Honour Award last week.
As a Scotiabank vice-president for the past 13 years, Williams has used her management position to ensure that the bank gives back to the communities it serves. Through Williams, myriad individuals and organizations in the Black community have benefitted from Scotia’s financial backing.
After graduating from Manning’s High School in 1971, Williams joined Scotiabank. When she and her family migrated six years later, she resumed her career with the bank in the city.
“Back in Jamaica, it came down to either working in the banking industry or with the government and I chose the former because I felt I could leverage money to assist my community and those in need of financial help,” said Williams. “At my financial institution, corporate social responsibility is something we take seriously.”
A McMaster University graduate, Williams was a retail branch manager for six years before being promoted to vice-president in 2000. In addition, she is a past Scarborough Hospital Foundation and College Compensation & Appointments Council board director and former Tropicana Community Services Organization president and a Program for the Advancement of Childhood Education (PACE) director and treasurer for the last 35 months.
Dr. Yvonne Shorter-Brown arrived in British Columbia from Jamaica a few months before Williams graduated from high school. She relocated to Toronto four years ago to join her two daughters and experience life in Canada’s largest city.
“While I have been enjoying the anonymity of being here, I had begun to feel a bit isolated,” said the Mico Teacher’s College graduate. “This recognition is an opportunity for me to emerge from that shadow and be cast in a spotlight that I proudly share with the other honorees.”
The educator, social justice advocate and author taught in the BC secondary school system for 16 years and was a Vancouver school board trustee. She also served in a variety of positions at the University of British Columbia, where she developed and offered the first course on African/Black Women in the Americas.
Three years ago, Shorter-Brown published her critically acclaimed memoir – Dead Woman Pickney: A Memoir of Childhood Jamaica – a coming-of-age story that takes place in Jamaica from 1943 to 1965. Her personal experiences parallel the political stages of Jamaica’s transition from a Crown colony to an independent nation.
She’s currently working on a biography of her maternal grandfather – Charles Archibald Reid – a Jamaican politician who died in 1944, and a historical novel in which she will fictionalize the two sides of her family.
Marcia Brown (no relation) is committed to showing young people they can achieve anything in life. She solicits sponsorship for young people in her Etobicoke neighbourhood to attend events, including the Harry Jerome Awards where they get the opportunity to meet achievers in the Black community and network.
“I want them to understand that they too can reach such heights,” said Brown, who founded the Trust 15 Community Support Organization that presents its first student success fundraiser on April 6 at North Kipling Community Centre, starting at 5:30 p.m.
The program exposes young girls from Grades 9 to 12 to positive role models who mentor them.
Brown explained the meaning of “Trust 15”.
“Trust is what we have to earn from this marginalized community while 15 represents the number of girls the program started with,” said the Toronto District School Board educational assistant, who is the recipient of a 2011 Ontario Premier’s Award for Teaching Excellence.
She runs a similar program for boys in the community.
Producer, writer and director, Jennifer Holness, took time out from her busy schedule promoting her and her husband’s (Sudz Sutherland) first full-length feature film – Home Again – to accept her award.
“As a strong proponent of women and their voices, I am happy to be part of this distinguished group,” said the York University and Canadian Film Centre graduate. “It’s quite pleasing that this honour comes at the same time that Home Again, which we put almost six years of blood, sweat and tears into, is showing to appreciative audiences.”
Other honorees were Canada’s first Africentric Alternative School principal, Thando Hyman-Aman; YWCA Canada chief executive officer, Paulette Senior; singer/songwriter, Jully Black; Herb Carnegie Future Aces founding director, Bernice Carnegie; award-winning filmmaker and producer, Karen King; media practitioner, Karlene Nation and former BBPA president, Audrey Walters.
Sponsored by Scotiabank and Nursing & Homemakers Inc., the Women of Honour Awards celebrate the achievements of Black female trailblazers.