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TRAVELLING GAL: Journeying To Face Fear [+ Hot Event Giveaway]

Bee-Chimamanda quote
I think you travel to search and you come back home to find yourself there.
― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Over the last year and a bit, I’ve been doing a lot of travelling. Not necessarily the kind of travelling that finds me packing bags and booking flights and arriving to stretch my limbs on the soils of new lands, but the kind of travel Chimamanda spoke about. I’ve made a concerted effort to face a number of my fears, and I’m proud that say that that journey has afforded me the ability to return home and find myself – a new and improved version – there.

One of the biggest fears I’ve had to overcome has been my fear of public speaking, and within that, my fear of voicing my opinion. Though I went to a performing arts school in my childhood, I rarely felt comfortable with the spotlight on me. I preferred to express my art in quieter ways, so writing and visual art became my close confidants. As I’ve mentioned time and time again on this blog and in other spheres, I’ve always loved writing – but I think writing became a crutch for me to express myself when I felt my spoken words were lacking. When it came to vocalizing my opinion on a topic, I found that extremely difficult as well. I was afraid of sounding stupid, of having people disagree with me, or of having people simply not understand what I was trying to say. The frustrating thing was that I wanted to be a performer. I wanted to embrace the spotlight. I wanted to engage in debate and be confident in my stance – I just…couldn’t. These fears lasted well past childhood and have followed me into my adult life.

A couple of years ago, I decided to pack up my mental/emotional baggage and take a trip that would force me to confront my fears head on. That journey was called the “Just Do It Like Nike World Tour” and the premise was simple. To go from place to place, I’d have to get there by doing the things that scared the sh*t out of me. That was the only way. And so I did. Public speaking opportunities? I took ‘em. Chances to respond clearly when someone asked me my opinion on a topic? I embraced ‘em. I made myself promise not to shy away from anything that scared me, and listen – I have grown.

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This coming Saturday, I continue the JDILNWT as I co-host The R&B: Relationships & Bullsh*t Show Live at Trio Lounge with my homie Lincoln Anthony Blades. This is the 3rd installment of our conversation party about, well, relationships and bullsh*t, and it’s been a big part of my personal journey. Standing up in front of a room of hundreds of people, cohesively managing a crowd, hosting an event, and sharing my thoughts on everything from sexual taboos to monogamy and cheating? Bee of Days Past must be in a parallel universe, watching this unfold as she chews her lip out of stress – but 2014 Bee is doing it. This time, we’ll be discussing the question “Are People In Toronto Still Interested In Serious Relationships & Marriage, Or Do We All Just Want Casual Sex?!” and guess what – as I typed this very post, I got word from Lincoln that the show is SOLD OUT. If you’re one of the lucky folk who grabbed their ticket early, I can’t wait to see you out – and just know that I appreciate your role in this journey of mine.
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Never fear – I’m part of another amazing event coming up in Toronto on May 4th at the Virgin Mobile Mod Club, and you could win a ticket! Last year, I took a HUGE leap by co-hosting Stacy-Ann Buchanan’s fashion and art show called The Mystic Effect, and this year I’ll be back in the role of Social Media Correspondent! The Mystic Effect intertwines fashion with music, poetry, dance, and film, and this year will be incredible. If you aren’t able to attend, make sure you’re following me on Twitter and Instagram at @BeeSince83 and follow the hashtag #themysticeffect for all the show details! However – if you’re in Toronto and want to attend, I’ve got the hook-up:

 To win a ticket to The Mystic Effect on May 4th (doors open at 4pm, show starts at 5pm), simply tell me about one fear you’ve overcome. Comment below, tweet me, comment on my Facebook, or email me – any way you wish! I’ll pick one winner on Tuesday, April 29th!

Good luck to all entering the ticket giveaway, and good luck to any and everyone who is working on challenging their fears. May we all travel along that journey and come back home to find ourselves, stronger, better, and more fearless!

FEARING THE GOOD: Getting Over The Disbelief Of Our Blessings

Via bravegirlsclub.com

Via bravegirlsclub.com

What’s your general reaction when good things start happening? Happiness or fear?

