WHITBY, Ontario Tuesday, February 20, 2018 — The 2018 edition of the African Canadian Achievement Awards of Excellence (ACAA) slated for this Saturday, February 24, has been cancelled.
Pride Inc., the owner and organiser of the prestigious and venerable event, made the announcement, late last month, in a release to community media.
The annual gala, now an institution in Canada’s Black community, has evolved into the signature event during Black History Month in Canada.
“After 32 years of paying tribute to, and celebrating, hundreds of Canada’s Black high-octane achievers and heroes, who have served as role models for, and inspired, thousands of Black youth, this was a heart-breaking and extremely difficult — but necessary — decision for me,” said Michael Van Cooten, President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Pride Inc.
The reason for the decision was, the organisation was unable to secure the necessary sponsorship financing required to stage the event, successfully, this year, revealed Van Cooten, who is also the Founder, Chair and CEO of the ACAA.
Founded in June, 1985, the ACAA — one of the African Canadian community’s highest, prestigious and sought-after tributes — has honoured over 350 distinguished African Canadians in a variety of professions and vocations, including Jazz icon, Oscar Peterson; Canada’s first Black federal minister and Ontario’s former Lieutenant-Governor, Lincoln Alexander; Jean Augustine, Canada’s first Black female Member of Parliament; Canada’s R&B and jazz diva, Jackie Richardson; Canada’ first and only Chief Justice, Julius Isaac; Michael “Pinball” Clemons, former Coach and Vice-chairman of the Toronto Argonaut CFL football team; Hall of Fame pitcher, Ferguson Jenkins, and hundreds more.
“Over the history of the ACAA, normally this would not have prevented me from going forward since, in previous years of financial shortfall, my wife and I would supplement the event expenses by taking out equity lines of credit on our home and borrowing funds from Pride News Magazine, the ACAA’s sister company,” he added.
“But, this year, because of going totally online, Pride’s income has plummeted by nearly 80% and, since both my wife and I are now retired and income is limited, I decided to forgo that option for next year.”
Van Cooten, who is also the Publisher and Editor of Pride News Magazine, noted that, unfortunately, up until a few weeks ago, after strenuous, but unsuccessful, efforts to get the additional sponsorships needed to stage the event, successfully, he decided to cancel the gala for this year.
“We do have some very loyal sponsors, including RBC, NHI, Jamaica National, Dr. Sheridan Cyrus, and a few others, but, traditionally, these have never been enough to cover all the expenses,” he divulged.
Van Cooten said that he is hoping that once the African Canadian community becomes aware of the precarious position of the ACAA, and if they deem it valuable and necessary, that enough sponsors and funders might come forward to save the gala for 2019.
“Should the organisation be successful in securing the necessary sponsorship funding later this year, towards next year’s gala, the community can rest assured that it will be staged in 2019 and onwards,” he said.