By: Helena Kaufman The Afro News Vancouver
The Afro News was both witness and participant at the 2009 YMCA of Greater Vancouver Power of Peace Awards. The ceremony was held on November 23, at Simon Fraser University’s Burnaby Campus.
About 300 people of all ages and backgrounds attended the evening of information, entertainment and inspiration. Event MC was TV personality, Kristi Gordon of Global BC. Honore Gbedze, The Afro News’ publisher, a nominee in the category of Local Peace Maker said, “We are honoured to be affiliated with the Y because of all the work they have done and continue to do all over the world.” The 21 nominees join others honoured since 1987 when the YMCA awarded Peace Medals to individuals and groups who promote peace through cross-cultural understanding, diversity, equality, human rights, social justice and the prevention of violence and war. This year’s categories include Local Peacemaker, International Peacemaker, Youth Peacemaker (18 and under) and Emerging Leader Peacemaker (19-30).
Nominees’ work dealt with both local and global issues ranging from bullying of children and abuse of women to projects that let the every day precious wisdom of generations and of unheralded heroes come to light. Videos capturing the people leading and participating in the projects being recognized inspired all in attendance. They keynote speaker, Nazanin Afshin-Jam, who was herself a nominee and medal winner, is a human rights activist and co-founder and President of Stop Child Executions. SCE is the leading organization providing information and updates on the situation of minors on death row in Iran. It is run entirely by volunteers and is an independent and non-political human rights group with the aim of putting a permanent end to child executions.
In a brief, pre-presentation interview, Afshin-Jam said she was directing her speech at kids and youth. Her engaging speech gave step-by-step actions ordinary people can take to make change happen, in any cause or issue they believed in strongly. The event’s call to action captured as, “Think it. Do it. Say it.,” had Gbedze reflect on his own situation. An immigrant, he was raised in Togo, by socially conscious and active parents and grand parents. He carries on his family’s commitment to community participation and development.
“Our job is to continue the education that helps people help themselves and that continues to move us towards peace, everywhere,” said Gbedze. “The Afro News, works under the motto, Voice of Unity because we appreciate the opportunities Canada gives us all to improve ourselves here and now, together, no matter what situations, fears or dreams we came here with. Gbedze’s encourages people to help themselves, to stabilize, and “then you can turn your resources to help others and to not to not forget your roots and help when you are able.”
Gbedze hoped that the awards will help support the work of all the nominees. “For me and my team, who work to bridge communities through understanding and sharing information, we feel the YMCA awards have not only elevated our presence but also our purpose.” All nominees stated what peace meant to them. For Gbedze meeting peace meant, “Reaching out with unconditional love and with a great sense of humility.” Attendees were greeted on entry and entertained between presentations with performances by young, local artists. They included Kunaka Youth Marimba, Miyanda (African Drumming and Dance), and Joe Given (a local award winning teenage singer, songwriter, and performer). A portion of the proceeds from the Power of Peace Awards ceremony went to the YMCA of Greater Vancouver’s annual campaign, Partners with Youth, to help support the Youth Peace Network (YPN).
Rita Douglas, General Manager, YMCA Community Services and International Development noted, “The YMCA is pleased to recognize the tremendous efforts of our colleagues in helping us to build strong kids, strong families and strong communities.”
Learn More Links: www.theafronews.ca
-“Bully Back Off Mt. Sleese School Student Group”
-Windermere Secondary School Restorative Justice Team
Emerging Leader Peacemaker:
-The Africa Canada Accountability Coalition
-St. George’s School
-“I can choose We can choose” Prevention Education Program
-Cary “Cass” Thompson aka Tawiyaka – Red Feather
-The Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter
-Farm Folk / City Folk
-Honore Gbedze, The Afro News