If you’re anything like me, it’s easier to trust the process when bad things happen in life vs. when good things happen. We come to expect the negatives in life and we look at the positives with skepticism, protecting ourselves in advance from unseen disappointment. It starts from childhood. In efforts to peel back that layer of naivete that makes us sitting ducks for the harsh realities of life, parents teach us that we’ll often tango with trials and tribulations – and we get used to it. We grow and expect it. We court the bad of life, giving in to the inevitable fact that the bad will always be a part of our existence.

This training is necessary. So many things in life have plans to either kill or strengthen you. Sometimes they shatter you and force you to rebuild yourself, but we’re constantly reminded to trust the process.

Trusting the process means acknowledging that bad things happen to good people. That life isn’t fair. That struggle and strife are meant to serve us a purpose, even if we can’t see that purpose upfront. We accept so much of the negative that sometimes the only positive we can embrace is the fact that we survive through it.

Surviving is vital, but what happens when we see an opportunity to thrive? Much of the time – if you’re anything like me – we don’t automatically trust that process. We’re reminded that all that glitters ain’t gold – but even when we’re handed gold, we’re reminded that things are often too good to be true. We inherently learn to be wary of goodness – and if you’re anything like me, the first thing that happens after a blessing is wondering when the winds will shift again, bringing us back to the struggles that we’re familiar with.

Lately, good things have been happening for me. I’m looking at life and seeing that some of the blessings, the things I’ve worked for, sacrificed for, and struggled towards are now coming to fruition. Sadly, my first instinct is to be afraid. Good things can feel like a trick, or a temporary sunny reprieve from the darkness I’ve become accustomed to. Good things are met with hesitation, and have to prove themselves to me before I’ll tentatively accept them into my life. I don’t want to be played for a fool – and the surest way to be fooled is to be deceived by shiny things that promised you happiness and satisfaction.

However, the surest way to block your blessings is to act like you don’t deserve them. If you believe that being blessed is foreign to your DNA or isn’t part of your birthright, you’ll be proven right. I realized this weekend that one of the saddest things I’ve ever done was being distrustful of the blessings that have come my way. How sad is it that it’s so hard to believe that we’re worthy of good? How sad is it to fear the recognition of good, lest we find bad around the next corner? How sad is it that the acceptance of the bad in life has taken up so much space that we have no room to accept the good? I don’t plan on embracing that pitiful paradigm for much longer.

I’ve seen some formidable lows in life, and I know that I could always end up there again. Today I choose to bask in my blessings, knowing that if/when things change, I can survive. Today I choose to bask in my blessings, knowing that they are part of my DNA and my birthright. Today I choose to bask in my blessings, knowing that as much as I’m made up of dark complexities, I’m also made up of stardust and success.

All this to say: start believing and trusting the process when good things happen. Celebrate the good things in life. Expect them. Know that they have a place in your world. Realize that luck is capricious and you aren’t merely “lucky’ when good things happen – you are worthy of them.

Now, go forth and embrace the good. It’s real, and it’s yours.

PLOT TWIST: When Things Just Work Out

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This is a little story about serendipity.

Months ago, a friend emailed me with details on an upcoming project being run by one of Canada’s largest companies. The company sought proposals for events to be run during Black History Month 2014, and would grant funding to the successful applicants. “Get on it,” my friend wrote. “You don’t have much time, but I’m sure you’ll come up something dope!”

I had exactly 1.5 days to conceptualize an idea, come up with a funding proposal, and complete the specifics of the registration, but I thought to myself, “Shoot – I work well under pressure!” I took a day off of work, holed myself up in a downtown workspace to get through the process, and got to it.

Luckily for me, I already had an event idea bubbling in my mind. Even luckier, I had a bit of experience with submitting funding proposals. I was still somewhat stumped at certain points in the registration process, and the hours seemed to taunt me by speeding up faster and faster as I worked. The butterflies in my tummy weren’t quelled until I did my last proof-read, said a prayer, kissed my fingers and touched them to the computer screen – then hit SEND. In the months that followed it seemed like my proposal made it through various checks and balances, so I waited with bated breath for the day that the final acceptance or rejection notice would be sent.

Finally, the day came. I checked my email like a fiend, alternating between refreshing my inbox incessantly and logging out completely in attempts to not lose my mind. I checked back in one last time, and there it was: THE EMAIL. I said another prayer, opened it up…and read my rejection letter. For one reason or another, my proposal didn’t make the cut, and I won’t lie – I was crushed.

