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Viola Desmond Awards & Bursary Program

Illustration of Viola Desmond sitting in a theatre with four other Black persons sitting around her

The annual Viola Desmond Awards and Bursary Program celebrates the outstanding achievements of Black women who in their roles as students, staff, faculty and alumna, demonstrate that they are positive role models and advocates of the Black/African-Canadian community. 

Learn more about Viola Desmond.

2022 awards and bursary recipients 

Honorary Viola Desmond award
Dr. Denise O’Neil Green

Ryerson faculty award in honour of Robyn Maynard
Dr. Janelle Brady

Ryerson staff award in honour of Nalo Hopkinson
Shurla Charles-Forbes

Ryerson alumna award in honour of Dr. Jill Andrew
Eternity Martis

Ryerson student award in honour of Dr. Eugenia Duodu Addy
Nikesha Sampson

High school student award in honour of Viola Desmond
Kiya Busby
Ashley Levins

Ryerson student bursary in honour of Viola Desmond
Oluwapelumi Egbewumi
Nya Martin-Hemming

Learn more about the 2022 award honourees and recipients

Award honourees

Robyn Maynard is a Black feminist writer and a PhD candidate and Vanier scholar at the University of Toronto. She is the author of “Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present” (Fernwood, 2017), an award-winning national bestseller, and the co-author of “Rehearsals for Living” (Knopf/Haymarket), forthcoming in June 2022. She has also published works in Scholar & Feminist, Critical Ethnic Studies, the Toronto Star, the Washington Post, and the Montreal Gazette. Her work on policing, Black feminism and abolition has been translated into many languages and is taught widely across North America.

Robyn Maynard

Nalo Hopkinson has published six novels, numerous short stories, and DC comics in the Sandman Universe. Her many accolades include Eagle-Con’s Octavia E. Butler Memorial Award in recognition of impactful contributions to the world of science fiction, fantasy and speculative fiction. In 2020, she was the youngest writer, the first woman of African descent and the first Caribbean writer to receive the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, a lifetime achievement award in recognition of her writing, teaching and mentorship. Nalo is a professor in the School of Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia.

Nalo Hopkinson

Dr. Jill Andrew is an MPP for Toronto-St. Paul. She passionately serves as the Ontario NDP Official Opposition's Women's Issues, Culture, and Heritage Critic at Queen's Park. Jill is the first queer Black person elected to any legislature across Canada. She is also a founding member of the ONDP Black Caucus, a first of its kind in Ontario’s legislative history. Jill's successful Bill 61 proclaims the first week of February as Eating Disorders Awareness Week. She has also put forth legislation fighting for paid sick days, workers’ and tenants’ rights, social justice, affordable housing and the arts. Outside of politics, Jill is the co-founder of Body Confidence Canada.

Jill Andrew

Dr. Eugenia Duodu-Addy is the CEO of Visions of Science, a charitable organization with the mission of transforming society and the planet through equitable access to STEM. She leads the organization in facilitating community-based youth engagement, strengthening youth support networks and advocating for broader systems change. She has over 15 years of experience working with youth and developing numerous city-wide engagement programs from several different communities across the Greater Toronto Area. She is an educator, speaker, community organizer and advocate who is passionate about creating meaningful opportunities for youth to achieve their full potential.

Eugenia Duodu Addy

Award recipients

Dr. Janelle Brady is an anti-racism educator, activist-scholar, and community organizer whose recent doctoral research examines Black mothers’ system navigation against anti-Black racism in education and beyond. She co-founded the Downsview Advocate, serves on the board of directors for Progress Toronto, and was recently elected as President of the Ontario NDP. Her co-edited book, “Critical Schooling: Transformative Theory and Practice,” brings together multiple scholars, activists, and practitioners committed to social justice in education. An assistant professor in Ryerson’s School of Childhood Studies, a media expert, and an in-demand speaker, Janelle is committed to mentoring and supporting students and community members, which has led to her launching of an Empowerment Circle.

Janelle Brady

Shurla Charles-Forbes is the Manager, Talent Development and Strategic Lead EDI/ABR at Ryerson University and a PhD candidate in Adult Education and Community Development at the University of Toronto. She is dedicated to ensuring equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging (EDIB) and a collective effort to confront anti-Black racism are integrated into every facet of the employee experience. In 2020, she received the Larissa Allen Employee Experience Award for developing and implementing Ryerson’s Career Development Program, designed to retain, include, and provide increasing opportunities for employees. She currently serves on the Presidential Implementation Committee to Confront Anti-Black Racism Working Group and the Black Faculty and Staff Community Network’s leadership team.

Shurla Charles Forbes

Dr. Denise O’Neil Green is the university’s former and inaugural Vice-President, Equity and Community Inclusion. She is a strategic leader with a deep-rooted passion for the advancement of diverse and inclusive university classrooms and campuses. With over 30 years of experience in the postsecondary sector in Canada and the United States, Dr. Green is dedicated to advancing systemic change in the areas of human rights, anti-racism, access, equity, diversity and inclusion.

Dr. Denise O’Neil Green

Eternity Martis is an award-winning journalist and editor whose work has been featured in VICE, Chatelaine, Maclean’s, Flare, Salon, CBC, Hazlitt, The Walrus and many more outlets. Her bestselling, award-winning memoir They Said This Would Be Fun: Race, Campus Life and Growing Up, about being a woman of colour at a predominantly white university, won the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize for Non-Fiction and was named a “Best Book of 2020” by the Globe and Mail, Chapters/Indigo, Audible and Apple. Currently Simon Fraser University’s Non-Fiction Writer-in-Residence, Eternity has a master’s degree in journalism from Ryerson and will be joining Ryerson as an assistant professor this fall.

