Awardees cited for ‘strong commitment to province’
March 11, 2017
Ontario students are required to complete at least 40 volunteer hours to graduate.
Grade 11 student Marica Pinnock has done nearly 200 with more than a semester and a full school year to go.
Her desire to give back freely was recognized recently with a Youth Achievement Award and Young Heritage Leaders $2,000 scholarship at the Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage celebration at Queen’s Park.
“This is a big honour for me,” said the Oakville student. “I enjoy volunteering and giving back in whatever way I can.”
The Canadian Caribbean Association of Halton (CCAH) nominated Pinnock for the honour.
“She has been an integral part of our association for the last eight years,” said CCAH president Veronica Tyrrell. “Since 2007, our organization and the Oakville Museum have co-hosted the ‘Roots of Freedom Festival’ over two days in October and she has been a big part of that in terms of recruiting youth volunteers and assisting with the planning. She is also actively involved in our Black History Month and Emancipation Day celebrations. This is a young lady who is very mature for her age and her contributions to the organization over the years have been exceptional.”
Pinnock’s parents, Richard Pinnock and Maria O’Keeffe, and younger sister Kiara Pinnock attended the ceremony that honours individuals, groups and communities for exceptional contributions to conserving the province’s cultural and natural heritage.
“We are all proud of the amazing work Marica has done over the years,” said her father who is Walmart Canada’s diversity and inclusion senior manager. “She started attended CCAH events with me about eight years ago and has been immersed in almost every aspect of the organization. She knows the importance of maintaining her sense of culture.”
The family patriarch was born in Montreal to Jamaican and German immigrants.
The Township of Oro-Medonte Oro African Church Preservation Project was honoured with the Excellence in Conservation and Community Leadership awards.
Built in 1849 by freed slaves who were granted land after the War of 1812, community members preserved the church for nearly 75 years before it was abandoned in the 1920s. The Township of Oro-Medonte later took ownership of the church and adjoining cemetery to maintain and preserve the site.
It’s believed that the body of Richard Pierpoint and remains of Coloured Corps soldiers are buried in the cemetery. Born in Senegal, Pierpoint – who proposed the establishment of the all-Black military unit that was the Coloured Corps – was captured as a teenager and shipped across the Atlantic Ocean to British North America, where he was sold to a military officer.
When the American Revolutionary War started, he enlisted on the British side in Butler’s Rangers that was stationed in Fort Niagara. After the war, he was granted 200 acres in St. Catharines.
In 2003, the oldest African log church still standing in North America was designated a national historic site.
Closed to the public because its structural integrity was compromised, the Vaughan African Canadian Association (VACA) stepped up to the plate three years ago to save the historic place of worship.
In October 2014, VACA and the Township of Oro-Medonte collaborated to submit a funding application to the Ontario Trillium Foundation, which awarded VACA a $121,200 grant. A total of $94,200 was used to help restore the church, while the remaining $27,000 went towards developing and distributing a children’s picture book about the church and supporting an interactive historical school program.
A few years ago, the Township of Oro-Medonte launched the “Journey to Freedom” fundraising online campaign to raise $140,000 for the restoration project. A total of $95,651 was raised.
The federal government contributed nearly $78,000 towards the church’s restoration.
The dedication ceremony took place last August.
Oro-Medonte Mayor Harry Hughes and Samah Othman, the township communications & customer service supervisor, accepted the prestigious awards.
“We see this as sort of a validation of all the work that has gone in to this project from a very large number of people right across Canada and beyond the boundaries,” said Hughes. “What this does is reinforce the things we value the most in our country and it’s nice to see there were so many people on board. These honours are sort of like the cherry on top of the ice cream.”
Ontario’s Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell, who attended the church re-opening ceremony last summer, and Ontario Heritage Trust (OHT) chair Thomas Symons presented the awards.
“The creativity, commitment and excellence of these remarkable individuals, communities and organizations are an inspiration and deserving of our highest praise,” said Symons.
Dowdeswell thanked the winners for their dedication to conserving the collective patrimony for future generations.
“Thank you for making such a strong commitment to our province,” she said. “You are helping us to learn about our heritage. You gave us inspiration as you build and rebuild and as you look back at earlier times and techniques and adapt to the present. You have found creative and forward-thinking ways of solving problems.”
As part of the 150th anniversary of confederation, the OHT is encouraging Ontarians to share their stories that will be published in Heritage Matters.
Historians and authors Dr. Karolyn Smardz Frost, Dr. Afua Cooper and Adrienne Shadd are among 47 prominent and accomplished Ontarians representing a range of perspectives who have shared their stories and photos about the things that inspire them and help them define who they are.
Shadd pays tribute to her hometown – North Buxton – that started out as a colony in 1849 established by escaped slaves and free Blacks from the United States. It was one of the final stops on the Underground Railroad.
“On a personal note, it’s the place that nurtured me in my earliest years and instilled many of the morals and values that I hold dear such as honesty, authenticity and the belief that one should treat all people with dignity and respect no matter what their background or station in life,” said Shadd, the great great grandniece of Mary Ann Shadd Carey, North America’s first female publisher and the first Black woman to complete a law degree at Howard University.
Cooper, the James Johnston Chair in Black Canadian Studies at Dalhousie University, recalled free Black Loyalist Peter Long and his family who set up a farm in the Bayview Ave. and Pottery Rd. area and Peggy Pompadour, an enslaved woman who often resisted slavery by running away only to be caught and jailed by her owner.
The jail was located where the King Edward Hotel now sits.
“My Ontario includes the memory of the Black men who cut down trees and constructed the Davenport Road that connected the eastern part of Toronto to the western part,” she said. “Ontario’s Black History helps to define me and is an integral part of my identity. I, a Jamaican-born Africa Diaspora daughter, move through this land, connecting the lineages from the Caribbean, West and Central Africa, East Africa and African Canada.”
In 1985, Smardz Frost – with assistance from nearly 3,000 high school students -- excavated the home of Thornton and Lucie Blackburn, former slaves who established the first cab company in Upper Canada and the first form of public transportation in the province, owned six homes in the city they rented to other fugitives fleeing slavery in the United States and co-founded Trinity Church on King St.
This was the first Underground railroad site dug up in Canada