I wish I could say that I didn’t take no for an answer and convinced the company to accept my proposal, or that I was motivated to push forward with my event idea anyways. I did neither. I allowed myself a moment to sulk, then simply moved on with life.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago. 

Long story short, I was contacted by two different parties who were indirectly associated with the same project I had applied to. They both requested my services in various ways, and after some back and forth and careful consideration, I agreed to work with both. Talking to HomieLuva about the turn of events, I realized something. It’s likely that if all current circumstances in my life were the same and I was approved for the project, it may have been WAY too much for me to manage. Considering all circumstances in my life now, taking on these two projects and still being affiliated with the project is a much better look. There are benefits in place now that wouldn’t have been there had my project been approved – and it took me being rejected then being given these opportunities to see that.

Moral of the story? Quite simply, sometimes things just work themselves out. I admittedly did nothing after receiving my rejection letter, which isn’t really my modus operandi. Normally, I would have been driven to make my dreams become a reality, but this time I kind of felt like I had to take my lumps, get comfy with the feeling of rejection, and move on to something different. For whatever reason, life decided to bring this opportunity back around, albeit dressed in a new outfit – and I surely jumped at it. Just a reminder that sometimes we’re not ready for things or things aren’t ready for us – however, once the stars align, we may be gifted with another chance to receive what we hoped for in the first place. I’m grateful to whoever/whatever it was that looked out for me and said “Babygirl, you won’t want THAT. Give me a minute and I’ll give you something even better.” All I can say is thank you, and now I’m ready to put my best foot forward and make the most of what’s been given to me. I’m glad it all worked out.

GOAL GAME PLAN: Forget The To-Dos – How Do You Want To Feel?

bee2014feelingsIt’s 10 days into the new year, and I feel like I’m just starting to rev my engine. The flu met me at the tail end of 2013 and walked confidently into 2014 by my side, so I really haven’t started feeling like myself until, well – yesterday.

This is so unlike me. My vision board isn’t done. I’m still scribbling on Post-It notes and sticking them in the back of my 2013 day planner. I need a new journal, and haven’t made my way out to pick one up. I feel like I’ve slumped my way into 2014 and haven’t been present in the moment, and it sucks. I should be still feeling that sparkly excitement of the new year; should be clicking on all cylinders with my goals, plans and dreams; but instead I feel overwhelmed with the fact that I’m not functioning the way I’d like to be. An email I read recently has helped me to readjust my perspective with its novel idea.

I don’t pay attention to many of the mailing lists I’m on, but one I faithfully look forward to each week is writer/author/all-around dope chick Britni Danielle’s. I e-met Britni on Twitter and was among the first people to join her Facebook group The #GOALDiggers Project. Britni has been instrumental in helping me with my blogging and freelance writing moves, and offered me a series of writing coaching sessions, which were amazing. Britni’s email this week was especially timely, in that she simply asked the question: How do you want to feel?

She stated that figuring out how you want to feel throughout life and making decisions with those feelings in mind will hopefully lead you to make moves that will illicit those good feelings. Instead of asking “What do I need to accomplish?” or “What goal do I need to set?” she changed her mentality to instead take inventory of how she wanted to feel. From there, it was clearer (and more motivation-driven) to go after the things that will make her feel the way she wants to about herself. (Make sense? Hope so. If not, hit me at bee@83toinfinity.com and I’ll forward you Britni’s email.)

Now. When I started thinking of how I wanted to feel, I came up with some of the following:

  • full of purpose
  • loved and able to love
  • unique
  • redefined
  • energetic
  • confident
  • less anxious
  • happy

After I identified how I wanted to feel, I started to visualize what that might look like, and what sorts of things would get me there. All of a sudden, a new kind of gameplan started to fall into place. When I changed my perspective to think of the end result being me feeling like a fuller person vs. the end result being me getting/earning/possessing something, I felt a bit renewed. I’m now looking forward to working backwards and setting myself up to do and experience the things that will have me feeling whole.

Have you ever set up a list of feelings as opposed to a list of to-dos? If you find yourself struggling to get in gear, or if you fear you may lose steam along the way, try thinking about what it would feel like to be your most whole self, and act accordingly. Go forth and prosper, y’all – I know I will be!

