‘By no means let anybody boring your shine,’ says award winner, 17, after Hamilton occasion celebrating Black excellence

‘By no means let anybody boring your shine,’ says award winner, 17, after Hamilton occasion celebrating Black excellence

For Mofiyinfoluwa Saka, attending the John C. Holland Awards was an “completely surreal” expertise.

“It felt very welcoming and alluring to see all of the folks there that got here to rejoice the accomplishments of Black people in our neighborhood,” the 17-year-old mentioned.

The annual occasion is placed on by the Hamilton Black Historical past Council and celebrates excellence in Hamilton’s Black neighborhood.  It befell this yr on the LIUNA Station Grand Ballroom on James Road North Saturday night time.

Saka was the recipient of the Marlene Thomas “Group Advocacy” Award, named after the neighborhood organizer who based the awards in 1996.

A girl holding an awards that reads: Hamilton Black History Council, Reverend John C. Holland Awards, 2023. Marlene Thomas Community Advocacy Bursary, Mofiyinfoluwa Saka.
Mofiyinfoluwa Saka mentioned she desires to be the inspiration she did not have for different ladies in STEM. (Submitted by Mofiyinfoluwa Saka)

“I acquired an opportunity to talk with Marlene Thomas herself and he or she additionally congratulated me and instructed me how proud she was that I received. The assist of everybody there was simply indescribable,” Saka instructed CBC Hamilton Monday, after the win. 

She mentioned it felt particular to be in a room with different people “who know what it is like being a Black particular person in Canada and what it is prefer to be unrecognized, underestimated and undervalued.”

Illustration in STEM

Saka is able to pursue software program engineering at McMaster College and mentioned she “has what it takes to achieve the sphere.”

She mentioned as a result of a lack of illustration, it could actually really feel discouraging to need to pursue a profession within the usually male-dominated fields of science, expertise, engineering and math (STEM). 

“Regardless of my pursuits in coding and software program, I had shied away from it as a result of I by no means noticed any ladies within the coding membership or profitable hackathons,” she mentioned.

Saka mentioned she desires to be that “supply of inspiration,” for different ladies.

She has additionally been an advocate for points like anti-racism work and psychological well being.

“To Black ladies — and ladies typically — that need to comply with the same path to mine, I might prefer to let you know that you’re a star. By no means let anybody boring your shine by telling you what you’ll be able to or can’t be.”

‘It begins with one particular person’

Fellow award-winner Serenity Thompson mentioned she was shocked when it was introduced that she had received the Rev. George Horton scholarship.

“I wasn’t anticipating to win … particularly with so many different gifted, wonderful folks there.”

At 17, Thompson has already graduated highschool and is about to pursue criminology at York College.

She mentioned her aim is to “make the regulation extra only for everybody.”

“The youthful technology is clearly going to be the one getting into management. And we have to begin doing one thing about it now,” she mentioned.

“It begins with one particular person,” she mentioned.

“As a younger Black girl, it is arduous to form of discover your home. And I need to be sure that my voice is heard and never stepped over or ignored. As a result of I do know that I’ve opinions, I’ve targets, and I need to attain all of them pretty.”

Three people in formal clothes smiling at the camera.
Serenity Thompson, center, along with her father and her sister earlier than heading to the John C. Holland Awards. (Submitted by Serenity Thompson)

‘You simply felt such as you belong there’

Thompson mentioned there was not a single boring second on the awards.

She mentioned the occasion “exceeded [her] expectations.”

“You simply felt such as you belong there, and you can simply actually be your self.”

Yasmeen Elkheir mentioned for her, attending the occasion was nerve-racking. These dissipated rapidly, nonetheless, when the welcoming environment on the awards settled in.

16 people smile for a photo.
A few of the winners on the John C. Holland Awards collect for a selfie, together with Yasmeen Elkheir, center row, centre, with glasses. (Submitted by Yasmeen Elkheir)

She was the recipient of the Dr. Ethilda Johnson “Enterprise/Entrepreneurship” bursary.

Elkheir, who can be 17, mentioned after speaking to a few of her fellow nominees, she did not assume she would win.

“So then once they known as my title, my coronary heart dropped, I used to be actually shocked.”

From taking part in Minecraft to growing software program

Elkheir plans to pursue laptop science, a ardour that began with fixing Java information on Minecraft.

“My sport all the time crashed as a result of I all the time had mods downloaded, so I used to be attempting to determine methods to repair it.”

“I needed to study extra about laptop science so I may make video games like Minecraft.”

Despite the fact that she’s misplaced curiosity in making videogames, she nonetheless desires to pursue laptop sciences, particularly, synthetic intelligence.

Elkheir has accomplished a Harvard course and is now the lead developer of an AI undertaking specializing in detecting cyberbullying, she mentioned. 

A sold-out occasion

The awards celebrated their twenty seventh yr and included company corresponding to Hamilton Mayor Andrea Horwath, native MP Filomena Tassi, a number of metropolis councillors and college board trustees, and professor and long-time neighborhood advocate Gary Warner, amongst others. 

The sold-out occasion awarded virtually 30 folks, together with Ainara Alleyne, who obtained the inaugural Ainara Alleyne Rising Star Award.

This is the complete checklist of winners:

  • Lincoln Alexander Breaking Down Obstacles Scholarship – Esther Goombs
  • Evelyn Myrie Political Motion Bursary – Alice Okpere
  • Nelson Mandela Social Justice Scholarship – Chanice Olokesusi
  • Rev. George Horton Scholarship – Serenity Thompson
  • Youth Achievement Bursary – Suzanne Abdullah
  • Audre Lorde LGBTQ+ Scholarship – Adelusi Omowonuola
  • Youth Achievement Bursary – Cynthia Oyogo
  • Marlene Thomas Group Advocacy Bursary – Mofiyinfoluwa Saka
  • Youth Achievement Bursary – Devlyn Tagoe
  • Immigrants Matter Bursary – Abraham Oroma
  • Youth Achievement Bursary – Cyrena Hamilton
  • Dr. Ethilda Johnson Enterprise/Entrepreneurship Bursary – Yasmeen Elkheir
  • Raymond G. Lewins Sport Management Scholarship – Laila Hampson
  • Tune In Basis Bursary – Olivia Purnell
  • YMCA Women Rock Scholarship – Kiyara Millwood
  • Hamilton Steelworkers Space Council Group Issues Scholarship – Ademide Abogunrin
  • Youth Achievement Bursary – Khairiya Haji
  • Youth Achievement Bursary – Joshua Cote
  • Youth Achievement Bursary – Keionna Cousins
  • Youth Achievement Bursary – Josiah Bowen
  • Youth Achievement Bursary – Derron Alleyne
  • Youth Achievement Bursary – Shante Paddy
  • Rising Star Award – Ainara Alleyne
  • Jackie Washington Arts Award – Esie Mensah
  • HBHC Award of Advantage – Robert Small
  • Group Service Award – BLK Owned HamOnt
  • Enterprise/Skilled Achievement – Vivian Kaye
  • Vice Morgan Ally Award – Denise Christopherson

For extra tales in regards to the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success tales inside the Black neighborhood — try Being Black in Canada, a CBC undertaking Black Canadians might be pleased with. You possibly can learn extra tales right here.