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Off the clock with Advancement’s Black History Luncheon volunteers

Black History Month Luncheon volunteers

Black History Luncheon Volunteers,
Division of University Advancement


Collectively, staff members have been with the University of Toronto (U of T) since 1992.


Every year in February, the Division of University Advancement (DUA) hosts a Black History Luncheon to celebrate black history and culture in Canada.

The luncheon is organized by a group of DUA staff volunteers and is attended by more than 100 employees. Guests are treated to live music, a keynote presentation and a delicious buffet lunch. The meal is prepared by volunteers and features cuisine from places such as the Caribbean, Africa, East Asia and South America.

Bulletin editor, Kelly Rankin spoke to luncheon co-chairs, Glen Boothe, information services officer, and Deborah Simon-Edwards, executive director of finance and administration at DUA and some of the volunteers about the history of the luncheon and what the work they do off the clock to produce it.

Jackie Vanterpool, senior donor relations officer, Arts & Science Advancement, at U of T since 1997:

The Advancement Black History Luncheon was the brain-child of Glen Boothe. He approached several people, including myself. I thought it was a great idea and occasion to showcase our culture through cuisine and the arts (music, dance). In addition, having a keynote speaker meant an opportunity for sharing with others our heritage and the importance of remembering the individuals and events that have significantly impacted our history. It’s also so much fun, and I look forward to it annually!

Brenda Registe, alumni development officer, New College, at U of T since 1992:

When Glen approached me about the luncheon, I thought it was a great idea. What a lovely way to bring people together: food! It was a pleasure to be able to share my Dominican cuisine with others — I love it! Many years later, I continue to participate in this because it is always such a nice time spent with colleagues.

My mother, who does not work here, gets excited each year about preparing her Caribbean-style mac and cheese, coconut bread, codfish balls and cheese straws. Returning home with the empty containers is music to her heart!

Sean Ingram, senior development officer, Faculty of Law, at U of T since 2003:

Someone at DUA found out that my father is from Barbados and told Glenn Boothe, one of the principal organizers of the Black History Luncheon. Glenn asked if I knew any Bajan dishes and I have been making fish cakes and flying fish cutters for the Luncheon ever since.

When was the first Black History Luncheon?

“The luncheon is sponsored by DUA and has been an annual tradition for 15 years now. We wanted to organize an event for our division that recognized and celebrated Black History Month,” said Boothe. He also hopes that more U of T divisions and departments follow in DUA’s footsteps by initiating their own events to celebrate Black History Month.

Describe what happens at the luncheon.

“One of the main goals for the luncheon is to invite the university community to come and learn about black culture and history. Every year we gather to celebrate the diversity that makes our University and our country a better place to study, work and live. It’s a party atmosphere at the lunch but I see it as an educational tool as well,” said Simon-Edwards.

What’s on the menu this year?

Farley Flex, a Canadian Idol judge and music icon, is this year’s keynote speaker, Steel Pan maestro Vince ‘Cato’ Fraser will entertain guests, and the buffet will include dishes such as jerk chicken and pork, curried goat, stews, callaloo, ox tail, rice and peas, fried plantain, and a variety of desserts including coconut bread, pound cake and more.

The event co-chairs would like to thank all of the volunteers helping with this year’s luncheon.  “Without them we couldn’t do it,” added Simon-Edwards.

Photo: (front centre) Maria Constantino, (second row) Thomas Tran, Amanda, Kazandjian, Diamando Draganidis, Brenda Registe, (third row) Joecelyn Gregorio, Mary Ellen Caskenette, Nestor Halitski, Gillian Morrison, (fourth row) Jackie Vanterpool, Sean Ingram, Alycia Bromley, Glen Boothe, and Arlayna Clarke/ Watch an interview with some of last year’s volunteers as they start preparations for the Lunch