January 28, 2021, Surrey, British Columbia – LGBTQ2S+ activist Christopher Nkambwe of Toronto has won the LGBTQ2S+ January Marie Lapuz Youth Leadership Award top prize for 2020.
The award was created by Sher Vancouver to recognize young leaders who are advocates for the LGBTQ2S+ community. For these sixth annual awards, sponsored by DIVERSEcity Community Resources Society for the second year, there were applicants from across Canada and beyond. Thirty-year-old Nkambwe, a Black transgender woman originally from Uganda, impressed the awards jury to grab the $1,000 award.
Nkambwe, who sought asylum in Canada in 2019, founded the African Centre for Refugees in Ontario, which supports vulnerable LGBTQ+ refugees from the African continent. “I am an activist and human rights defender who came from Uganda to Canada to attend the Women Deliver conference in June 2019. I was not able to return home because of fear for persecution due to my sexuality and gender identity and I started my journey as a refugee in Toronto,” says Nkambwe. “I have been able to fund my organization, African Centre for Refugees, using the small salary of $15 from my cleaning job to run the organization’s activities without external funding and I have managed to reach over 300 community members with our services.”
“I am so impressed with the quality of Christopher’s application and the leadership demonstrated in the LGBTQ2S+ community by all the applicants. The future is looking bright with leaders like this supporting, protecting and defending all of us,” says Alex Sangha, Sher Vancouver Founder and Award Coordinator.
In addition to the top prize, the first runner up, Mohammad Al Akel, 25, of Toronto, won $600. The second runner up position, with a prize of $400, was tied, with two winners: Tai August, 20, of Kelowna, BC, and Sonali (Alyy) Patel, 24, of Oakville, Ontario. Honourable mention ($200) was awarded to Sophia M. Matthew, 25, of Vancouver.
“The amazing work Christopher and the other winners are doing to improve the lives of LGBTQ2S+ and BIPOC people, even during this global pandemic, is truly inspiring,” says Upkar Singh Tatlay, Vice President, Board of Directors, DIVERSEcity Community Resources Society, the exclusive sponsor of the awards. “As a member of the awards jury, reading about their resilience, passion and dedication underscored the importance of shining a light on their stories through awards like these.”
The January Marie Lapuz Youth Leadership Award, created by Sher Vancouver in 2015, is named after Sher Vancouver’s late social coordinator, January Marie Lapuz, a transgender Filipina woman who was tragically murdered in New Westminster, BC, in September 2012.
“We are proud to support Sher Vancouver’s January Marie Lapuz Youth Leadership Award as the exclusive sponsor for the second year in a row,” says Neelam Sahota, Chief Executive Officer, DIVERSEcity. “At DIVERSEcity, we empower newcomers and others from the LGBTQ+ community through our LGBTQ+ Support Services and our free peer support group called Together Now. It’s important for us to have services tailored to their unique needs and experiences, and our support of these awards and Sher Vancouver is an extension of that commitment.”
In summary, the winners of this year’s January Marie Lapuz Youth Leadership Awards are (see full biographies online here):
Christopher Nkambwe, Winner ($1,000 prize)
30 years old | Toronto, Ontario
Ugandan-born founder of the African Centre for Refugees in Ontario and member of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants’ advisory committee that supports the settlement sector to more effectively serve LGBTQ2S+ newcomers.
Mohammad Al Akel, First Runner Up ($600 prize)
25 years old | Toronto, Ontario
Lebanese-born advocate for LGBTQ2S+ rights, human rights and climate justice, and author of The Influential Story of a Gay from the Middle East.
Tai August, Second Runner Up ($400 prize)
20 years old | Kelowna, BC
An Indigenous, psychology student at UBC Okanagan, and Etcetera’s Lived Experience Peer Youth Facilitator in Kelowna.
Sonali (Alyy) Patel, Second Runner Up ($400 prize)
24 years old | Oakville, Ontario
Trailblazing gay Gujarati gender fluid womxn and founder of the Queer South Asian Womxn’s Network.
Sophia M. Matthew, Honourable Mention ($200 prize)
25 years old | Vancouver, BC
Law student who has focused her legal education on creating space for marginalized narratives, particularly those of LGBTQ2S+ communities.
Emerging Youth Leaders Prizes
In addition to the top five winners above, Sher Vancouver has awarded $100 prizes to Emerging Youth Leaders to encourage youth who are starting to do great work with their advocacy for the LGBTQ2S+ community. This year’s winners are (see biographies online here):
- Angelica Poversky, 22, Vancouver
- Nel Jayson Santos, 22, Vancouver
- Kyle Yeung, 18, Richmond
- Jane MacNeil, 17, Calgary
- Maha Faruqi, 23, Kingston, Ontario
- Ashli Au, 20, Ottawa
- Azel Gallinger, 17, Ottawa