Popular poet and spoken word artist, Dwayne Morgan, would often run into Aron Haile at cultural shows he organized and at other community events.
Morgan, like many, was stunned by the young man’s sudden death nearly a decade ago.
Employed with the Bank of Montreal as a software developer, Haile had returned to his homeland, Eritrea, to celebrate his 30th birthday with his parents. A few days before the landmark event, he was returning from a trip to the Matara archaeological site which is about 130 kilometres south of Asmara, when the tour bus plunged off a cliff.
Haile – an arts aficionado – and three other tourists were killed and he was buried on his birthday on December 27, 2003.
To perpetuate his memory and capture his indomitable spirit, Haile’s older brother, Mesfun and sisters Lia and Helen, established the Aroni Awards seven years ago to honour achievers and inspire young people.
Morgan was one of this year’s award winners.
“I have received several awards, but this one is very significant because I knew Aron,” said Morgan at last Saturday’s awards ceremony at Daniels Spectrum. “This was a humble person who loved the arts and definitely had a bright future ahead of him. I am so honoured to get an award in his name.”
UNITY charity, an arts-based organization, was honoured for empowering young people through artistic expression.
“We are all about engaging and empowering youths to become role models in their community,” said UNITY member Matthew Jones, aka Testament. “The way we do that is by engaging them with hip-hop. The reason we chose this genre is because you don’t need much to get involved. If you are a spoken word artist, you need a piece of paper and a pen. If you are into breakdancing, you need a pair of shoes and some shorts and if you are into beatboxing, all you need is your vocals. We feel that by engaging youths through hip-hop, they can practice our tagline, which is “Express your stress, develop skills for success”.
UNITY, which emerged a decade ago as a high school project and received its charitable status in 2007, has a full-time staff of 10 and a roster of nearly 100 artists.
“This award means a lot because we have been working very hard to uplift young people,” added Jones.
Other award winners were Girls of Destiny founder Pat Chacha and filmmaker Paul Nguyen, who created Jane-Finch.com in 2004 to address the negative mainstream media coverage the community receives.
Caribbean Vibrations TV host, Royette Baptiste, who passed away last August, was honoured posthumously.
Aroni Education bursaries were presented to Kinra Tsegaye, aspiring nurse Nafisa Mohammed, who co-chairs Westview Collegiate Institute’s Students in Action group and Georges Vanier Secondary School Grade 12 student, Khadija Waseem.
“I am using this award as a stepping stone as I go forward and I hope to do great things,” said the 17-year-old, who is a peer leader and counsellor.