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:
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!
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.
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.
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?