It takes a lot to stop the celebration of Black excellence, that’s why Black Theatre Workshop has made it a priority to offer the entire community an opportunity to join in this year’s honouring of two special Montrealers, Mr. Eddy Toussaint and Ms. Thelma Johnson at their annual Vision Celebration Gala on January 30.
This year the event goes virtual and will be presented in all its past glory with awards and musical tributes along with great company via Facebook Live and on YouTube.
As it as been in the past, the highlight of the celebration will be the presentation of the prestigious Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Achievement Award, will be presented to Toussaint, an iconic Haitian born dancer, choreographer, teacher and artistic director. He is the founder of the Compagnie de Danse Eddy Toussaint, later known as Ballet Eddy Toussaint de Montréal.
The award of which recognizes Black cultural contributions and artistic excellence while paying homage to the vision of growth, solidarity and unity inspired by the late civil rights icon, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Toussaint, who started dancing in his native Haiti, moved to Montreal as a child and studied under several legendary instructors in this city as well as in New York.
He was a co-founder of Les Ballet Jazz de Montreal (1974) where he was also a principal dancer and resident choreographer.
In 1975 he launched out on his own and founded the Compagnie de Danse Eddy Toussaint.
Then taking immense talent and entrepreneurial darings south of the border, he founded the Sarasota Ballet of Florida In 1990.
After an extended hiatus from the local dance scene, Toussaint reopened his school, Ballet Eddy Toussaint in 2009 in Laval.
Over the years he also earned a B.A in Pedagogy from the University of Montreal, and a B.A in Physical Education, with a Dance major, from the University of Quebec in Montreal.
Toussaint’s passion for dance and creativity have been rewarded at international ballet competitions over three decades and have earned him widespread accolades including the title of Great Montrealer and the Prix Hosia de Laval.
As well this year, Ms. Johnson, an indefatigable stalwart and founder of the Caribbean Pioneer Women of Canada will be presented with The Dr. Clarence Bayne Community Service Award to, in recognition of her dedicated service to our community, Montreal and Canada.
As one of the earliest entrepreneurs in our community, Ms. Johnson, trained at the prestigious The Madame J. Walker Beauty School, ran her beauty salon for close to 40 years.
The place, Thelma House of Beauty served as a training ground for young professionals in the industry and aspiring entrepreneurs.
She was also involved in a groundbreaking co-op program in Hairdressing with the then Protestant School Board of Greater Montreal.
In 1989, Ms. Johnson founded the CPWC as a way to bring together women who migrated to Canada under the Caribbean domestic scheme in the 1950, 60s and after.
The organization emerged as a cultural unifying force in the community hosting several signature events and fundraisers and using the proceeds to support initiatives to benefit the youth, the elderly as well as local and overseas projects.
The CPWC continues to offer scholarships to students in Canada and across the Caribbean,
As well Ms. Johnson, who is well into her golden years, continues to visit and support the elderly in and around Montreal.
On February 19, 2013, Ms. Johnson was awarded The Queen Elizabeth 11th Diamond Jubilee Award by former Liberal Party leader Stephane Dion for her outstanding contribution to Canadian society.
The BTW will continue to recognize the achievement and contribution of our youth with the awarding of the Gloria Mitchell-Aleong Award, which this year will go to Blxck Cxsper and the Victor Philips Award will be presented to Imzadi Amarante .
Another highlighted of the online gala will be a line of feature performances from some of Montreal’s most talented artists, including a special performance from legendary award-winning vocalist, Ranee Lee.
Black Theatre Workshop’s Vision Celebration Gala- Saturday, January 30, 2021 from 7pm-8:30pm. Streamed live on BTW Facebook page.