In the summer of 1964, Gemma Raeburn- Baynes started a new chapter. Together with her mother and sister, they left Grenada and made a home for themselves in Parc-Extension neighbourhood of Montreal. She was only 13 years old then, but she still had a lot of the community values instilled in her by her mother and father in Grenada.
With her radiant spirit, Gemma Raeburn-Baynes embraced her new surroundings, infusing them with the warmth and camaraderie she had known in her homeland. Raised on the values of unity and compassion, Gemma wasted no time in channeling her energy into initiatives that would uplift and empower those around her.
She spearheaded missions like the Montreal Ebony Models that boasts alumni such as Lynn Grifith among others. In the 36 years of its existence Montreal Ebony Models was able to raise over $2 million for a myriad of charities across Montreal.

“I like to leave a positive impact with everything I do, even with the modelling, I wanted Black girls to feel good about themselves,” she explains to the CONTACT.
She is the creative force behind the vibrant Caribbean spring event known as Carrifiesta, formerly the Montreal Carnival, a celebration that ignites the city streets with a kaleidoscope of culture and diversity. She is also the President of the Playmas Cultural Association, a non-profit organization that promotes Caribbean culture. She also founded A Taste of the Caribbean festival, one of the largest indoor food cultural festivals in Montreal the proceeds go towards supporting young people to go to culinary school every year.
That is the unique thing behind each of Gemma’s initiatives she doesn’t venture for profit in terms of money but for the profit of the community around her. Each year, she hosts the “A Taste of Tea” party, honoring women making significant contributions in their various spheres of influence.
Her infectious enthusiasm and unwavering dedication recently birthed the Gem-star Circle of excellence. The Circle of Excellence is a community of high performing students committed to their personal and professional growth.

“When I turned 70 years old, I decided that GemStars would be my legacy project. I started working on and started looking at what kind of students I wanted to help. I looked and see all the programs that were running in the different organisations were for students that were not doing well, either dropping out of school, kids on their way to jail or single mothers which is good but I thought to myself there must be students that doing well and are on the honour roll in their school and maybe don’t have the financial backing.”

“I want to showcase the kids that are doing well. Let’s recognize them the lowest grade we have is 75% and majority of the students are scoring between 80 to 91%.”

It has been two years since the inception of Gemstars. She is almost about to graduate her second cohorts and managed to get scholarships ranging from $1500 – $500 per student. Thanks to support from BMO Bank and other donors.
At the Taste of Tea party on the 10th of March, the Gemstar cohort shone brightly, a testament to the transformative power of her vision.
From her humble beginnings singing at St. Francis Xavier Church and organizing the children to sing in the choir to her current role as a champion of education and empowerment, Gemma Raeburn-Baynes continues to inspire hope and give hand-ups to those in need.