“When you know your history, you know your greatness.”
Hilary Newby lives by these words instilled in her by her late mother, Alice Newby. Firmly etched in her memory, they fuel her passion for learning and sharing African-Canadian history.
A descendant of fugitive slaves who settled in Buxton, Newby was among 53 Canadian graduate and undergraduate students presented with Black Business & Professional Association (BBPA)-administered national scholarships last week at York University.
She was the recipient of the Portia White Memorial Award. One of Canada’s greatest vocalists, White was declared a “Person of National Significance” by the Canadian government in 1995 and a millennium stamp bearing her image was issued four years later.
“It’s just an honour to be the recipient of an award given in the name Portia White who, as the first Black Canadian concert singer to make it big on the world stage, was a trailblazer,” said Newby who was a historical interpreter for six years at the Buxton National Historic Site & Museum where her mother – who died in April 2012 – was the curator.
A 2008 University of Waterloo history and classical studies honours graduate, Newby is enrolled in the University of Toronto’s Master’s of Museum Studies program.
For the past three years, she has been the executive director of the Chatham-Kent Black Mecca Museum which recently received an official museum designation that allows the organization to be the recipient of annual funding through the Community Museum Operating Grant Fund.
Chatham-Kent was home to several prominent Canadians, including Hall of Fame baseball pitcher, Ferguson Jenkins, Mary Ann Shadd Cary who was North America’s first Black female newspaper publisher and lawyer and artist, Artis Lane, whose sculptures and paintings are among Nelson Mandela and Oprah Winfrey’s private collections.
Recently appointed to the Harriet Tubman Institute’s executive committee, Newby was part of a group of bright young Canadians rewarded for academic and community excellence.
Close to $200,000 in scholarships was presented at the awards ceremony.
“While this is a remarkable achievement, the needs exceed our current inventory of scholarships and we still wish we could have funded the dreams of the many qualified and outstanding candidates who were unable to receive an award,” said scholarship fund chair, Trevor Massey, a retired college registrar. “This is why our trustees will re-double their efforts to convince new donors to step forward and invest in our youth and, by extension, Canada.
“The selfless act of giving a scholarship allows our talented young people to fulfil their personal and career ambitions, to better manage the debt attached to post-secondary studies, to manifest their leadership capacity, to model exemplary behaviours and attitudes to others and to be better positioned to participate in the Canadian narrative.”
Massey and his family established a scholarship last year to perpetuate the memory of his son James – an accomplished pianist and composer – who was murdered in a midtown park in May 2012.
This year’s recipient was Zaynab Wilson who is enrolled in Humber College’s music program.
The drum teacher and composer is a member of a six-piece band – Mozayic – which plans to release its first album, Primary Work, early next year.
Mentor and teacher Dr. Miriam Rossi and her husband Renato donated four scholarships, each worth $2,000, in the name of her late grandmother, Minerva Williams Senhouse, who counselled underprivileged young people in Boston, Massachusetts for nearly four decades.
The Minerva scholarship winners were Chizoba Imoka, a second year Master’s student in the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education’s (OISE) educational administration & comparative international development education program; Miya Kagan-Cassidy who is enrolled in Dawson College’s psychology program; University of Toronto first-year life sciences student Amanda Kitson and second-year Ryerson University occupational health & safety student Patchardo Mulholland who aspires to be a physician.
Carleton University first-year commerce student Bapista Shimwe was among several newcomers from Africa to be awarded scholarships.
“The transition has been quite challenging,” said the aspiring accountant who settled in Ottawa after migrating from Uganda four years ago. “This is a land of opportunity and this scholarship will assist with my tuition fees.”
Ghanaian-born Kwaku Boateng is studying business administration at Wilfrid Laurier University; Thabiso Tshabalala, who arrived in Halifax eight years ago from Zimbabwe, is a fourth-year Dalhousie University commerce student; Edmond Nankam, who migrated with his family from the Cameroon in 2002, is a civil law student at the University of Ottawa while Mark-Joseph Kisirye, who came to Canada eight years ago from South Africa, is pursuing business administration studies at Brock University.
“In addition to the money which will help pay for my studies, I look at this as recognition for what I have accomplished so far and it will inspire me to work even harder,” said Kisirye who graduated from St. Michael’s College.
Other scholarship winners were Humber College computer engineering technology student Godwin Asumadu, who plans to become a software engineer; Osgoode Hall Law School second-year student Nakita Kelsey who is a Brampton Court volunteer; Natricia Rattery who is enrolled in the University of Alberta’s psychology program; Shalon Hunte who is on the Dean’s academic honour roll at Trent University; Sheridan College community & justice service program student Kamiyah Mulzac; Ahmed Hirsi who is in Centennial College’s child & youth worker program; Justyne Leslie who aspires to be a criminal prosecutor; Feisal Shariff who is enrolled in York University’s kinesiology program; McGill University fourth-year student Jacqueline Addo; Jyssica Delpeche, who is a sophomore at Canadian University College in Alberta and an accomplished clarinet player; Olivia McKinnon who is studying business administration at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia; U of T faculty of law student Ledya Yohannes; Nikaya Snell who is enrolled at the University of Ottawa; Crawford Adventist Academy graduate Jonathan Robinson who is pursuing mechanical engineering studies at Ryerson and Brandon Gonez who is a fourth-year communications and television broadcasting student at York University.
Financial awards were also presented to Nicole Balthazar who is in the U of T Faculty of Arts & Science; Dalhousie University commerce co-op program student Shanelle Howe-Tynes; U of T law student Tatiana Emanuel; University of Waterloo first-year computer science student Tasti Zakarie; Stephanie Atuahene who is enrolled in U of T’s prestigious Rotman Commerce School of Business; Martina DeSousa who aspires to be a family physician; U of T undergraduate Yousra Hassan Gendil; Centennial College freshman Chelsea Joseph who intends to become a probation & parole officer; Teanne Ashton who is in George Brown College’s child & youth worker program; Ryerson University freshman, Nande Wright; Roots Multicultural Club founder Mark Waweru who is enrolled in Wilfrid Laurier’s business administration program; Queen’s University first-year student Selamawit Desta; Ryerson University final-year business management student Anab Sabriye; Fatima Hirsi, who is studying bio-medical science at York University; Mahad Abukar, who aspires to be a lawyer or economist and Kevin Usih.
This year marked the first time that the BBPA collaborated with York University to host the awards.
“An undergraduate degree is seen as the new Grade 12,” said the university’s Faculty of Education Dean Dr. Ron Owston. “Therefore, it’s imperative that students from all segments of the community attend university or they will live economically marginalised lives…Post-secondary education has also become increasingly expensive thus creating another barrier for students wanting to attend university. So the awards tonight are one way of helping young people overcome financial barriers.”
BBPA president Pauline Christian thanked the donors and reminded the scholarship recipients that education is the key to success.
The first BBPA scholarship worth $1,000 was presented in 1986 to Jamaican-born Wayne Batchelor, who went on to become Canada’s first Black interventional cardiologist before relocating to Florida to practice 11 years ago.