Borough Celebrates Black History Month

Nine residents awarded for their outstanding service to the community.

The borough highlighted the outstanding community service of black residents at a ceremony last Wednesday. This was part of a series of events hosted by the city celebrating black history month.
Hosted by Councilor Mary Deros of Parc-Extension and Councilor Josué Corvil of Saint-Michel, the ceremony was organized to honour the work of people in the borough who have been deeply involved in their communities.
“If you are here with us tonight it’s because your challenges and your successes are a fine example that merit to be highlighted today,” Deros told recipients.
The laureates for Parc-Extension were Kingsley Kwateng, Henri-Robert Durandisse, Elsie Daphnis and Rachelle Demosthene. This was in addition to Magalie Véro René-Gérald, René Sarr, Yves Ulysse Junior, Mélissa Julien and Joanesse St-Fort who were awarded by Josué Corvil for St-Michel.
Black History Month
The master of ceremonies for the event was Christina Nancy Eyangos, a local community organizer. She said February was “the few days of the year that we celebrate our pioneers that helped advance Canada, Quebec and Montreal,” adding that “thanks to them, we can have this month.”
Deros seconded Eyangos, saying it was also important to “acknowledge the achievements of the black community not only in Montreal but around the world.” She also added that Black History Month “should not be only celebrated one month out of the year, we should celebrate the community every day.”
Liberal MNA for Viau, Frantz Benjamin, was also present for the awards ceremony. He stated that “the success of one member of the black community is the success of the whole community.”
Mama Africa
Chief Nana Kwateng Amanin was the first to receive the award. Of Ghanaian origin, Kwateng is a successful businessman in Montreal and runs the Mama Africa beauty supply on Jean-Talon, along with his wife Mercy.
Since his arrival to Canada in 1987, he is considered to be the “King of Montreal Ghana Community,” said Deros. She added that Kwateng had always acted to
“promote and practice Ghanaian culture and values in Canada and the Diaspora.”
Kwateng thanked the members of the borough and stated that “the struggle continues.” “We all need to do our part,” said Kwateng, adding that only then will we be able to “hold hands and walk together as one people, and take a knee together that black lives matter.”
I celebrate your diversity
The next to receive the award was Henri-Robert Durandisse for his work in education and his “exemplary leadership and his social involvement in the Parc-Extension district,” said Deros. For over 30 years Durandisse has brought support to vulnerable families in the area and has volunteered his time to local organizations that service disadvantaged people.
Durandisse is also an author, composer and poet, writing in both French and Créole. He is soon set to release a book on Parc-Extension called Je Célèbre ta Diversité, or I celebrate your diversity.
Durandisse expressed his appreciation for the recognition and said what motivated him most was the feeling that everyone should have “the resources necessary to live well and to flourish.” “I must put myself to the service of humans,” he said.
Theatre in the community
Elsie Daphnis, the night’s third recipient, left her career at Revenue Québec in 1996 to get involved in her community. She founded TRANS-ART 2000, a cultural organization that caters to at-risk youth of all backgrounds, intervening with theatre and dance workshops. The organization is based on St-Roch Street.
Daphnis was thankful for the award and happy she had served her community. “All my colleagues thought I was crazy,” said Daphnis speaking of when she left Revenue Québec. She agreed, but added that “the problem is that I am crazy about something that makes me happy.” She concluded by saying “I would do it again. I am happy where I am.”
Long-time Parc-Extension resident Rachelle Demosthene also received an award for her outstanding work in the community. For many years Demosthene led a local choir and has long been involved with the Dieu Réparateur des Brèches church.
For the past three years, Demosthene has “presided over conferences for women to inspire them to reach their full potential,” said Deros. She is also the owner of Pouvoir des Fleurs florist’s in Ahuntsic-Cartierville.
“I left my career of 20 years to be closer to people,” she said. “Being the first black woman florist in Montreal to have a brick-and-mortar shop, plunged me, immersed me into the great basin of the afro-descendant community,” said Demosthene.
“Once again I thank you,” she said, adding “I am the fruit of Parc-Extension, a neighbourhood which gave birth to the diversity of Saint-Michel.”
Many more
There were many more recipients throughout the evening who were thanked for their service in St-Michel. That included the work of professional boxer Yves Ulysse Junior with local young people, the outstanding youth activism of Mélissa Julien and local political organizer for St-Michel Magalie Véro René-Gérald.
They were followed by René Sarr, for his promotion of sports with young students, as well as pastor Joanesse Saint-Fort, for the work he has done with his congregation and in promoting education.
Corvil concluded the evening by thanking everyone for their work and participation. “We love you and we appreciate you and continue the good work you do in the communities,” said Deros, thanking all for their service.