By Francine Buchner
The 2012 Diversity and Planet Africa Awards was an evening of elegance as dinner was spectacularly laid out in the lobby of downtown Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall for the 24 award recipients and their guests.
“Since 2004 the program has honoured and celebrated national and global achievers who advance excellence and harness the benefits of diversity,” said Planet Africa founders, Moses and Patricia Bebia Mawa.
The Diversity Award for Compassion was given to Harpreet Sethi, a businessman and philanthropist who is currently the chairman of Radisson Plaza Mississauga, Toronto Airport.
Douglas Orane, executive chairman of GraceKennedy received the Leadership Award and announced that GraceKennedy products are now being sold in Ghana, Africa.
Senator Anne Cools received the Trailblazer Diversity Award for Transformation for her work in the senate to recognize the rights of fathers in their children’s lives after a divorce.
Cools gave credit to the late prime minister of Canada, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, for his mentorship and belief in her to make positive change through service.
Senator Don Meredith, a community advocate and founder of the GTA Faith Alliance received the Nelson Mandela Humanitarian Award. The Diversity Award for Public Service went to mayor of the City of Markham, Frank Scarpitti.
Belinda Stronach, who was absent, received the Diversity Award for Global Impact. The Foundation is committed to advancing human potential and achievement through individual empowerment and social change.
The Enterprise Award was given to Isaac Jr. Olowolafe, president and CEO of Dream Maker Corporation. Olowolafe shared that at the age of 21 when he was starting his company, no one took him seriously.
But, he took very seriously the belief that God put him on the earth during this particular era of financial hardship for Black, African and Caribbean people for a reason.
Olowolafe, a graduate of the University of Toronto sets out each day to own as much real estate as he can and help others to realize their dream of home ownership.
Dr. Abraham Katampe, a renowned scientist and inventor, who resides in the United States, accepted his Science and Technology Award by thanking his mother.
While he attended school in England she would sell food on the roadside to ensure that her son received an education. When legendary Nollywood actor and humanitarian, Zach Orji accepted his Entertainment Award, he admitted that his mother was not so thrilled when he told her he wanted to become a professional actor.
“But, she paid my fees and here I am,” said Orji. Struggling to find the words and overtaken by emotion, June Roach, the wife of lawyer and civil rights activist, Charles Roach who died earlier this month, accepted the Special Community Icon Award on his behalf.
“I was hoping that he [Charles Roach] would be here today,” said African Renaissance Award recipient, Dr. Grace-Edward Galabuzi, professor and activist who was influenced by and admired Roach.
Development Award recipient, Pauline Christian, president of the Black Business and Professional Association said, “the sky is not the limit” and anything positive can be achieved through God who strengthens us.
Sports and Athletics Award recipient, Olympian and bobsledder, Shelly-Ann Brown, said she was humbled and honoured to be a part of Canada’s Olympian history.
Also awarded were Jennifer Tory, regional president, RBC (Diversity Award for the Advancement of Equity); Peter Sloly, deputy chief, Toronto Police (Diversity Award for Changing Lives); Ray Williams, managing director, National Bank Financial (Professional Excellence Award); Vivica A. Fox, Hollywood actor/producer (Media Award); Dr. Christopher Morgan, president, Black Health Alliance (Marcus Garvey Memorial Award); Brainerd Blyden-Taylor, founder, Nathaniel Dett Chorale (Heritage Award); Frances Delsol, community leader and associate director at Bell Canada (Volunteer Award); Majid Michel, African movie actor/producer (Rising Star Award); Geoffrey Kasonde, student (Academic Award); Rev. Alvin Nicholson, chair, African Canadian Christian Network (Lifetime Achievement Award) and the special tribute, African Icon Award to the late legendary leader, Marcus Garvey.