UP NEXT: SisterTalk – A Celebration Of Sisterhood [11/16/13]

sistertalkTO

“Sisterhood anchors you.”

That was a tweet I read the other day – utterly simple, yet so powerful. Sisterhood is something that has been crucial for me and my development as a young girl and a grown woman. From my blood sister to my chosen sisters, being embraced by a positive, loving, and empowering circle of femininity is one of the most important things to me. Ain’t no time for the “Ugh – I just don’t get along with women” paradigm or looking at women with distrust before love. Like that tweet read, sisterhood anchors you – it gives you strength, understanding, and another place for your heart to call home. There’s truly nothing like it.

This Saturday I get to put sisterhood on a pedestal at SisterTalk: A Celebration of Sisterhood at One King West, hosted by my girl Karlyn Percil. What started as a monthly meeting between a close-knit group of women has grown into this, the first public SisterTalk event. What is SisterTalk?

A platform where women meet monthly to have real and honest conversations about life, love, career and relationships. Through open and honest dialogue, women tackle the things that prevent them from leaning in and creating the life they love and deserve. The SisterTalk group has been meeting for over a year and a half and in September 2013, Karlyn and some of the members appeared on Oprah’s Lifeclass.

Via SisterTalk eventbrite page

Via SisterTalk eventbrite page

After that dynamic appearance on Oprah’s LifeClass show, plans were solidified to bring the essence of those monthly sessions in sisterhood to the masses – and the event goes down tomorrow.

It’ll be an afternoon of meaningful conversations, inspiring connections, and activities to bring out the authenticity of what happens in those monthly SisterTalk meet-ups. I’m looking forward to discussing the multifaceted aspects of life as a woman – integrating self-care + family + career+ more, and I’m excited for performances from spoken word artist Nadine Williams and keynote from Diane Clemons. I’ll be doing double-duty as a Table Host with my girl Chivon John, and will also be the Social Media Correspondent for the day!

I’m ready to pamper myself with hair/nails/fly outfits, but I really can’t wait to connect with the other amazing women in attendance. As if the personal gains from the event aren’t enough, I’m ecstatic that proceeds from ticket sales and online donations will go towards Break The Silence – a partnership between UNICEF and Bellemoun Community Youth Network aimed at ending the stigma and taboo of child sexual abuse. At $100 per ticket, the price may cause some to feel they have to miss out this time around – but the ladies behind the event have sponsored tables and tickets for women who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford the entrance fee. Looking good, feeling good, and doing good – SisterTalk: A Celebration of Sisterhood will encompass it all!

If you’re a last-minute kinda gal but think you want to come out, hit up the eventbrite page – tickets may likely be sold out, but it doesn’t hurt to try! If you’re looking for me, I’ll have a fruity drink in one hand and my phone in the other, but my arms will be open and available for a hug! If you’re not going to be in the house, never fear – stay tuned to my Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook as I share live, behind-the-scenes coverage of the event!

Whether you’ll be at the event tomorrow or not – take this as a reminder to anchor yourself in sisterhood this weekend!

What else is on the go? Next Tuesday, I’ll be on the panel for Secrets of Side Hustler, then on November 30th, I’m co-hosting my first blogging event called The Syndicate! Y’all know what to do – click the links for more info! 

EVENT ALERT: The Syndicate – Toronto’s Blogging & Social Media Forum

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TORONTO! I’ve got something for you!

After attending blogging and social media conferences both in Canada and the U.S., I’ve been intrigued at the variety of discussions, information sharing, and collaboration that comes out of the events. To be completely honest – I’ve been a bit let down with some of the offerings I’ve experienced closer to home, and wondered what I could do to add something different to the Toronto blogging/social media scene.

Enter: The Syndicate.

The Syndicate is an idea that I’ve had for a LONG time, that came to fruition with the help of my friend Chivon John. We both discussed the need and desire to have an event that highlighted diversity in the city; that pushed collaboration over competition; and that provided attendees with the kind of information they REALLY want and need. If you pay $200 for a conference, and the most valuable thing you walk away with is a cool swag bag, something is off.

