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.
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).
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.
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?