By: Gemma Raeburn-Baynes
Playmas Montreal Cultural Association will bring together tea enthusiasts and professionals for “A Taste of Tea”, the Caribbean Tea Party honoring five young Black women with the “Woman of Merit” Award.
For the first time in 11 years, the 2021 edition of this event will be staged virtually.
This perennially well-attended and highly anticipated tea party and award presentation evening has become a signature event marking International Women’s Day, will move to an online environment due to COVID-19.
It will be held on Sunday, March 7, from 2pm to 4pm. Via Zoom.
Meet the “Women of Excellence”
Akilah Newton is an impassioned activist, entrepreneur and author. She studied music, drama and dance and earned a BA in Arts, Music and Entertainment Management from the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts.
Over the years she performed in productions across the city and with the Montreal Jubilation Gospel Choir.
Driven by her entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to make the arts accessible to youth from all walks of life as well as to heighten social awareness, she founded Overture with the Arts (OWTA,), which has been her vehicle to educate Canadians about Black history.
Her annual Black History Month School Tour criss-crosses the country using music and the spoken word to bring stories of Black contributions and achievements alive to audiences.
Akilah also founded Akilah Newton Projects Inc., which celebrates diversity in ethnicity, gender and orientation through literature, games and art.
In 2018 she co-wrote the children’s book Big Dreamers: The Canadian Black History Activity Book for Kids Volume 1, highlighting achievements by Black Canadians whose stories are often left untold. She recently co-wrote and self-published a second volume.
This year, Akilah launched her first full-colour children’s storybook, Movers, Shakers, History Makers: The Canadian Black History Book of Rhymes.
Herla Osias is an entrepreneur of Haitian origin who continues to flourish in her adopted land, Québec.
While building a career in the legal field as a paralegal, she decided to go boldly after her dream by launching her event planning business in 2013, Coco Events, which she uses to build bridges with major organizations in the community as well as a network of satisfied customers over the years.
So far, her resume includes work and collaborations on massive events that attracted crowds of 1,000 to 30,000 people.
Her commitment to community has always been part of her reality and has helped as she served for almost three years as executive administrative manager at the Côte-des-Neiges Black Community Association.
Herla speaks of her philanthropic spirit as well as her values of integrity, sharing and positive harmony among people as important elements in building her business and forging ties with individuals and organizations as she strives to make the society she lives in a better place.
Petra Stewart, a lawyer licensed in Canada and the United States, is currently a senior legal counsel at a commercial security systems company.
This dynamic Montrealer who graduated from Emory University School of Law in Atlanta with a Juris Doctor; the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia with a Bachelor of Arts in Politics, Philosophy and Economics; served in the past as a law clerk for the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Virgin Islands
She served as an Internal Energy and Natural Resources Committee editor for the Year-in-Review Journal of the American Bar Association’s Section of International Law Journal, for which also authored and co authored articles.
Petra, who also earned a Diploma of Collegial Studies in Liberal Arts at Vanier College was an in-house counsel of an entertainment company and provided pro bono transactional legal services to Atlanta based non-profit organizations and has assisted a Montréal legal clinic for artists with intellectual property law reference materials.
She enjoys travelling, hiking, photography, reading and food.
Kelsey Walker is the founder and CEO of Kings and Queens Give, a non-profit organization focused on helping marginalized youth across Canada.
She also hosts live Instagram discussions on mental health, financial literacy and self-love, and has been effective in using social media platforms for advocacy and outreach.
One of her standout moments came when she used those platforms to raise over $3,000 to provide clothes; food and hair care products to shelters in Toronto and Ottawa.
Kelsey has also established herself as an advocate for change who as she says “will not shy away from speaking up when something is wrong.”
She points to her stance on behalf of local beauty supply stores that were forced to close during the COVID-19 lockdown while big brand stores were allowed to sell the same products.
Kelsey states that she took it upon herself to contact Québec Premier Legault and several MNAs to have that decision reviewed.
She also takes pride in hosting brunches and special events across the community captivating audiences with her outgoing personality and contagious energy.
LaToya Belfon is an author, elementary school teacher and entrepreneur.
She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Education from McGill University and a Diploma of Collegial Studies in Social Science from Vanier College.
She continues to combine her experiences with students and young children together with her love of writing to write, illustrate and self-publish six children’s books centred on themes of parenthood, friendship, holiday traditions, multicultural education and cultural diversity.
She states that it provided her with an opportunity to add to the diversity of voices in Canada’s storytelling landscape.
LaToya has also created a goal-setting guide and social media platform, The Winning Woman’s Guide to Goal Crushing to encourage, motivate and provide resources and guidance to women seeking success in all areas of their lives.
She identifies her goal this year as a desire to build her publishing company in order to provide opportunities for others to impact the world positively through their own stories.
“I learned the most from others when I appreciated the wealth that their experiences, culture and values had to offer to my world-view.”