Unity in Diversity Gala announces new youth initiative and honours “Best in Community”

MISSISSAUGA (September 29, 2012) – Oh what a night! The 2nd annual Unity in Diversity Gala, organized by the United Way of Peel Region’s Black Community Advisory Council (BCAC), brought together over 250 community-minded individuals to celebrate the Peel’s Black community. The evening was sponsored by Medtronic of Canada.

Guests were hosted by journalist and Ontario Public Service’s Chief Diversity Officer of Agencies Noëlle Richardson, motivated by the University of Toronto’s Dr. Rinaldo Walcott during his Blackness in Canada address, and excited with the energizing performances by singer Ray Robinson, drumming group Beyond Sound Collective and Juiceman Jonathon Shaw.


The crowd was also inspired by the work of United Way’s Black Community Advisory Council.

“The Council is made up of dedicated volunteers from the Black community who live or work in Peel Region,” says Sophia Brown Ramsay, BCAC chair. “We are dedicated to creating positive change through our mandate to build a healthier, more integrated and vibrant Black community in Peel.”

“The BCAC is helping to advance our mission to improve lives and build community,” says Shelley White, United Way of Peel Region’s CEO. ”It is inspiring to work with highly-motivated, talented men and women who volunteer their time, and share their expertise, to change people’s lives for the better.”

BCAC Mentoring Program Announced

The Council serves to provide the diverse Black community in Peel with a voice in the activities of United Way of Peel Region, including providing recommendations and strategies to address identified issues.

One of those issues is the number of Black youth in Peel needing mentorship. The wait list is significant.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Peel currently has 471 children/youth in its community programs and 172 of them have self-identified as being Caribbean, African and/or Black. This identified need and the mandate of BCAC, brought both organizations together to create an exciting opportunity to bring mentoring to Black youth throughout Peel.

The BCAC Mentoring Program will be a community-based mentoring program that will provide Black youth with an adult Black mentor at a critical time in their lives. Youth will be matched with caring adult volunteers on a one-to-one basis and they will meet regularly with their mentors to enjoy fun activities and build meaningful relationships.

“Success leaves footprints! When our young people have the opportunity to interact regularly with mentors that look like them, mentors who are interested in their wellbeing and their futures, this can only bring about a positive impact on education, juvenile justice and economic equity of our youth,” says Brown Ramsay.

“We are excited to be partnering with United Way’s BCAC to develop the ‘BCAC Mentoring Program’,” says Shari Lynn Ladanchuk, president and CEO, BBBS of Peel. “Tonight we celebrate our partnership in anticipation of the impact that our collaborative efforts will have for Black youth mentors.”

Best in Community Awards Announced

The Black Community Advisory Council congratulated everyone nominated for the “Best in Community” awards and recognized the following individuals who were honoured at the gala:

Community Leadership Award
Elvenia Gray Sandiford
Valerie James Coker

Youth Leadership Award
Peel Children's Aid Society's Ujima Committee

Unsung Hero Award
Clement Burrowes

Leadership in Business Award
Chief Emmanuel Mbulu

“Our Black Community Advisory Council is one of four United Way councils building and promoting inclusion and engagement in Peel Region,” says White. “We are thankful for the Council and its progress since its creation in 2010. We now have a strong, united voice to develop programs, services and initiatives that will help our black community thrive.”

The event was generously supported by: TAIBU Community Health Centre; The Centre for Education and Training; Bahama Tourism & Sandals Resorts; and G98.7FM.

Click here to download the event program.

Media Contact:
Doris Mohrhardt
Communications & Marketing
905-602-3624 (desk)
416-420-9975 (mobile)

Event Contact:
Suelyn Knight
Community Outreach Coordinator
Office: 905-602-3617

About the Award Winners

Community Leadership Award:

“Community pride through individual action” and “for community by community” are words that Elvenia Gray Sandiford lives by.