Eternity Martis

Nikesha Sampson is a Student Ambassador in the Business Career Hub at the Ted Rogers School of Management and in the Recruitment Office. She also volunteers as a TedPack Mentor to help first-year TRSM students and serves as the Events Marketing Coordinator for the Black Business Students Association (BBSA), which has become a safe space for Black students and for all individuals to further develop themselves. Also working with BIPOC small businesses to promote their products and support them through the BBSA, she is committed to opening doors for BIPOC members, especially Black people, and breaking down barriers on their paths of success. In all of her endeavours, Nikesha is focused on expanding representation and inciting change for the next generation.

Nikesha Sampson

Kiya Busby is a Grade 12 student at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Secondary School and the founder, president and director of the Black Voices Lab, which supports Black students in the face of racial and social injustice. This past year, Kiya co-wrote a guide on running Black Voices Labs, now used in schools across the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board. As a result of Kiya’s advocacy, each Lab established in Dufferin-Peel high schools now receives funding and each high school now offers a full Black History course. The Black Voices Lab has been featured on various platforms such as CBC, Breakfast Television and the Youth Philanthropy Initiative. An aspiring dental student, Kiya hopes to continue providing Black students with resources to pursue their educational dreams.

Kiya Busby

Ashley Levins, now in Grade 12 at St. Morrow Park Catholic Secondary School, has been speaking out against racism ever since experiencing an unfortunate event in her first year of high school. With an immediate and clear understanding of the racial injustices she and her peers have faced and continue to face in education and society, Ashley has become vocal about the damaging material taught in school and even took on the daunting task of speaking in front of her school’s entire staff regarding the experience of Black students in her school. Ashley continues to educate herself on issues that the Black community faces and is currently enrolled in the first anti-Black racism course offered by the Toronto Catholic District School Board.

Ashley Levins

Student bursary recipients

Oluwapelumi Egbewumi is a fourth-year psychology student and the co-founder and president of Women of Colour in Law (WOCINLAW), an initiative that supports students who identify as women of colour in their journey to the legal profession. An aspiring lawyer who is passionate about advocating for human rights, especially in marginalized and immigrant communities, she was inspired to create WOCINLAW after her own experiences of discrimination as an immigrant to North America and also, while an undergraduate student, recognizing the underrepresentation of Black women in the field of law. Oluwapelumi is committed to helping young racialized women overcome barriers to achieve their dreams and to increasing the active participation of Black women within the legal profession.

Oluwapelumi Egbewumi

Nya Martin-Hemming is a 4th-year Business Management student majoring in Business Law at Ted Rogers School of Management. As the Executive Vice-President and Vice-President of Events at Ryerson Women in Leadership, Nya has led events and initiatives focused on women in male-dominated industries. She is currently the Executive Vice-President and Incoming President of the first Black Business Student Association, which provides resources for Black business students and helps increase representation for Black student leaders at Ryerson. She is also the EDI Commissioner for the Ted Rogers Student Society, improving EDI across the umbrella of 30+ student organizations through programming and initiatives to better support the students of TRSM. 

Nya Martin Hemming


The OVPECI would like to thank and acknowledge the ongoing support from our donors, sponsors and organizing committee!


The OVPECI is pleased to recognize the generosity of donors who have made a gift between March 2021 to present day:

  • Adrianne Kenmir
  • Dr. Alicia Hussain-Issari
  • Andrea Ridgley
  • Dr. Anna Triandafyllidou
  • Dr. Beverly-Jean Daniel
  • Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP
  • Dianne Norman
  • Erika Williams
  • Eunice Graham
  • Jastej Gill
  • Honourable Jean Augustine
  • Jenny Gumbs
  • Dr. Kathleen Kellett
  • Kirsti Piironen
  • Leonie Thelwell
  • Linda McLaren
  • Marsha Brown
  • Dr. Michael Dewson
  • Michael Tynes
  • Dr. Nadya Burton
  • Ndija Anderson
  • Dr. Pamela Appelt
  • Ross Mutton
  • Rudo Mataure
  • Trevor Massey
  • Dr. Wendy Freeman

Organizing committee

The 2022 Viola Desmond Awards and Bursary Program was organized by the Black History Awareness Committee. The Office of the Vice-President, Equity and Community Inclusion would like to acknowledge the enthusiasm, expertise and efforts that the committee put forth to help keep Viola’s legacy alive for generations of Black women everywhere through this program. 

Committee chair: Darrell Bowden

Event producer: Nicole Waldron

Committee members: Crystal Mark, Debora Jesus, Dr. Grace-Camille Munroe, Gregory John, Jermaine Bagnall, Justin Lloyd, Yonnette (Marcia) Glasgow, Mary Ola, Marsha Brown, Melissa Yu Vanti, Olanike (Nikki) Waheed, Rahma Hilowle, Shurla Charles-Forbes and Tiyahna Ridley-Padmore


If you have any questions, please email Cheryl Lewis (Executive Assistant, Office of the Vice-President, Equity and Community Inclusion) at or 416-979-5379.

This event is hosted by the OVPECI 

The Vice-President, Equity and Community Inclusion provides strategic leadership and support for the achievement of Ryerson’s vision to be a leader in equity, diversity and inclusion in all aspects of the university’s mandate.

Support the Viola Desmond Student Award and Bursary Program