As a representative of my agency, the board on which I sit, and as a member of the Edmonton community that strongly believes that immigrants and newcomers enrich our city, I attended the sixth annual RISE Celebration on Thursday night at the Citadel Theatre.
RISE stands for Recognizing Immigrant Success & Excellence, and celebrates the outstanding contributions by immigrant individuals and organizations that support immigrants. This was my first time attending the RISE Awards, so I didn’t know what to expect.
Mayor Mandel and Councillor Sohi were on hand at the start to proclaim May 7 “RISE Day” in Edmonton. After that however, it was all a blur. Though I thought the awards were meant to be the focus of the evening, it almost seemed like the presentation and acceptance of them were token gestures. While I know I can’t compare this grassroots ceremony to something like the Mayor’s Celebration of the Arts, I expected more verbal background on each of the award winners. I have no doubt that the individuals recognized that night were deserving, but I was looking for more of a back story on each of them, in addition to more detail about their contributions – I thought RISE was an opportunity to make the larger community more aware of immigrant achievements.
Mayor Mandel and Councillor Sohi
Award nominees and hosts Sam Abouhassan and Maria Orydzuk
The other part of the celebration consisted of entertainment sets. My coworker was the “Entertainment Director” for the evening, and his band, Le Fuzz, acted as the “house band”. I first saw Le Fuzz at a previous Celebration of the Arts, and they continue to amaze me with the range of songs they can sing, not only in terms of language (Mandarin, Swahili, and Spanish for example), but also tone – from solemn to upbeat, they can do it all.
Other entertainment included: The People’s Poets, three Edmonton MCs who rap about social justice issues, local and global; Global Voices, a multicultural choir; Izuba, a group that performs dances unique to Rwanda; and Firefly Theatre, a performance troop known for “thought-provoking thrills and stunning displays of athleticism and grace”.
The People’s Poets
The highlight of the night was definitely the finale that involved all groups that performed that night – a spectacle that the photo below can’t quite capture. The energy in the room and the optimism of the song “Wana Kuja” (“Come on” in Swahili) was a great way to end the event.
Though I have my criticisms about the awards portion of the RISE Celebration, I can’t deny that the spirit of the event is true and important in a diverse city like Edmonton.
Thanks to Mack for being the photographer of the night! His photoset is here.