It didn’t take long for Mary Galvan to spring into action in her new community.
Shortly after moving into the Durham region five years ago, she recognized the need to showcase Black culture and food in one of the fastest growing and most diverse cities in the Greater Toronto Area.
With mostly her own financial resources, Galvan started the Durham Caribbean Festival, which drew about 800 visitors in the inaugural year.
“It was something new and the turnout was not as much as we anticipated in the first year,” she said. “But I knew that if we stuck with it, it would catch on and become a major event in the city during the summer.”
She was bang on target.
Almost 7,000 people showed up before 2 p.m. at last year’s event, which had a presenting sponsor for the first time.
Galvan was recently presented with the Jackie Robinson Fortitude Award.
“Mary saw a need in her community to bring people together,” said award founder, Dewitt Lee, who was a Toronto mayoral candidate in the last two municipal elections. “She persevered when the odds seemed against her and showed great resolve in ensuring that the festival occupies a place of prominence on the calendar of summer events in this city. She embodies the humanitarian ideals and spirit of Robinson.”
It was the second award in four days for Galvan, who was the recipient of a Black Canadian Diversity Award three weeks ago.
“When I came here, I wanted to do something to engage the community culturally,” she said. “The Jackie Robinson Award tells me that I am on the right track and that I have to continue to put in the time and effort with other individuals to grow the event. This honour is satisfying.”
Born in Toronto to a father who migrated from Venezuela and a mother with Italian roots, Galvan graduated from St. Joseph’s College School and Ryerson University with a social work certification.
The award is named after Major League Baseball trailblazer, Jackie Robinson, who broke the colour barrier in April 1947 after spending the previous year in Montreal with the Dodgers triple “A” minor league affiliate team.
“I wanted the award to have a connection to Canada and also honour Robinson’s legacy,” said Toronto-born Lee, who was raised in New York before returning to the city 12 years ago.
Since 2004, MLB teams celebrate Jackie Robinson Day on April 15 which is the day he made his debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Players wear his number – 42 – which every MLB team has retired.
The first Jackie Robinson Fortitude Award was presented last year to Warren Salmon, who started the monthly First Fridays networking event 21 years ago.
Other recipients include Salmon’s mother, Bev Salmon, who was the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s first Black female commissioner and a former Metro councillor; Austin Clarke, who has authored 11 novels, six short story collections, five non-fiction books and is the recipient of several notable literary awards, including the Toronto Book Award, the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction prize and the Commonwealth Writers Prize for The Polished Hoe; comedian and playwright, Trey Anthony, who was the first Black Canadian woman to write and produce a television show for a major prime time Canadian station; actress and entrepreneur, Tonya Lee Williams, who founded the ReelWorld Film Festival to showcase Canada’s diversity and provide a platform for visible minorities to display their artistic talent and in the process motivate audiences through film; G98.7 president, Fitzroy Gordon and husband and wife, Miguel San Vicente and Itah Sadu, who own A Different Booklist.