With encouragement from late Trinidad & Tobago consul general Cyril Blanchfield, Rasheed Sultan-Khan started the T & T Fifty Plus organization two decades ago as a platform for seniors to socialize and participate in community programs.
In an addition to an annual Christmas event where it honours its members and others in the community, the organization also put on a Black History Month event.
At this year’s celebration last Sunday in Scarborough, Toronto city councillor Michael Thompson said the organization plays an important role in the community.
“Your energy and passion is certainly demonstrated by not only the starting of this particular organization but what you do on a daily basis which is extremely important to us all,” he said. “You have done so much in terms of giving not only to Toronto but to Canada as a whole.”
A few members of the organization were around when Caribana was launched in 1967 as the Caribbean’s gift to Canada’s centennial year festivities.
“It doesn’t matter what you call the festival,” Thompson said. “It was a gift that produces some $400 million to the city every year. That’s absolutely amazing. I am the head of the city’s economic development committee and the chair of the city’s investment arm, Invest Toronto. So we see the numbers and the benefits from the work and the contributions this community has made and continues to make to the prosperity and growth of this city. You can be very proud of what you have done.
“Your association has provided its members with leadership, civic consciousness and a sense of responsibility in order to promote good citizenship in Canada as well as promoting assistance, information-sharing and also social activities to all seniors.”
Members attend literacy and yoga classes, bowl and play all-fours.
Thompson presented a greeting to Sultan-Khan who performed as a tenor in local music shows and fundraised for needy children before coming to Canada with his wife and their five children in 1972.
The theme of the celebration was “Intergenerational: Seniors & Youths”.
“When we look at the benefits and positive aspects of youths and senior interactions, the one thing that comes to mind constantly is the whole intergenerational piece that is required if we are going to have young people continue to take the torch to move forward,” said keynote speaker Kirk Mark, an administrator with the Toronto Catholic District School Board and president of the National Alliance of Black School Educators (Canada).
“There has got to be some continuity in making that happen because if we don’t have a generation armed with knowledge, chances are there wouldn’t be that continuance in terms of information moving forward. So I think it’s incumbent on all of us, especially the elders, to assist in the education of our young people in order to provide them with skills and knowledge.”
Former T & T consul general Michael Lashley and his successor, Dr. Vidhya Tota-Maharaj, attended the event.