"Man gives the award, but God gives the reward."
26 October 2023 will be a date etched in the minds of many as a significant moment. It marked a key event celebrating Black History Month and the awarding of 13 individuals for their exceptional achievements, having progressed in their specialist fields and making significant contributions in their areas of expertise. One Vision charity, along with Hertfordshire Constabulary, hosted the celebrations held at the Stanborough Centre, Watford. Also in attendance were representatives from Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust.
The event featured various reflections on the importance of Black History Month, acknowledging the significant roles played by Black individuals in shaping our society, culture, and history. With over 100 people in attendance, it allowed celebrating the beautiful collage of diversity of people groups.
Thirteen individuals were nominated for leadership and service awards, having demonstrated excellence in various fields, such as administration, ministry, journalism, arts, education, business, public service, and entrepreneurial innovations. As their awarding criteria were announced, along with highlights of their bios and achievements, it was clear the extent to which they had enriched the lives of individuals in their communities and, in some cases, nationally and internationally.
The most prestigious award of the evening (Lifetime Achievement) was awarded to Pastor Cecil Perry, whose pastoral ministry spans over 50 years of employment. A beloved minister and friend to all, his exceptional and dedicated service, administrative excellence, wisdom, and statesmanship were applauded. Perry's expertise in race relations was also highlighted. His acceptance speech credited God, his parents, and the members he served for all he had accomplished. A forthcoming Messenger article will feature his life, work, and ministry.
Amongst the inspirational stories of award recipients was that of freelance journalist Darell Philip, currently serving asCommunications Coordinator for the London Area 6C of Seventh-day Adventist churches as well as graduate and assistant tutor of the SEC 'Creative Writing for Evangelism' course. He overcame a hearing defect and speech impediment, which led to him experiencing bullying at school as a child. Darell has since returned to the same school where he has worked for the past 15 years as a teaching assistant and academic mentor.
The awards presented were as follows:
- Val Bernard-Allan – Innovation & Excellence in Leading Black Women's Transformational Training
- Fiona Pacquette – Excellence in Music & Orchestral Leadership
- Darell Philip – Excellence in Journalism
- Ken Burton – Excellence in Choral Music & Composition
- Tina Brooks – Excelling in Ethnomusicology
- Pastor Jude Jeanville – Faith in Action
- Dr Cecil Roy Perry – Lifetime Achievement
- Daisy Peets – Community Outreach Services
- Kimberley Hackett – Excellence in Multimedia & Journalism
- Cllr Ifeyinwa Favour Ezeifedi – Community Outreach Services
- Rashmi Mishra – Women in Leadership
- Eva Mbiru – Community Outreach Services
- Madeleine Elgram – Community Outreach Services
Dean Russell, MP for Watford, presented the awards to these individuals who he observed had made a positive and lasting impact in the community. In his reflection, he stated: "Black History Month is a time to celebrate the rich tapestry of African and Caribbean heritage, to reflect on the immense contributions of the Black community and recognise their significant achievements. It is also an opportunity to celebrate the diversity that makes our community so vibrant. I was delighted to present these awards and acknowledge the remarkable work taking place every day in Watford and further afield."
This year's theme for Black History Month was captioned: 'Saluting our sisters, Celebrating our Matriarchs'. We were honoured to 'salute' and 'celebrate' our keynote speaker Alicia Shaw, retired Chief Inspector from Hertfordshire Constabulary, where she worked in the Constabulary for 30 years.
Alicia was the first black female to attain this rank and at the time of retirement, the most senior officer in the force from a visible ethnic background, making her one of the few black female senior officers in the country to date with an exemplary and varied portfolio in detective roles including – major crime, safeguarding, CID and public protection. She was also a hostage and crisis negotiator, awarded and highly commended for her outstanding work in both roles.
Her inspirational address chronicled her journey – the highs of achievements against a backdrop of racism and challenges, emerging as a shining example of tenacity and resilience. She encouraged everyone (particularly the women in the audience) to pursue their goals courageously.
Focusing on 'celebrating our sisters', Dr Jude Jeanville, President of the African Caribbean Dual Heritage Alliance (ACDHA), gave an intriguing presentation on the history of societal perspectives and biblical interpretation of women's roles. He challenged the audience to "give women equal value, visibility, voice and vocational opportunities." He gifted 100 free copies of his book Justice for Women: The Cry to End the Pandemic of Discrimination, Intimidation, Misogyny, Abuse and Violence Against Women in Society and Religious Communities.
Andy Wiseman, Chief Inspector of Watford Police, attended with over 20 police officers, who had the opportunity to speak and engage with community members. Andy's engaging and interactive presentation created a buzz and a chance to connect and network.
The celebratory atmosphere was enriched with beautiful music from the Dulcis Ensemble – Nigerian musicians skilfully performing both a classical repertoire and vibrant cultural pieces to the audience's delight.
Singers – Chikezie Chike-Michael (bass-baritone) and 18-year-old Alexandra (soprano) thrilled the audience with their exceptional renditions of negro spirituals and popular opera pieces dramatised to rapturous applause.
Commenting on the event, Enoch Kanagaraj, founder and CEO of One Vision charity, said: "We must put aside differences and come together for the common good. We were delighted to bring together many people to reward and recognise some of our community members. This year's theme is 'Saluting our sisters', so we were pleased that most of the awards went to our females."
Harjit Singh DL, chair of trustees for One Vision charity, states: "I am touched by the award winners who have made big contributions to our community, and I look forward to working alongside them. Black History Month brings together the many diverse communities and their talents."
Chairing the event was BUC Director – Sharon Platt-McDonald. Reflecting on Black History Month, she stated:
"It's a time of retrospection as we look back at the indelible experiences that have marked our existence. Yesterday, with its trials and triumphs, reminds us of where we were and where our journey began. It's also a time for introspection as we assess the present, with its achievements and challenges, to acknowledge where we are now, marking our milestones. This ignites hope to keep us pressing forward as we embrace the vistas of possibilities that lie before us. By embracing tomorrow's prospects, we cast a brighter vision for the future."