Women receive awards named after trailblazers
April 13, 2017
Watching mothers painfully mourn the loss of their young sons to senseless gun violence in the city is a familiar scene for Dr. Annette Bailey.
The Ryerson University Daphne Cockwell School of Nursing associate professor’s research interests span violence prevention, violence and trauma, trauma and resilience, homicide loss, resilience and grief,
She said a child’s murder is one of the most disruptive psychological trauma parents can be subjected to.
“My work is centred around the loss of Black youths to gun violence and addressing the grief and trauma that mothers face,” Bailey, who holds a PhD in public health science, pointed out. “We know that it is an issue that’s pervasive and has injustice rooted in it, but it is not really recognized as that.”
Advocating for policy change is central to her work.
She conducted a comprehensive key informant assessment across Canada to establish Canadian-specific policy evidence for gun violence survivorship and collaborated with researchers and advocates in several countries to establish policy recommendations for gun violence survivors globally
Bailey, who has also shared policy recommendations with Members of Parliament and other politicians in the House of Commons and whose work has been used to inform the revised Bill C-32 which is the Victims Bill of Rights, was among four Ryerson University members honoured recently with awards named after distinguished Black Canadian women at the ninth annual Viola Desmond Day celebration.
“To have the work I do recognized is important because that’s recognition that the work matters,” she said. “It gives me wind underneath my wings to keep persevering, especially on days when I think that I am not moving as fast as I would like to. I value the opportunity to be given this award. You only have to pick up the newspaper or look at the evening news to see the rapid demise of our Back men. Black lives matter, but lack men’s lives matter also. They need to be given opportunities to take their rightful place in this world. Too many of them are being gunned down at 16, 17 and 18 and the impact is significant on their families, particularly their mothers.”
A Jane & Finch resident for many years and graduate of Westview Centennial Secondary School, Jamaican-born Bailey spent six years at York University as a part-time lecturer before joining Ryerson in 2011.
She was the recipient of the Wanda Thomas Bernard award. The Dalhousie School of Social Work professor and Order of Canada member was last October appointed to the Senate of Canada.
Thomas Bernard, who splits her time between Ottawa and Nova Scotia, attended the event, much to the surprise of Rosemary Sadlier Award winner Donica Willis who was born and raised in Preston.
She moved to Toronto six years ago to pursue graphic communications management studies.
“Growing up in central Nova Scotia, I heard a lot about Viola Desmond and she is one of my role models,” said Willis who graduated three years ago and is a Ryerson Student Affairs graphics and web specialist. “Meeting Dr. Thomas Bernard for the first time is icing on the cake for me.”
Willis founded DW Creativ which is a design studio specializing in branding and artistry through graphic design and started the annual ‘Blaqk Gold’ campaign during Black History that celebrates Black achievers throughout the world.
She plans to return to Nova Scotia to express her creativity.
First impressions are sometimes the most lasting.
When Canadian Women’s Foundation (CWF) president and chief executive officer Paulette Senior spoke last year at a women’s leadership breakfast, Information Systems Management certificate program student Devenae Bryce was inspired.
Moving from her grandmother’s home in Jamaica at age 11 to join her family in Canada, Senior married at an early age and became a single mother a few years later.
Despite the setbacks, she returned to the classroom, graduated from York University with honours in 1990, chaired the Malvern Family Resource Centre, served as executive director of the Yellow Brick House, vice-president of the Black Business & Professional Association and a Rouge Valley Health System Board member and was a New Democratic Party candidate in municipal, provincial and federal elections.
Last October, she left the YWCA where she had served as chief executive officer for a decade, to join the CWF.
“Her story was very stimulating,” said Bryce who was presented with the Paulette Senior Award. “My family is also from Jamaica and to hear the obstacles Paulette had to overcome to become a leader and advocate for women says a lot about her.”
Raised by a single mother who left Jamaica at age seven, Bryce – a member of the Ryerson women’s basketball team and a Laurentian University forensic science graduate – grew up in Newmarket and completed high school in Barrie.
She said the strength and courage her mother instilled in her helped her to overcome challenges growing up in predominantly White neighbourhoods.
“In elementary school, I was the only Black student in my class and I was bullied and called the ‘n’ word on many occasions,” she said. “That didn’t stop me from wanting to learn about Black history and myself.”
Central Technical School Grade 12 student Siifan Hassen was the Viola Desmond Award recipient.
“It such an honour to receive an award with the name of this trailblazer on it,” said Hassen who is the product of Ethiopian immigrants.
Working part-time while maintaining an average between 80 and 90 per cent, the teenager plans to pursue international business studies.
“My goal is to gain the knowledge and experience I need to help fight against injustices,” said Hassen. “My mom always reminds me that by being a woman, being Black and being Muslim, I am the ultimate minority and I will have to work as much as three times harder to get my due. I will do what’s required to ensure I can help people overcome the stumbling blocks they face.”
Fourth-year social work student Sharon Folkes-Hall, who is a Toronto Community Housing tenant resident advisory panel member, was this year’s Viola Desmond Bursary winner.
Since 2010, nearly $10,000 in bursaries have been awarded in the name of Desmond who will be featured on the new $10 banknote expected to be released in late 2018.
This year marks the 71st anniversary since Desmond, a Halifax beauty shop owner, refused to sit in a New Glasgow theatre balcony section designated for Blacks. Instead, she sat on the ground floor reserved for White patrons.
She had gone to the Roseland theatre to pass time while her car was being repaired.
After being forcibly removed from the theatre and arrested, Desmond was found guilty of not paying the one cent difference in tax on the balcony ticket from the main floor theatre ticket and fined $20 and $6 in theatre court costs.
When efforts to overturn the conviction at higher levels of court failed, Desmond closed the business, moved to Montreal and enrolled in a business college. She eventually settled in New York where she died in 1965 at age 51.
Seven years ago, the Nova Scotia government officially apologized and pardoned Desmond.