It’s no coincidence that Itah Sadu has gravitated to entrepreneurship as a career.
Her great-grandmother owned a bakery, her grandmother sold kerosene oil and her mother catered for weddings, birthday parties and other social functions.
“I am a continuation of that tradition of women in my family,” said Sadu, who was recognized last week as a dynamic businesswoman and community builder with a Pioneers for Change Award. “Entrepreneurship, for me, is a passion which I compare to jet fuel. It’s that thing that takes you up in the sky, lets you fly at a particular altitude and allows you to land a product.”
She and her husband, Miguel San Vicente, took ownership of A Different Booklist 19 years ago from Dr. Wesley Crichlow, a tenured associate professor who sold academic books that appealed to his Caribbean-Canadian gay and lesbian studies.
With small independent bookstores wrestling for a niche in shifting times, Sadu said this award is significant and fulfilling.
“I think people understand that A Different Booklist is in the publishing sector which is transitioning and I think they applaud our efforts because they know how challenging our sector is,” she said. “We have also been able to carve out a space of community and I think that is why the entrepreneurship is celebrated because we have provided business to be in the business of the business of people.”
Sadu dedicated the award to her mother, Gloria Walcott, who resides in Barbados and is vacationing in the Greater Toronto Area. One of 25 Barbadian women selected to come to Canada in 1955 to work as domestics, Walcott returned to her birth country almost three decades ago.
“My mother wanted to be here to celebrate this occasion because she has not had an opportunity to do so often,” said the multi-talented Sadu, who three years ago founded the Walk with Excellence for schools in the city’s west end and is a co-founder of the annual Underground Freedom Ride to celebrate Emancipation Day.
She also helped to start the MY People Literacy Awards and the Black Book Fair and created youth programs that serve as model for job placements opportunities, skill development and leaders-in-training programming.
A York University political science graduate, Sadu is also a raconteur, social advocate and best-selling author whose books have been adopted by schools for curriculum and adapted to film.
Other Pioneers for Change Award winners were Toronto Police deputy chief, Peter Sloly; Sri Lanka-born writer, Shyam Selvadurai; South Asian Autism Awareness Centre founding executive director, Geetha Moorthy; website editor, Gerard Keledijan and educator and activist, Dr. Winnie Ng.
Skills for Change administer the awards that have been bestowed on immigrants since 1993.
Proceeds accrued from the fundraiser will go towards programming for immigrant women and young people and help to launch the centre’s immigrant women breast cancer awareness program.