By Gemma Raeburn-Baynes

This year 2016 was a memorable one  for our community, which met with happiness and celebration for some and trials and tribulations for many.
We laughed together and we cried together. We said goodbye to many in our community. Our hearts were broken by the deaths of some young people in the community, namely Darius Brown and Bill Duncan, who left us with so many unanswered questions.
Recently, Community Contact Newspaper lost one of its precious family members, Mr. Bob White. Never again will we be privy to those barbershop conversations.  The world lost Prince and Cuba’s former president, Fidel Castro.
We are still searching for Antoine Davis, the young man who disappeared in April.  Jamaicans and Grenadians celebrated the outcome of the Olympic games held in Brazil, and the world was shocked with the outcome of the American elections.
For the entire year, Montrealers celebrated through their various associations.  Antiqua and Barbuda made a splash at their 35th Anniversary of Independence with fine dining and entertainment; Jamaica Association celebrated their Heroes with a special banquet held at their Association; On Saturday, 15 October, over 400 Barbadians and friends joined Barbados House Montreal at Schofield Hall in TMR, as they paid tribute to Barbados for reaching this milestone of 50 Years of Independence. Distinguished guests included Her Excellency Yvonne Walkes, Barbados High Commissioner to Canada. Grenada Nationals Association paid tribute to their Association’s Presidents, 50 years in the making. Community Contact Newspaper’s massive event of the year honoured 18 builders of the Montreal Black community with a wonderful celebration at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.  Members from three levels of government joined the over 450 guests who came out for this tribute to community builders.
Excellence took center stage in 2016 as the Black Academic Scholarship Fund (BASF) held its annual award luncheon and awarded several outstanding students scholarship certificates. Union United Church rewarded 19 high achieving CEGEP and University students with the Rev. Dr. Charles H. Este Scholarship Award.  Maya Johnson was named CTV’s Quebec City Bureau Chief, a much-coveted position among Journalists, and a significant promotion for the West Island resident. Sean Henry has found his comfort zone in the world of journalism as CBC Radio and Television weekend anchor. Doug and Kira Nesfield brought Caribbean food to Vaudreuil, on the southwestern edge of the city. The 5th anniversary of Rip The Runway Fashion For A Cause evening was a tremendous success, with dozens of models dazzling the packed hall. In June, four Montrealers: Dr. Juanita Westmoreland-Traore, Gemma Raeburn-Baynes, Dr. Dorothy Williams and Dr. Dorothy Wills were among the 100 Accomplished Black Canadian Woman, a publication which documents the groundbreaking achievements of Black Canadian women.
2016 also saw some new festivals in various parks around the city. Playmas Montreal Cultural Association teamed up with the Hilarious Riders and staged the first ever Soul Food Picnic. Families were able to get out in the fresh air and enjoy some good soul food and great entertainment. Jerk Festivals sprung up in the Cote-des-Neiges and Chateauguay areas, serving up some hot and spicy delicacies.  A staple on the festival scene is the West Island Blues Festival coordinated by DDO City Councilor Errol Johnson. This festival celebrated 13 years this year with stars like Freddie James, Michelle Sweeney and Dawn Tyler-Watson who brought their high-powered acts to Dollard des Ormeaux Park, which bubbled with music, food and family fun.
Other community news sparked interest, such as the first-ever Coconut Sweet Bread Competition; Noel Alexander passed the baton to Michael Smith at the Jamaica Association; the emotionally charged Umoja Reunion; the return of the Hawks International Annual 60 Plus Seniors Luncheon, which was attended by over 250 seniors; Black Moses celebrated Womanhood with a line-up of female performers; and of course, the annual September Affair staged by Andy “Mr. Hits” Seeberan brought on a poetic experience of dancing and socializing.
As usual, concerts and ministering reigned supreme throughout the year. The Men’s Gospel Choir continued to bring the house down with their fundraising concerts; the congregation of Union United Church was taken by surprise on Sunday, October 23, when their spiritual leader, Reverend Emmanuel Ofori, tendered his resignation during the service; Montreal West Church of God of Prophecy celebrated with 30th anniversary and held one of the highlight concerts of 2016; there was joy among the congregation at Imani Family and Full Gospel (Baptist) Church when Glenn Gray, brother of Rev. Daryl Gray, was ordained into the ministry with a major celebration at the Westmount Baptist Church; Perpetual Praise Ministries (PPM) presented its annual, spiritually empowering, community-based May Movement concert, emphasizing faith, hope and love from a Christian perspective, spearheaded by Christopher Heron of CKUT; The Montreal InterHospital Choir, singing songs of praise and inspiration, celebrated 30 years of song under the direction of Dr. Leonard Wosu of the Montreal General Hospital. The season closed with The Golden Stars Steel Orchestra under the direction of Mr. Martin Albino. The annual sound of steelpan playing the music of the holidays continues to be a rare treat for all of us music lovers.
Greetings for the Holiday Season.
2017 is just around the corner… Looking forward to a great new year ahead.