Lifetime Award for Ettie Rutherford
November 3, 2017
It was the perfect birthday present.
Just four days before last week’s milestone, Ettie Rutherford was the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award at Afroglobal Television Excellence Awards.
Rutherford said the honour doesn’t signify she has done everything she could or she’s approaching the end of a distinguished career.
“Far from it, my work is not done and I still have a lot to contribute,” she added.
A graduate of Jamaica’s Mico Teachers’ College, Rutherford taught at St. Anne’s Elementary School in Kingston and Columbus High School in St. Ann’s Bay before relocating to Alberta in 1967.
At the time, the Western Canada province was experiencing an oil boom, schools were being built and teachers from the Commonwealth were being recruited.
Rutherford accepted a teaching position in Smith, a rural hamlet north of Edmonton with a population of about 500 people.
She brought her eldest son, Toni, with her and the rest of the family members followed. After three years, she joined the Calgary Catholic School Board and it was during this time that her challenging relationship with her first husband ended.
Despite having to take care of four young children, Rutherford graduated with a Master’s of Education degree from the University of Calgary and was an active volunteer in her community, serving as president of the Caribbean Canadian Association and the Jamaican Canadian Association and vice-president of the Calgary Multicultural Centre. She also volunteered with the Calgary Police to effect positive change in the community.
In 1988, Rutherford and her new husband Desmond Rutherford – they have been married for 39 years -- moved to the Greater Toronto Area and she joined the York Region Catholic School Board, rising to the rank of principal before retiring in June 2009.
Women’s issues have always appealed to Rutherford.
She founded the Congress of Black Women York Region and Oshawa/Whitby chapters and has been an integral part of the national women’s organization for many years, serving as the Ontario region representative from 2005 to 2009.
In 2010, Rutherford established a consulting business to train and empower women to reach their highest potential, and two years later, she launched her first book, ‘Women Are Worthy: Why Perch Like A Chick When You Can Soar Like An Eagle’?
Several years ago, she was presented with the Kay Livingstone Memorial Award and a Certificate of Recognition from former Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney, for her contribution to multiculturalism in Alberta.
The Renaissance Award was conferred on York University professor Dr. Andrea Davis.
She chairs the humanities department and holds cross-appointments in the graduate programs in English, interdisciplinary studies and gender, feminist and women’s studies.
“More than anything else, what really defines me is what I do at York University for young people,” Davis, whose research focuses on the literary productions of Black women in the Americas, said. “I take these awards seriously and I really appreciate that these organizers value education and see the role it can play in creating a just society and in helping us imagine, live, think and work towards the creation of a better world.”
She dedicated the award to students in her ‘Cultures of Resistance in the Americas’ Humanities 1300 class.
“Every year, I have the privilege of meeting 200 new students and, in a very short amount of time, they come to trust what I teach them and believe in the messages that that class produce,” she pointed out. “I have seen students who weren’t even sure they could finish the first year go on to do tremendous things with their lives. For me, it can’t be just about having a career and doing something well. That can’t be the reason why I wake up every day. Students gave me a reason to do that. If I can change 20 or 30 lives every year, then I really believe I have done something. This is what motivates and activates me. Students hold me accountable to be the best version of myself.”
Davis’ mother, Magetta Webb who migrated in 1982 and was a domestic for several years, accompanied her daughter to the gala.
The award-winning educator said it’s important for her mother to be part of her celebrations.
“I am here because of her,” said Davis, the 2012 recipient of the Ian Greene Award for teaching excellence and former interim director of the Centre for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean (CERLAC). “I come from a Jamaican family that value education above anything else and give me the freedom to pursue it without apologies. They made me believe that if I worked hard enough and I cared, it would matter and something could happen which it did. Family keeps you grounded don’t matter how far you go or what you achieve. They remind you of what is important.”
Growing up in Ghana, Charles Marful interest level heightened every time his father – a mining executive with a large firm – convened business meetings at the family home.
“Sometimes I would ask them what they were talking about,” he said. “I was exposed to business at a very early age.”
A director with Ernst & Young Canada, Marful was recognized for professional achievement.
“This award is significant because it’s coming from my community,” he pointed out.
Canadian Women’s Foundation president and chief executive officer Paulette Senior took was presented with the Leadership Award. She was YWCA Canada chief executive officer for a decade for before leaving to join the CWF a year ago.
A 1990 York University honours graduate, Senior chaired the Malvern Family Resource Centre, served as executive director of the Yellow Brick House, vice-president of the Black Business & Professional Association and Rouge Valley Health System Board member and was a New Democratic Party candidate in municipal, provincial and federal elections.
She took her son – Jay Williams has been a Toronto District School Board teacher for the last eight years – to the event.
“I want him to be inspired by just not what he sees me doing but also by what others are achieving so he could keep pursuing his dreams,” said Senior who is a Women’s College Hospital board director.
Williams is extremely proud of his mother.
“She’s a living example of what I can aspire to be,” he said. “I was fortunate in that I didn’t have to go far to find a role model.”
Toronto City councillor Michael Thompson humbly accepted the Marcus Garvey Award.
“I learnt about Marcus Garvey in school back in Jamaica,” he said. “To be receiving an award in his name is huge.”
Jamaica’s first national hero, Garvey founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), the Black Star Shipping Line to provide transportation to Africa, and the Negro Factories Corporation to encourage Black economic independence.
After he was deported from the United States to Jamaica after serving a two-year jail term for mail fraud, Garvey turned his energy to Jamaican politics, campaigning on a platform of self-government, minimum wage laws and judicial reform.
In 1929, he formed Jamaica’s first political party – the People’s Political Party – and was elected to a seat in Kingston & St. Andrew Corporation. His party however was soundly beaten in the national elections.
Other award recipients were Minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs Tony Ince, television personality Namugenyi Kiwanuka, Seventh-day Adventist Ontario chapter president & York Regional Police chaplain Mansfield Edwards, actress & model Jackie Appiah, chiropractor Dr. Liz Egbogah, Canadian Samaritans for Africa president Dr. Stan Chu Ilo, 2016 Canadian Screen Award nominee Emmanuel Kabongo, La Passerelle-IDE founding president Leonie Tchatat, Big Church Group president & chief executive officer Dr. Oladunni Abiodun, Wellness Anew president & chief executive officer Franklin Momoruna and Nia Centre for the Arts executive director Dwayne Dixon.