With The Syndicate, I wanted to provide an afternoon of information, collaboration, and networking that would actually help someone – like the multitude of people I speak to about starting/maintaining/growing a blog, or finding better ways to maximize their social media presence. If this sounds like you, keep reading…

At The Syndicate on Saturday, November 30th at the IndustREAL Arts Room (688 Richmond Street West) from 1-5pm, we’ll have an interactive panel discussion and break-out sessions with a number of “experts”: in addition to myself and Chivon, we’ll be joined by my friend Lincoln Anthony Blades of the awesome blog This Is Your Conscience, and Monique Daniel, a PR Coordinator from Porter Novelli Canada. Do you have questions about monetizing your blog, working with PR agencies and brands, transferring from blogging to freelance writing, figuring out how to translate blog readers to customers and event attendees, and more? We’ll be there to discuss from our learnings and experiences, and to give you the info you need. In addition to the panel, we’ll also each host breakout sessions where you can learn a bit more about our various areas of expertise, and all attendees will leave with a guidebook filled with tips from all of us.

So, set aside the afternoon of November 30th, and get ready to come out and learn, be inspired, and get connected! There are too many awesome people in the city who don’t know about all the other awesome people in the city, and we want to bring everyone together so that we can all learn from and support each other! Whether you’re considering starting a blog, figuring out how to go full-time with one, or just wondering how you can maximize social media in other ways, The Syndicate is here for you!

Get your $25 tickets on our Eventbrite page: http://thesyndicate2013.eventbrite.ca/

Any questions? Don’t hesitate to reach out to me: bee@83toinfinity.com

See you on November 30th!

NO COINCIDENCE IN CHAOS: Coming Out On The Other Side Of Sadness

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The start of a new month is always something I look forward to. Setting new goals, anticipating new events, challenging myself to make this month better than the last – in 2013 especially, flipping the calendar to Day 1 has always carried a special sort of excitement. That is, every month until October.

Kicking off October 2013 last week, I didn’t feel that same kind of anticipation. I was apprehensive, fearful, and almost wished that September had a few extra days in it. Last October was an extremely painful month, and it was unfortunately just the start to a devastating end to 2012. I’m now rushing towards the 1-year anniversaries of that pain and devastation, and I’m not sure if I’m ready. Hopefully writing about it will help me to get there.

This post isn’t going to expound upon the details of what happened at the end of 2012, but I will say that I definitely believed the doomsday predictions that swirled around at the time. Just one short year ago, it felt like I was in the midst of the kind of cataclysmic turmoil that was supposed to signal the end of the world, but one year later, here I am.

“There is no coincidence in chaos.”

That’s a phrase that came to my mind last week as I thought about what the next 3 months were going to bring. Aside from my parent’s divorce when I was a teen, 2012 was the next most chaotic time of my life. I’m someone who’s irrationally attached to dates and anniversaries, so in the days and weeks to come, I’ll surely have a few instances of looking at the clock and reliving to the minute what happened one year ago. It’s extremely easy to fall into the habit of saying “Why me? Why now? Why this?” – and while it at times seems like there’s no method to life’s madness, I’ve learned that the connected dots and synchronicities will eventually reveal themselves.

Class is still in session, but I’m learning things about myself that I don’t believe I would have discovered without 2012′s hard lessons. I’m learning what forgiveness looks like in different spheres – forgiving those who actively seek to right wrongs, forgiving people who I know will never atone for what they’ve done, and forgiving myself for internally blaming and shaming when I really need not. I’m learning how to rebuild – how to craft the kind of existence I will be proud of when this life is over. I’m learning new limits and stretching myself beyond the ones I had set previously. I’m learning how to step outside of my comfort zone, and I’m learning how to trust myself when I tell myself that it’ll be OK. I’m learning how to be a better friend, daughter, sister, wife, human being – and I’m learning how to not punish myself too harshly when I feel I’ve missed the mark. I’m learning that taking care of myself is a more intricate feat than I originally thought, and I’m learning that I do myself a disservice when I gloss over those complexities. I’m learning about my needs and wants; what I can do without; what I can’t live without. I’m learning how to heal, how to survive, and how to thrive. All of this isn’t easy, but it’s essential.