In response to the demand for meaningful programs to support those youth being affected by youth violence, Elvenia founded TransformNation Inc. and TransformNation Community Services. Their programs are designed to address the sense of hopelessness that youth violence is creating, and to foster an atmosphere of healing from the traumatic effects that violence has on the community at large. One of the programs – TransformNation through Education program encouraged and supported youth of Caribbean and African descent in finishing high school, but also college and university.

Elvenia has been a mentor to many, including teens of African and Caribbean descent who are struggling with self-esteem issues, and having difficulty fitting in. She has successfully run three years of free summer camp-a-thons in various city parks across Mississauga. The camps have been recognized by MPPs, the Mayor of Mississauga and city councillors.

Her fight to end childhood obesity, with a focus on persons of African descent obesity has national significance and people have taken notice. Elvenia was invited twice to present at the World Conference of Restorative Practice, and at the 2013 National Summit on Obesity. She continues to trail-blaze for the cause and was the first in North America to submit a pre-amble to bill for a Childhood Obesity Month.
Elvenia Gray Sandiford’s work has had life-changing results and has earned her the name Aunty Elvenia around Peel.

Community Leadership Award:

Valerie James Coker is a clinical nurse practitioner at Brampton Civic Hospital. She is passionate about many things but it is her strong dedication to nursing, education, lifelong learning, and community service that we are recognizing this evening.

Through her work, Valerie serves the patient population coming from Brampton, Orangeville, Caledon, Etobicoke, and Malton.

Patients come to our hospitals to be cared for physically, spiritually and emotionally. Challenges for the sick or dying can arise from differing beliefs, values and practices ...resulting in negative health outcomes, decreased patient care and staff satisfaction, and increased risks.

But not on Valerie’s watch. Valerie is a champion for safe and equitable patient care … regardless of race, ethnicity, language, immigrant status, faith/religion, age, gender and sexual identity.

Valerie is a leader in creating an inclusive, accessible and welcoming environment.

Here’s how Valerie’s leadership makes the hospital experience more personal and with a human touch:

  • For hosptalization: We ask patients for preferred names, their goals for the day, their unique needs and note by bedside.
  • For recruitment: New employees are asked to reflect on diversity and patient-centred care – those scoring high are the most successful.
  • For staff orientation: Our facilitators must be inclusive and respectful to all
  • For rounds: Focusing on all behaviour having meaning, and listening for all emotions.
  • For admission: Asking about religious/cultural preferences because we respect patients’ differences
  • Celebrating Black History Month - a history lesson of historical and modern day pioneers.

Dr. William Osler said “a good physician treats the disease; a great physician treats the patient who has the disease”. Valerie James Coker always treats the patient.

Youth Leadership Award:

In 2002 one of Peel Children’s Aid Society’s service directors – now the executive director - Rav Bains – asked the question, “How are we serving our multicultural communities”? It was from this question that the agency began what is now its Anti-Oppression Journey. In 2003, the agency celebrated its first Black History Month, organized by its Black History Month Committee (BHMC).

In February 2009, the Committee asked black youth to speak about their experiences of being in the care of Children’s Aid (CAS). Six brave and articulate young men and women were interviewed on camera and identified feelings of loneliness and isolation. They stated that they felt a lack of connection to their cultural identity and wanted to experience staff that reflected their own image.

The agency responded by renaming the Committee ‘Ujima’ meaning “Collective Responsibility” to accurately reflect the committee’s mandate on addressing systemic anti-Black racism and other forms of oppression impacting Black youth in care and the Black community in Peel.

Then members of Ujima decided to formalize a program for Black youth-in-care called, “The Village”.

Ujima is available to the agency for consultation, education and support. The committee can transfer pertinent ‘cultural’ knowledge that supports decision-making in case work and strategic planning. Ujima has changed the agency’s approach to ‘celebrating’ Heritage months with a more critical approach. The Village is the first program of its kind. Both the committee and the youth program are being replicated at Children’s Aid for the South Asian and Asian communities.

