“A little girl like you can never become a surgeon”, words echoed to Dr. Fahima Osman and many others like her on the path towards creating opportunities out of circumstances placed upon them. Dr. Osman who is a Somali refugee turned renowned surgeon along with other success stories like hers defy the conventional for black communities and pave the path for others to follow. This is the reason why in 2009, Gwen Madiba along with trusted advisors launched a trail blazing annual gala, Canadian Black History Month Gala to celebrate and applaud the movers and the shakers in Ottawa and beyond.

Madiba, who is an Ottawa based fashion designer of African parents – during a phone interview – recalls the vision behind the creation of the Canadian Black History Month Gala, “one of my biggest dreams was to break the taboo around black history month being only for black people. It is about history; the history of humanity and coming together and remembering that for justice and freedom, our ancestors had allies that were non-black. It is also about celebrating those who are able to achieve things and have an obligation to themselves to be more than the society expects you to be”.

In other words, this event was created seven years ago and is revived annually in Canada’s capital, Ottawa to inform, and unite people  together, and to encourage discourse on issues affecting black communities, as well as urge people to work tirelessly to achieve their dream for themselves.

A big dream of hers [Madiba] is to use the message of her event to reach an even bigger audience at an international level in order to shine light on works of people from black communities not just locally but globally, as well as encourage a world wide celebration of unity.

This year’s gala will take place at the Museum of History in Ottawa on Saturday, February 20th and will honour Dr. Fahima Osman, Reverand Al Sharpton, Naomi Campbell, Spike Lee, Ghanaian women’s rights advocate, Catherine Addai; French-Congolese rapper Youssoupha Mabikiand, the HERA Mission of Canada. Local broadcasters Barbara Laurenstin and Sabine Daniel, as well as Project Jenga founder Mitch Kurlyowicz will be honoured as well. Members of the Mandela family, including Her Excellency, Zindzi Mandela, Her Excellency Zenani Mandela and Lindo Mandela will be in attendance.

In addition to all of the honorees expected to be in attendance, Madiba also wishes to employ everyone, no matter where you come from to attend the gala, participate, educate yourself, and enjoy the conversations on “creating circumstances if they are not there”.

So in keeping with the theme of the event, if you had to choose, “what will be your legacy?”

For more information on the gala taking place in Ottawa on February 20th at the Museum of History, and to purchase admission tickets, visit the event’s official website.

Important Update: Due to unforeseen circumstances, the gala has now been postponed to March 19th at the same location, the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, QC.