rebuild-yourself

I don’t believe in coincidences on a whole, but especially not when it comes to the chaos of life. I read a quote last year that helped me to begin to put things into perspective:

“The Buddhists believe that sometimes when everything is in turmoil, it’s because something wonderful is ready to be born and that thing is distracting you so it can have some privacy during the birthing process.” – Pearl Cleage

The blessing inside all of the burden has been that there is life on the other side of sadness, and there are wonderful things that may be distracting you during their birth. While I often throw my head to the sky and say “But, why did I have to go through _________ to get ________?” I know it’s a wholly rhetorical question. Though certain life events are extremely painful and seem totally unnecessary, I try not to dwell on the dramatic fashion that life’s lessons are doled out, and instead heed the call to action. In almost all of 2012′s bombshells, I now see that there were indeed warning signs. My personal answer to the “Why?” question is that I simply wasn’t paying attention, so life demanded it, undivided. My eyes are open wider now.

Can I honestly say that I’m grateful for what I’ve endured, or that I’m happy it all happened? Nope. I’m not there yet. What I can say is that I’m starting to understand, and I’m proud of myself. I’m starting to understand why that act of my life played out the way it did, and that the chaos was necessary and not a chance occurrence. I’m proud of myself that in the year since, I can see progress. Baby steps are still steps, and there’s bravery in deciding to take them. When the tough days with even tougher memories come, I hope I can remember that.

SAY YES: A Cinematic Gift From Ava DuVernay & Fashion Fair

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Ava DuVernay has done it again. With near impeccable timing in the social media landscape (at least for me), she has offered us another piece of work that flies in the face of other, uh, recent artistic endeavours (Russell Simmons, I’m looking at you).

After giving us The Door - a sleek and lush short film done in partnership with fashion house Miu Miu earlier this year – she has given the world 7 minutes of beauty with Say Yes.

Say Yes was done in partnership with African-American makeup company Fashion Fair, and is a seamless vehicle for showcasing their new lip colour of the same name. “The film explores the power of the affirmative, and the beauty that blossoms from embracing life,” states Fashion Fair. “Sundance award-winning filmmaker, Ava DuVernay worked on this vision of what happens when you welcome the unexpected.”

Welcoming the unexpected is exactly what I did when I pressed play, and in true Ava DuVernay fashion, she gave me my entire life. Something about her work speaks to me as a young Black woman in 2013: feelings I’ve felt, things I’ve experienced, things I’ve wanted to experience. She portrays images of Black women that speak to the woman I am, and gives me versions that I devour, ingest, and try on for size in my waking life. Her works often pique little parts of me that say “have more fun!” or “treat yourself!” or “walk a little taller!” or “love a little harder!” – and in a world that often hurls rocks at Black women to test the theory that we’re strong enough to handle it all, I welcome her artistic alternatives.

Without giving away too much of Say Yes, just know this: it looks like everyone in it said “yes” to everything good in life. The film takes place at a dope house party where dope Black folk are having a dope time. Drinks are flowing, music is bumping, and throughout all the revelry, a gorgeous girl is looking for something…or someone. What she finds is directly related to the ideas of embracing life and welcoming the unexpected.

OK. Enough with the long talkin’ – check out Ava DuVernay’s short Say Yes and let me know what you thought of it.

P.S. – I’m LOVING that Say Yes lip colour on the female lead!

 

EVENT RECAP: Herbert Carnegie Future Aces Foundation Gala

futureaces1

Names are interesting. One of the most important signifiers of our identity, they hold an immense weight as we move through life.

The funny thing is – if we forget who the person is behind the name, that signifier becomes somewhat of an empty placeholder in history. It starts to roll off your tongue just as easily as your order from Tim Hortons or Dunkin Donuts, and we slowly start to forget what and who that name actually represents. I was reminded of this last Thursday at the Herbert Carnegie Future Aces Foundation’s Amazing Aces Awards.

In honour of Herbert H. Carnegie – one of Canada’s first Black professional hockey players – the Herbert Carnegie Future Aces Foundation was created in 1987 as a means to support and empower youth. Through partnerships with schools and community figures, the foundation has provided youth in the GTA with scholarships, self-esteem workshops, and mentorship. While the annual gala is used to highlight exceptional youth and people in the community who embody the Future Aces creed, this year’s gala was a bit different. The current Executive Director of the foundation, Ms. Bernice Carnegie, stepped down after 17 years at the helm. The gorgeous night was largely in her honour, and highlighted her passions and achievements within the foundation. I was happy to attend the event as the gala’s official blogger and social media maven, and was ready to soak in the entire night.

