OPENING SPEAKER: SHEILA WHITE, Musical Director
Topic: “My Mother’s Letters”
Toronto-born Sheila White received an environmental Urban Hero Award in 2020, a federal Canada 150 medal in 2017 recognizing her voluntarism, and in 2014 was the African Canadian Achievement Award winner in the Politics category for her roles as a candidate and former political adviser, including to Mayor Mel Lastman for 13 years in North York.
A writer, Sheila is working on a book about her parents’ interracial marriage in Toronto in 1947. Sheila was curator of two historical exhibits, one focused on Portia White, her famous, concert-singing aunt, a collection now housed on loan at the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia, and the other a rare collection of memorabilia from the First World War to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the war’s end.
Sheila is Music Director at Don Heights Unitarian Congregation as well as one of its Lay Chaplains. She leads Don Heights Singers, a weekly, Zoom, open community choir on Thursdays at 4 pm. Sheila can be reached at Sheila@donheights.ca.
MAIN SPEAKER: VALERIE JEROME, Educator and Olympic Champion
Topic: “RUNNING AWAY FROM RACISIM”
Valerie Jerome was born in St Boniface, Manitoba in 1944 where she lived until her family moved to North Vancouver in 1951. She graduated from North Vancouver Sr High in 1962 and began teaching in the Vancouver school system in 1964, the same year she married. Valerie’s Bachelors of Education was completed over many years of night classes and summer school because at that time a teaching certificate could be attained after only 2 years of study.
Valerie engaged her students in many public issues that touched their lives. One such example was while at Southlands school she had her students present individual briefs at the hearings to preserve the UEL. When these lands became Pacific Spirit Park, they learned that their voices could help shape public policy. Valerie retired from her much loved teaching career in 2001.
During her retirement years, Valerie became active in Green politics as her son, Stuart Parker, had become leader of the BC Green Party. She ran in seven elections – civic, provincial and federal between 1988 and 2000 when environmental issues were not on the radar for the vast majority of Canadians. Valerie attended International Green Congresses in Sweden and Switzerland.
Valerie Jerome has spent much of her life in the athletic arena, initially as an athlete when at age 15 she became Canadian senior women’s champion in the sprints and long jump. Valerie competed for Canada in the Olympic, British Commonwealth and Pan American Games. For more than 30 years Valerie was a chief official for jumping events for Canadian Athletics in hundreds of meets –big and small, and including the Olympics, Commonwealth Games and World Championships.
In her capacity as a teacher she coached athletics, volleyball, cross country and gymnastics as well as a community coach for junior and senior track and field athletes.
For 15 years Valerie had the pleasure of being a volunteer for the Vancouver Writers’ Festival. And an equally keen volunteer at Ballet BC. Valerie was a founding member of the board for Vancouver Youth Theatre, The BC Black Educators. Many lengthy volunteer hours went into the annual BC Junior Black Achievement Awards. Valerie was a very active member of the Goh Ballet Board for more than 12 years.
Since retiring from teaching, she has worked through the BCTF on two English language initiatives in Namibia. Valerie Jerome presently sits on the Board of Crystal Pite’s Kidd Pivot Dance company, and Shay Kubler’s Radical Systems Dance. She has recently become a Board member of Springboard, an international dance program for emerging choreographers and dancers based in Montreal and New York. Recently she has been appointed to the Board of The Vancouver Opera.
Over the last 25 years Valerie has been giving Black History Month talks in public and private elementary and secondary schools as well as at community events. She has given the address to SFU Education graduates and to Sprott Shaw college Graduates. She founded the Harry Jerome Commemorative Society which worked for four years to create the statue of her late brother on the Stanley park Seawall.
She has a passion for birding. In 1992, Valerie was a recipient of a Canada 125 Award, for work to preserve the environment. Along with a small group of Kerrisdale residents she was a recipient of a Vancouver Heritage Award for their efforts to preserve trees in this city.
Also while living in Kerrisdale, Valerie and her ex husband were recipients of Kerrisdale Community Centre’s Volunteers Award. (Although not yet deceased )-The parents of former athletes and students have installed a bench with Valerie’s name on it beside the statue of her brother on the Stanley Park Seawall. At her retirement another bench bearing her name had been installed- this one on the school grounds at Sir Wilfrid Laurier School at 57th and Laurel St. And in recent years Valerie was named amongst UBC’s Faculty of Education’s 100 Distinguished Graduates.
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