While Hamlin Grange was honoured to be the Media Award recipient at last Saturday’s Diversity Expo Transformation Awards celebration, he clearly made it known that his wife, Cynthia Reyes, is just as much deserving of the accolade.
A former Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) executive producer of television training and development, Reyes co-led a Canadian team of trainers and consultants working in South Africa and Canada to assist the South African Broadcasting Corporation to become a public broadcaster in the post-apartheid period.
Reyes recently released a profoundly emotional book about her early life in rural Jamaica, her migration to urban North America and her trips back home, told through vivid descriptions of the unique homes she has lived in, ranging from a tiny pink house in Jamaica and a mountainside cabin near Vancouver to the historic Victorian farmhouse in which she and her husband now live.
“When I tell people that Cynthia is the best part of me, I say that with sincerity and I truly mean it,” Grange said at the awards ceremony. “A lot of people forget or don’t know that she was the head of CBC’s television journalism training. She still has a tremendous amount of influence and friends in the media. My success is her success. She and other people like her have done outstanding things while working behind the scenes and in some instances have put their own careers in jeopardy by doing this work. What they have done needs to be acknowledged and people need to know who they are and what they have done.”
Established four years ago, the Transformation Awards celebrate leadership, excellence, harmony, innovation and the advancement of ethnic diversity.
“For me, this award signifies that the work me, Cynthia and others who have been at the forefront of trying to make the media more reflective is acknowledged and appreciated because often times you do this kind of work not because you want to get an award or anything like that but because it’s a passion you feel,” said Grange, a former Canadian junior 400-metre hurdles record holder who attended the University of Colorado on an athletic scholarship and was a reporter with Denver’s Rocky Mountain News before returning to Canada.
“I often say diversity is who I am. When I started out in mainstream media, the reality for me was that it was not reflecting the changing demographics of Canada. That was very obvious to me in the mid-1970s when dramatic changes were taking place in the country and you weren’t seeing it reflected in terms of the stories been told and written about and the people who were telling those stories. I really believe there are opportunities, creativity and innovation that are inherent in diversity and if you are not taking advantage of that as an industry, we are leaving too many things on the table.”
A former Toronto Police Services Board member and CBC news anchor and program host, Grange is pleased with the increased visible minority representation in mainstream media in the last decade.
“There was a time when we used to joke that African-Canadians who worked in the media could sit around a table,” said Grange, who conceived the Harry Jerome Awards name and the idea for the scholarship program and Black Business & Professional Association logo. “We actually did that when we sat at a table at the Underground Railroad restaurant to create the Canadian Association of Black Journalists (CABJ) as a network organization to help African-Canadian journalists and by extension visible minority journalists to work together and support each other. Much has changed, but that’s not enough. It’s not good enough to say we have more brown or dark faces on TV. My big thing is who is behind the camera and the microphone and who are those people making major decisions. We are still not there yet.”
In 2001, Grange and Reyes co-founded Innoversity, which works to create opportunities for cultural minority, Aboriginal and disabled Canadians to actively engage with and be reflected within key societal sectors and institutions.
The non-profit organization, which has played a critical role in building a bridge and opening doors of media organizations to the stories and talents of minority communities, hosts an annual summit. This year’s event takes place on October 28 and 29 at the Toronto Reference Library.
“This summit has been able to change the conversation that media had about diversity and that was deliberate on our part,” said Grange, a former Contrast, Global Television and Toronto Star reporter. “We didn’t want to have a diversity conference. We wanted to have an innoversity conference to change the language because diversity has a lot of baggage strapped to it. When we started to talk about innoversity, we were talking about innovation, creativity and diversity. I think people got it and I think Innoversity has evolved.”
Ontario’s Fairness Commissioner, Jean Augustine and anesthesiologist and ordained minister, Rev. Adebusola Onayemi, were the recipients of Harmony and Excellence Awards, respectively.
“Each of us has a talent and when we pursue it and use it to our utmost, people recognize that,” said Onayemi, who migrated from Nigeria in 1980 and is the chairman of the Yoruba Community Association of the Greater Toronto Area board of directors and Afroglobal Television.
Other award winners were outgoing Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion, Peel Regional police chief, Jennifer Evans; Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business president, Jean Paul Gladu; Toronto Financial Services Alliance president, Janet Ecker; Skyline Group of Companies chairman and chief executive officer, Surjit Babra; retired senator, Vivienne Poy; Lyrical Knockout Entertainment president, Raoul Juneja; Trios College chief executive officer, Frank Gerencser and Access Employment manager, Katherine Roos.