Magazine Contents | January- February 2013

Black History

2013 Royal Bank of Canada Essay Competion

Much of the rich history of Canada is often unknown and hardly celebrated. However, students can now secure scholarships by sharing their knowledge on the role African Canadians have made to our collective heritage. The RBC Black History Month Student Essay Competition provides students going to a Canadian university or college the chance to be awarded one of three scholarships for their essay.

“It’s so important for our youth to understand, and celebrate our history,” says Justice Irving Andre, Judge on the Ontario Provincial Court of Justice, who was part of a panel that chose the top essays in 2012. “Researching and writing an essay is a great way to gain insight into the experiences of our forefathers and the vital role they played in building this country,” he said.

The essay project brings to light how African Canadians have helped to define Canada’s history and identity through their achievements. Esteemed panelists who helped to determine the best essays included CBC Broadcaster Dwight Drummond; Civic Action CEO Mitzie Hunter; OPP Inspector and Aide De Camp to Lieutenant Governor David Onley, Rohan Thompson; McMaster University Professor Juliet Daniel and Audrey Campbell, President of the Jamaican Canadian Association.

“Black History Month is an extremely important part of celebrating our diversity, something we really value at RBC,” says Jennifer Tory, RBC Regional President for Greater Toronto. “This essay competition gives us an opportunity to celebrate both our past and our future,” she says. The essays are 750 words or less. The winning essays for 2013 will be selected and announced at a Royal Bank Black History Month event in February.

Meanwhile, one of the top three essays for 2012 was written by Katura Gibb, a 16 year old Grade 12 student at St. Marguerite D’Youville school. Katura wrote about well-known leaders like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks as well as less known Canadians like Thornton and Lucy Blackburn, who constructed Toronto’s first cab company, creating the cornerstone of Toronto’s current public transportation system. Katura also wrote about Michaëlle Jean, Canada’s first Governor General of African ancestry.

Seventeen year old David Grant of Grade 12 at Agincourt Collegiate Institute, wrote about Eva Smith, who came to Canada in 1956 from Jamaica. She trained as a dental technician. Eva attended Ryerson Polytechnic Institute and later became a counselor for the North York Board of Education. In 1987, she helped found the North York Emergency Home for Youth, but died six months before the shelter opened. The shelter was named Eva’s Place. Today, Eva’s Initiatives include Eva’s Place, Eva’s Satellite and Eva’s Phoenix. She also helped to create the Jamaican Canadian Association.

Shardae Keane, a 17-year old Grade 12 student at Harbord Collegiate Institute wrote about Donovan Bailey, who won the 100-meter Olympic Gold medal in record time, making all Canadians proud. Shardae also wrote about Hon. Jean Augustine, who came to Canada from Grenada as a domestic worker and became a teacher, school principal, MP, minister, deputy speaker, and now Fairness Commissioner in Ontario. It was Dr. Augustine, who got the Parliament to recognize February as Black History Month across Canada.

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