By Contact Staff
The evening unfolded with warmth and grace.
And at the end, Mr. Osborne Allen, founder of the Cote des Neiges Child Care Centre, who was one of the recipients of the Community Builders Awards, stopped to tell one of the organizers: “One of the best events I’ve seen in the community in all my years in Montreal… thank you man.” And with that he took off in his slow, deliberate, way and waving it off as the organizer hailed: “No… thank you.”
On Sunday, September 11, the community gathered at the Crowne Plaza on Cote de Liesse Road and celebrated the best of itself.
Those in the know say it might have been the biggest indoor gathering of its kind in the community in the recent past and it was certainly the most spectacular and inspiring.
The event was organized by Montreal Community CONTACT and coordinated by Judy Lamotte and a handpicked team of planners that included Gemma Raeburn- Baynes, Wendy Davidson, Rosie Phillips and Elizabeth Phillips Gaye.
Don Smooth, together with entrepreneur and life and business coach, Caroline Thelemaque, did a magnificent job as Master of Ceremonies.
In one of the many rousing speeches of the evening, Russell Copeman, borough mayor of NDG-Cote des Neiges, spoke of the significance of the number 18, (the number of Community Builders honored): “chai” meaning life hence “l’chaim, ‘ to life.”
And as such, the evening was indeed a celebration of the lives of 18 individuals who made life better for those around them.
As a show of gratitude, the community, one or two from as far off as the States and many from Toronto, together with a full compliment of dignitaries, came out in what can only be described as a sparkling show of who we are.
The evening started with cocktails in the outdoor tent where many of the 450 or so guests, sipped punch, nibbled on delightful little things while making conversation. Others just strayed into the garden to soak up some of the glistening sun.
The official part of the event kicked off with the introductions, followed by a performance by West Can Folk Performing Company, who never misses an opportunity to show why they are the cultural ambassadors of Afro-Caribbean drumming and dance.
Then in small groups beginning with Mr. Raymond Ramdas, Dan Philip, Noel Alexander, Thelma Johnson and Ivyline Fleming the tribute to The Builders started.
In what appeared to be a smooth and seamless flow, the other luminaries including Father Jim Bennett, Daniel Dortelus, Oliver Jones,
Juanita Westmoreland, Margot Blackman, Avice Joseph, Ms. Maryse Alcindor, Mr. Osborne Allan, Victor Yip Hoi, Keder Hyppolite
Dr. Nii Quao, Raymond Ramdas, Celitard Louis-Toussaint and Dr. Clarence Bayne were all brought to the stage to rousing accolades.
The presentations were punctuated with performances by select group of local artists specially chosen for the occasion.
Acclaimed arranger and steelpanist Martin Albino held court for the duration of the cocktail, treating those gathered with musical morsels that mesmerized the minds of the masses.
Julian McIntosh, the established dean of saxophonists, took guests on an inspirational journey with his delivery of two moving pieces.
Young steelpannist Rashiyd Wilson had the room eating out of his hands as he delivered two beautiful pieces.
A good chunk of the evening belonged to Claire Jean Charles who, with her live band, had the crowd rapt with a 20-minute session of pop and gospel favorites.
Just as intriguing in their performance was the Africa Gospel Choir, which continues to win over audiences with their unique harmonies and moves.
Of course, the evening was bookmarked by two high-energy performances by West Can who over the year has always been a part of Montreal Community CONTACT events.
Among the many dignitaries that lent their presence to the event were: Mrs. Kathleen Weil, minister of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusiveness; Mr. Marc Miller member of parliament of Ville Marie-South-West and Nun’s Island and Lisa Montgomery; Russell Copeman; Franz Benjamin, presidente du conseil at the City of Montreal; Marvin Rotrand, City councilor Snowdon; CJAD Radio’s Tommy Schnurmacher; Alan Desousa, borough mayor, St. Laurent; Deputy Mayor Mary Deros; Leonard Wharwood, honorary consul for Grenada at Montreal; George Grant, honorary consul for Jamaica at Montreal; Dr. Dexter Johnson; Mr. Jerrold Johnson and his team from Jamaica National Group; Michael Farkas of the Round Table for Black History Month; Jack Dear of the SVG Association of Montreal; Gus Hollingsworth of Barbados House Montreal Inc.; Ms. Jackie Webb of Black Theatre Workshop; Kelvin Phillips and Junior Gordon Hilltoppers; Clarence Jones of CJAS Accounting Services; Brenda Paris, former head of the BCRC; The Rotary Club of Montreal Westward; Janice Small-Wright; Brian and Susan Smith of Monnie Monnai; CTV’s Maya Johnson and her team from Rip The Runway; Winston Murray of The Graduating Class.