What do you regret the most knowing that you are going to die?
Posing the question to his best friend just before he succumbed to cancer at age 30, the response changed Ricardo McRae’s life.
“He was a musician and he told me that not finishing his jazz album so that it could be left as a legacy for his then six-year-old son was his biggest regret,” McRae told Share. “Music was his passion and he wanted to leave something for his boy to play when he missed his dad. That struck a chord with me.”
McRae quit his full-time account executive job that provided a six-figure salary to pursue his passion for the creative arts.
“That freaked everybody out, including my mother,” he said. “I knew I am going to die one day, but I want my life to be about something that I am passionate about.”
With a fine arts and business background, McRae partnered with his wife, Gloria, to start Wedge 15 which is a boutique web design and social strategy agency and started Who’s Who in Black Canada.com that’s a national platform profiling Black excellence in Canada.
“There is an abundance of success in the Black community,” said McRae who graduated from the Ontario College of Art & Design (OCAD) and the University of Windsor. “Not only does this overwhelming talent shape the way we think of ourselves as we see more and more success, but it shapes the way the broader community sees us.”
Graduating from Woodbrook Government Secondary School in west Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, McRae came to Canada in 1986 and was forced to repeat Grade 12 before entering OCAD. After graduating from the University of Windsor where he organized Black Homecoming events in 1995 and 1996 for students to support each other and celebrate being in school, he returned to the Greater Toronto Area.
“My intention at the time was to go into business because I didn’t want to be a starving artist,” said McRae who is a Huffington Post’s live commentator. “I did that for about six years before changing course after hearing my dying friend’s regret.”
McRae, whose blog – HookMeUpRico – has about 6,000 long-time members, was among 11 recipients of Black Business & Professional Association Men of Honour Awards presented last week at the Toronto Board of Trade.
The fourth annual event celebrates African-Canadian male leaders and trailblazers.
“To be recognized by your community is one of the most precious recognitions one can receive,” said McRae. “I was speechless when I was informed of the honour and I am still in disbelief about this because I don’t do work for rewards like this.”
Community worker and youth leader Victor Beausoleil was also humbled by the recognition.
“This is something that will inspire me to continue to make my family and my community proud,” he said.
Beausoleil started volunteering 14 years ago in his Scarborough neighbourhood. He was a youth engagement coordinator at Tropicana Community Services Organization and youth coordinator of Dorset Park Youth Council, which received money through the Youth Challenge Fund to establish a sports pad – comprising a basketball court, cricket pitch and youth lounge – to help develop youth organization strategies and youth-based solutions at McGregor Park Recreation Centre.
The married father of four children is the executive director of Redemption Reintegration Services that help incarcerated young people successfully reintegrate into society.
Two years ago, he was unsuccessful in his bid to become a trustee in the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) Don Valley East riding which was left vacant when Michael Coteau was elected the riding’s new Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP).
Other awardees included creative writer and playwright Karl Hutchinson whose latest production, Noah, will be presented at the Fairview Library Theatre on April 19 and the Ontario Science Centre eight days later; Toronto Argonauts defensive back and Right to Play ambassador Jonathan Hood who graduated from the University of Western Ontario with a Master’s in sports psychology and started the “Ahead of the Game” mentorship program three years ago; Black Action Defence Committee founding member Hewitt “Logie” Loague; TD bank senior manager Ellis Perryman who is the Urban Financial Services Coalition’s Toronto chapter president; Canada Basketball assistant general manager Rowan Barrett; entrepreneur Guy Steer; dentist and art collector/curator Dr. Kenneth Montague; radio personality Matt Galloway and Carpenters Local 27 trustee Chris Williams.
“When I started out as an apprentice 25 years ago, I met Mike York (Local 27 president) on the site and he encouraged me to attend union meetings,” said Williams who was a Toronto Police auxiliary member for two years. “I did and he urged me to volunteer and become involved in union activities.”
A former construction site supervisor and apprenticeship instructor, Williams is one of the Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario representatives for Scarborough, Markham, Stoufville, Ajax and Pickering.
“My tasks now involve resolving labour-related issues between management and workers on the job site or at the Ontario Labour Relations Board, organizing non-union companies and negotiating collective agreements,” he added.
As part of this year’s recognition ceremony, Crawford Adventist Academy boys were matched up with the Men of Honour.
“This is an amazing opportunity for us to put them with a role model,” said BBPA member Karlyn Percil. “We wanted to make that connection to show them not only what they can be but that they can be part of the process as well.”
Grade 12 student Tyron Burton, who was matched with McRae, relished the opportunity.
“It’s quite an occasion and I learned a lot in a short time from the experience,” said Burton who wants to become an automotive engineer.
Terrell Francis, who is in Grade 12, and Zephanaul Rambissoon, who aspires to be a nurse or video game programmer, were excited to be part of the ceremony.
“Meeting individuals from our community who have done well for themselves certainly is an inspiration for me,” said Rambissoon.”