In 2010 Ujima conducted qualitative research with the youth of The Village. Here are a few of their responses:

  • When I come here, I feel like “I’m not left out”.
  • The Village is a valuable experience for me because it’s all I have. When I go to school there are only five black kids at my school. It’s not necessarily a colour thing but when I come here I feel that everyone here is my brother ad sister.
  • The Village is like family. It means everything to me.

Well done, Peel Children’s Aid Society’s Ujima Committee. Well done.

Unsung Hero Award:

By profession, Clement Burrowes is a natural nutritional coach and practitioner. He helps others in and around our community every day.

The following list demonstrates how he is and has been involved:

  • He sits on United Way’s Black Community Advisory Council
  • Is an Honorary member of Mississauga Airport Rotary Club
  • Board member, Malton Neighbourhood Services
  • Board member, Brampton Community Health Centre
  • Board member, Malton Community Health Centre
  • Served on the five-year “Understanding the Early Years” research and community project
  • Member and on the Advisory Committee for the Malton Community Building Project
  • Past Youth Director for the Malton Black Development Association and continues to be a long-standing member
  • Board member, the newly formed Malton BIA
  • Vice President, Malton Tennis Club
  • President of Commonwealth Sports and Cricket Club and Manager of the "Under 18 Club"
  • He is an avid proponent of Jr. Tennis and runs a summer camp at the Malton Tennis club
  • He brought "Progressive Tennis" to the Malton Community Centre for youngsters from 6-10 yrs. He donated his time to train parent coaches at the Clarkson Community Centre
  • Clement along with his wife, Helene, is the Rotary Support for the Rotary Interact students at Lincoln M. Alexander Secondary School
  • He formed a "Wellness Club" at Holy Cross four years ago which involves the entire school and is still going strong
  • He is one of the many volunteers who prepares and serves up to 100 students at the "Holy Cross Breakfast Club"

There are many more examples. We could go on but won’t so as not to embarrass him any further. For those that have the privilege to know him, Clement Burrowes is truly a humble and devoted community hero and well deserving of this award.

Leadership in Business Award:

Adversity struck hard and early in the life of Chief Emmanuel Mbulu. Having been born in Igbodo, Delta State, Nigeria, he was only 12-years old when his father, a Chief, was brutally murdered just before the Nigerian civil war. He was severely impacted by his father's death.

Rather than be resentful, Chief Mbulu focused on living a virtuous personal life and inspiring the same in those he influenced.

In the years that would follow, he arrived in Canada and obtained an Honours BA in Economics from York University, and a Masters of Business and Public Administration (MPA) from Southwestern University in Washington, D.C.

As an entrepreneur, Chief Mbulu's influence extends a North America, to the African continent, and worldwide. He owns several companies in Canada, the United States, and Nigeria.

Chief Mbulu is also President and CEO of Tone-A-Matic International. Tone-A-Matic is a manufacturer and distributor of electronic Muscle Stimulators and TENS Systems. They are the manufacturer of the Tamexx and Tamtec brand of electronic muscle stimulator units.

The value of his expertise has become recognized in business and social circles, leading to service on several corporate and community boards, including the Community Foundation of Mississauga.

In addition, Chief Mbulu is a special adviser to His Royal Highness The Obi (King) Of Igbodo Kingdom: he is a member of the Obi-Counsel, and is also his overseas representative.

His philanthropic work has both a national and international focus. His domestic involvements are highlighted by a York University scholarship being named after him, the Annual African Canadian Teen Summer Jam, and his support of the Rainbow Ball.

Internationally, he has been instrumental in building numerous schools and churches abroad, with his efforts focused on Nigeria.

This savvy business man and advocate of community improvement has become part Canada’s historical fabric with the approval of "Chief Mbulu Way" as a street name in Mississauga.