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TORONTO — Seven Jamaicans were among a group of nine persons honoured by the City of Markham in Canada, as part of the city’s annual celebrations of Black History Month (February), to recognise those who have contributed “to the strength and vibrancy” of the city through their field of expertise.

Organised by the City of Markham, the York Region District School Board and the Markham African Caribbean Association (MACA), the recognition ceremony took place in the Council Chambers at Markham City Hall, on February 28.

The Jamaican awardees included Canada’s newest Senator, Rev. Don Meredith; former professional basketball player, Gary Durrant; security specialist, Winston Stewart; engineer, Gary Thompson; musician, Errol Lee; and basketball coaches, Xavier McLaughlin and Christopher Skinner.  The other two awardees were founder of Inspiring Youth Leadership Summer Camp, Ms. Gwyneth Chapman and Detective Constable Kolin Alexander.

Mayor of Markham, His Worship Frank Scarpitti said the awardees have made an “amazing” contribution to Markham and are definitely leaders in the Black community.

“Markham is Canada’s most ethnically diverse community and represents a full range of human experiences from all stages of life, abilities and cultural backgrounds,” the Mayor told the audience, comprising the awardees, their families and students from a number of schools who performed songs, dances and dramatic presentations. 

“We don’t care about the colour of our skins or the shape of our eyes.  We embrace our differences,” said Mayor Scarpitti.

Keynote speaker, Jamaican-born spoken word artist, Dwayne Morgan whose message was directed to the students, told them that there is value in each of them.  He said history is like a relay race and the present is the moment when they have the baton.

“Now that you are holding the baton you must ask yourself, what role can I play in moving things one step further?  Martin Luther King hoped that one day there would be a Black president of the United States.  He probably knew it would not happen in his lifetime, but he did things to make it happen,” he said.

President of MACA, Clive Hylton thanked the awardees for bringing honour to the city of Markham.

Rev. Meredith, who was appointed to the Canadian Senate in 2010 is the Executive Director and co-founder of the GTA Faith Alliance, a group which seeks to find answers to youth violence.  The group recently opened York Region’s first GTA Faith Alliance Computer Centre.

Former pro basketball player, Mr. Durrant attended Calabar High School in Kingston, before migrating to Canada.  Continuing his high school career in Canada and then finishing it in the United States exposed him to basketball, where he excelled and received a full scholarship to Florida Atlantic University.  He has the distinction of being the only Canadian to win the NCAA Slam Dunk competition.

 After playing professional basketball in Europe, he returned to Canada to teach “at risk” children.  Today, he has a non-profit organisation called, Gary Durrant Basketball Association, which offers young people “a safe haven to learn the fundamentals of basketball and assists them with free tutoring, mentoring, assistance finding scholarships, employment, clothes, short-term housing and financial assistance.”

Over the past 18 years, Mr. Stewart has built up his company, Wincon Security and Investigation Services, from a one-client operation to one that has some of Canada’s largest corporations as its clients.  He is the recipient of many awards, including the Harry Jerome award for entrepreneurs; Markham Board of Trade Entrepreneurship award; and Seneca College’s Distinguished Alumni Award.  He was also selected as one of 20 young entrepreneurs to represent Canada at the 2010 G20 Summit.  Originally from St. Ann, Jamaica, Mr. Stewart supports charities in Jamaica and Canada.

Mr.  Thompson is a community man.  He believes in serving his community and has been involved with the Board of the York Region Children’s Aid Society; the Citizen Review Panel of United Way York Region as Chair and as a contributing member; the Community Advisory Council of York Regional Police; the Crime Prevention Council of York Regional Police; Ebony Social Services; and the Markham African Caribbean Association. 

Mr. Lee learnt his craft at the feet of his famous music producer father, Bunny Lee.  A singer and dancer who also conducts music workshops,  Mr.  Lee’s voice has been compared to that of Michael Jackson and Smokey Robinson. 

Basketball coaches, Mr. McLaughlin and Mr.  Skinner co-founded the Triple Balance Community Services, a non-profit organization, which has impacted the lives of over 200 young persons, by providing mentoring, career development and recreation services. 

 

By CAROLYN GOULBOURNE-WARREN, JIS INFORMATION ATTACHÉ