Held at the lovely Grand Bacchus Banquet Hall in Scarborough, the gala was beautifully arranged. A silent auction and string quarter graced the front hall where people mixed, mingled, and posed for photos before heading into the banquet hall.

Dinner was a delicious spread of hot stations featuring fish, samosas, sushi, salads, cheeses, and more, so I had to make sure to fill up my plate and enjoy! Live music filled the room and attendees mingled with people like gala hosts Marci Ien (of CTV’s Canada AM) and Kerry Lee Crawford (of G 98.7FM’s Steps After Dark), the Hon. Lt. Gov. David Onley, and Marcia Brown of Trust 15. I saw a lot of familiar faces, and enjoyed getting caught up with everyone before the main event began.

Bernice Carnegie and the Honourable Lieutenant Governor David Onley

Bernice Carnegie and the Honourable Lieutenant Governor David Onley

After the dinner portion of the evening, guests took their seats and got ready for the show. Opening with a cute father/son performance from Errol and Shay Lee, the inspirational theme was well-established for the night. After a few official welcomes from the Hon. Lt. Gov, MPP Michael Coteau, and others, Marci and Kerry Lee took us right into the Amazing Aces award. Recipients like Nicole Coco LaRain (motivational speaker and artist), Rudolph Clarke (writer, lawyer, founder of the Black Law Student’s Association of Canada), and Clive Hylton (former President of the Markham African Caribbean Association) were honoured, and it was amazing to learn about some of the incredible people who have done great work in our city.

Now, I mentioned names and the importance of them because of what I learned about Herbert Carnegie, and in turn his daughter Bernice. While many people took their turn at the podium to share the wisdom and inspiration they received from Ms. Carnegie in her tenure as Executive Director (including a heartfelt speech from her daughter that had me ready to tear up), it was hearing from her in her own words that showed me just how much of a force she is. Her passion for youth and her mission to continue her father’s legacy were not at all lost on me. She was a dynamic speaker, and captured everyone’s attention – not merely because it was the polite thing to do since the evening was in her honour, but because you couldn’t help but stay fixated to her as she spoke and moved about the stage (and dropped it like it was hot to James Brown’s I Feel Good).

Bernice receiving a standing ovation and hug from Marci Ien

Bernice receiving a standing ovation and hug from Marci Ien

With the wonders of technology, I was able to hear from Herbert Carnegie himself – even though he passed away last year at the age of 92. Video and audio captured the man whose name I had known, but whose legacy I did not, shamefully. One of Canada’s first Black professional hockey players (and scouted as one of the best of any skin colour, though racism blocked him from playing in the NHL). An honourary York Region police chief. Investors Group’s first Black employee. Member of the Order of Ontario and the Order of Canada. A man with both a public school and a community centre named after him. These are just a few of his accolades that I learned about at the gala, and witnessing the power behind Herbert Carnegie’s soft voice and kind face motivated me to learn more about him and his foundation.

With Bernice Carnegie stepping down from her role, the Herbert Carnegie Future Aces Foundation will now be in the capable hands of Tka Pinnock, the incoming Executive Director. The proverbial torch was passed on at the end of the gala, with Herbert Carnegie’s words “Be my eyes, be my heart, be my voice” lighting the way. The foundation has had a successful and important history, and will undoubtedly have a bright and exciting future ahead. My “official blogger” duties may have ended that night, but I look forward to supporting the Herbert Carnegie Future Aces Foundation in the days and weeks to come.

Incoming Executive Director Tka Pinnock

Incoming Executive Director Tka Pinnock

Check out the Foundation’s official website, their Facebook, and Twitter – and search the #futureaces hashtag to see tweets from the night!

Are you familiar with Herbert H. Carnegie? Were you at the gala? Have you been involved with the foundation? What prominent figure are you aware of, but would like to learn more about?

