Hundreds of graduates of the four-decade-old African Canadian Heritage Association’s (ACHA) curriculum-based community program have carved out successful professional careers. Rakiya Henry is well on her way to joining the distinguished list.
The Cedarbrae Collegiate Institute student was the recipient of the inaugural ACHA Youth Award presented at the organization’s 44th annual celebration last Saturday night in Malvern. Damon “Soul R” Maraj sponsored the award.
“She is an amazing young woman and someone you can depend on,” said Lindis Collins-Bacchus, who has been an ACHA youth instructor the past 19 years. “She has a warm and wonderful personality and she is an asset to her family and the community.”
Henry has been a member of the organization since 2010.
“Rakiya didn’t grow up in the program like most of our kids,” said Collins-Bacchus. “Kids coming in to the program at that stage normally have a lot of questions about the program, including why they should be there. She embraced our program and what it has to offer from the start.”
Collins-Bacchus, who migrated from England 20 years ago, was presented with the ACHA Adult Award.
“I came to Canada looking for a program like this,” she said.
Longstanding ACHA contributor, Louis March, said Collins-Bacchus fully deserves the award.
“She’s a tireless volunteer who is totally committed to this program and the upliftment of our children,” said March.
Film director and screenwriter, Sudz Sutherland, who grew up in the Malvern area, was the event’s keynote speaker. He challenged the young people to utilize their creativity and to not fear failure.
“You might be coasting for a while just working on things and doing your job without making any progress or taking any risks,” said Sutherland, who graduated from Woburn Collegiate Institute and York University. “This is when you may need to fail in order to make it to the next level.”
Originally launched as the Black Heritage Association by Dr. Ronald Blake, the organization changed to its current name in 1992 to preserve its unique identity following the establishment of several Black heritage programs across the city.
Dr. Eric Wickham and his wife Emily, who have imbued ACHA students with their wisdom and knowledge for the past 38 years, did the libation while there were drumming and dance performances to mark the anniversary.
In the past year, the organization raised $4,500 from its walk-a-thon and participated in a rattlesnake hike in Milton.