Chatham-Kent's Inaugural Black Excellence Awards and Gala was held over the weekend.
Community members and business owners gathered at Retro Suites Hotel Saturday night.
"This event was long overdue and it was incredible to elevate and celebrate our community and those that have done great things in our communities," co-chair Doug Robbins said.
When asked to describe the night Robbins said that many of the attendees called it "spectacular." In his own words, he said it was phenomenal. "The room was packed, it was a full-capacity, sold-out event," he added.
Robbins said that all of the nominees for all of the categories were worthy of the awards because they'd each had a profound effect on CK's culture and community.
The list of winners includes:
Female of the Year - Tammy Lucas
Male of the Year - Blake Handsor
Black Owned Business of the Year - Yardie Vibez
Agriculturalist of the Year - Kiaya Farms
Youth of the Year - Camryn Dudley
Citizen of the Year - Mike “Bear” Rhan
Trailblazer - Artis Lane
The organizers of the event plan to make it annual. "I don't think this will be a one-and-done," Robbins said, though he added that he and his co-chairs might take a couple of days off before the planning started.
"For being a visible minority, we're kind of invisible," Robbins said of the black population in Chatham-Kent. "This event was there to elevate and celebrate our community and have more visibility on who we are. A lot of people don't realize that a black-owned business is a black-owned business. Maybe they don't see it as that, maybe they don't cognitively think of it that way. And the citizens that have done great things in the area, maybe we just sort of don't notice that," he continued.
"We also come from a culture that doesn't necessarily celebrate ourselves," Robbins described. "Our ancestors were of the belief that they needed to just blend in. So for us to take a big step out of that box and shine a light, that's a big thing."
Robbins said that the event from the idea to the nomination and voting process to the night itself came together very quickly. "We had incredible support from our sponsors and our community as a whole and we pulled this off in a very short amount of time," he explained.
The lead sponsor for the Black Excellence Awards was Enbridge. Other sponsors included Hydro One, Mainstreets Credit, Waste Connections, Teksavvy, Scotiabank, Maple Insurance, Impact Graphics, Chatham-Kent Economic Development and Tourism Services, Winmar, Dillion Consulting, Community Futures, Sons of Kent, Retro Suites Hotel, and With This Ring.