GLAMOUR & INSPIRATION: 31st Annual Harry Jerome Awards Recap

Whew! I feel like I’m just NOW starting to get back to normal after my crazy hectic weekend! One of the events I’d been looking forward to for a while was the 31st Annual Harry Jerome Awards, and it went down this past Saturday at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. I was a first-time attendee AND the official blogger for the night, so I was excited to get dolled up and hit the scene!

Ready for an insider’s view? Here we go!

First things first, I had to get my hair situation handled. I headed down to my friends at Curl Bar Beauty Salon and tried out a new sleek, ponytailed look:

CurlBarHJA

HarryJerome1

I pulled out an old dress from my closet, touched up my red toenail polish in the car like a real G would, and I was ready to go!

The Harry Jerome Awards (organized by the Black Business and Professional Association) is a feature event in Toronto every year, honouring excellence in the Black Canadian community. I was looking forward to meeting some of the award winners who I interviewed last week, watching performances from awesome Canadian talent like Ray Robinson and Belinda Brady, and networking with the other attendees in the house.

Prior to the main event, I got to peruse the silent auction (that had items like autographed Mike Tyson gloves, art, and Bulova watches), I was interviewed for BBPA’s YouTube channel, and got to catch up with some friends who were both in attendance and volunteering. And let me tell you – people showed OUT at the Harry Jerome Awards! Suits, gowns, the works – everyone that I saw came correct, and I loved the eye candy of all kinds!

Silent auction art

Silent auction art

Tyson gloves and photo

Tyson gloves and photo

After a bit of confusion, I finally got to my seat to enjoy dinner and the show. Political bigwigs like Premiere Kathleen Wynne and Tory leader Tim Hudak were in attendance, and I was impressed at the large-scale production around the awards. Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper attended a year or two ago, so I knew this wouldn’t be a small affair – but it was still impressive to experience in person.

After a series of opening speeches and performances, we got into the awards ceremony, and I really liked the way it was done. Representatives from either the specific field or from the corporate body sponsoring the award would introduce the recipient – instead of having to endure a nervous, long-winded speech, we watched a pre-recorded speech from each winner that showcased them at their best and most relaxed. Then, the winner came out on stage to receive their award and smile for all the cameras. I thought that was a very smart way to go about it – there’s nothing worse than a painfully nervous speaker, or one who “didn’t prepare a speech” and subjects the audience to an excruciatingly long acceptance. The awards ceremony moved along well, and save for a few low points, was full of energy that made you want to pay attention.

HarryJerome-Bee

As full-length as I could get.

HarryJerome-book

One of my pieces was published in the Harry Jerome Awards program book!

HarryJerome-JohnCarlos

Art piece by Mark Stoddart – Dr. Carlos on the left, Harry Jerome on the right.

HomieLoverFriend and I

HomieLoverFriend and I

A live auction was also worked into the awards, and given that I’ve never been to an auction before, I found it very interesting. You best believe I stayed still as a statue when the bidding was going on – I’ve seen one too many sitcoms where someone sneezes or stretches, and all of a sudden they’ve bid on a $5000 painting. At that point in the night, I was dying for a bathroom break – but there was no way I was going to move while those big ticket items were up for grabs!

Dr. John Carlos (who I interviewed last year) was the keynote speaker, and was the highlight of my night. He spoke about knowing Harry Jerome back in their Olympic track days, and also about the type of man Harry Jerome was. After doing my own research on Mr. Jerome, it was refreshing to hear a first-hand account of this incredible man. Plus, I just love Dr. Carlos, so I was happy all around.

Dr. Carlos and I!

Dr. Carlos and I!

As if listening to his keynote wasn’t enough – imagine my glee when my friend Mark Stoddart introduced me to Dr. Carlos himself? THAT became the highlight of the night, and I’m still basking in the compliments he gave me about enjoying our interview and being impressed with how thorough I was. He said “I thought to myself, ‘Damn! This girl did her homework!’” and that just fueled me even further to keep doing good work.

All in all, it was quite the night. It would have been perfect if there was more of an opportunity to interact and network with the special guests and attendees, but it was inspirational to be around so many people who are doing so much good work in our community. I left motivated to do amazing work – and hey, who knows. I might just snag a Harry Jerome Award of my own one day!

Did you attend the Harry Jerome Awards? If so, what did you think of the night?

 

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