The 11th annual Artists for Peace and Justice (APJ) Festival Gala, presented by Labatt Breweries of Canada, raises an impressive $1.1 million for education in Haiti. This year’s APJ Gala was held at the Windsor Arms Hotel in Toronto and was co-chaired by Natasha Koifman and Suzanne Boyd.
APJ co-founder Deborah Rennard and Natasha Koifman opened the gala, taking the stage to express gratitude for supporters and guests, many of whom had been involved with APJ for more than 11 years. The 2019 gala theme, as explained by Rennard, focused on going back to the roots of the organization and looking at all that has been accomplished. The Academy for Peace and Justice has graduated more than 1,000 students since its inaugural year.
“I am incredibly grateful to have been part of the APJ family since day one. We went back to our roots this year, celebrating more than a decade of generous contributions and impactful support for APJ,” said Natasha Koifman, Canadian Board Chair, US Board of Directors and Festival Gala Co-Host. “The sense of purpose and unity in the room this evening was really special. Over the past 11 years, we truly accomplished what we set out to do: we bought our land, we built the Academy for Peace and Justice, and we will continue to provide education to the people of Haiti.”
Highlights from the evening include:
- Canadian filmmaker and activist Norman Jewison was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award, presented to him by former Canadian Changemaker Award-recipient David Daniels.
- Shamier Anderson and Stephan James presented Norman Jewison with his very own custom Roots varsity jacket, and spoke to the wonderful impact he has made to the world of global cinema through his iconic films that spark meaningful dialogue and challenge convention, and his unwavering commitment to causes near and dear to his heart.
- Diane Bald and Michael Budman were presented with the Canadian Changemaker Award, which celebrates the remarkable philanthropic contributions of some of Canada’s most inspiring individuals. The honour was presented to Diane and Michael with a heartwarming celebratory video created by their children, highlighting their unwavering support of Canadian philanthropic initiatives and charities around the world. The award was presented by Robbie Robertson and Janet Zuccarini, who spoke highly of the couple and attributed their relationship to an introduction made by Diane and Michael.
- Showcasing the first-hand impact of APJ on the lives of youth in Haiti, Jimmy Jean-Louis introduced Meloundja, a remarkable young woman who graduated the Academy for Peace and Justice, and now attends university as a full-time student in Montréal. In her remarks, Meloundja shared that she planned to bring her experience back to Haiti and contribute to her hometown and community.
- Danny Mantella and Rose Mantella committed a generous $250K to the cause and Rose will join the APJ Board of Directors.
- Cesare Fazari pledged an additional $250K a year for five years to support education for numerous students. Cesare will join the APJ Advisory Board.
- Mandy Rennehan contributed $25K to APJ’s 14th Year program, which supports high school students at the Academy for Peace and Justice as they transition to their future careers and higher education.
- With a surprise contribution, the Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto donated $25K to fund a grant program focused specifically on music programs in Haiti.
- The evening opened with a performance by Slaight Music performer Sam Drysdale and The Feldman Agency’s Tyler Shaw took the stage while guests enjoyed dinner.
- The gala concluded with a memorable performance from Arcade Fire’s Régine Chassagne, who was a key player in the record-breaking inaugural Montreal gala where Arcade Fire was honoured, and over a quarter of a million dollars was raised to benefit APJ and The KANPE Foundation. This year’s Toronto gala also generously supported The KANPE Foundation.
APJ’s mission is to encourage peace and social justice, working to alleviate poverty around the world. This simple yet impactful mission, has inspired many celebrities to join the organization, including Ben Stiller, Susan Sarandon, Olivia Wilde, Javier Bardem, Madeleine Stowe, Maxwell, Nicole Kidman, Pierce Brosnan, Jude Law, Penelope Cruz and many more. APJ believes that youth, especially those living in abject poverty, deserve liberty and equality to build a better life for themselves and for their families. By developing partnerships with local leaders in communities in-need, APJ works to create real opportunity with Valuable Education, Meaningful Employment, Inspiring Voices and Ethical Leadership.
Generous sponsors for this year’s gala event include Presenting Sponsor Labatt Breweries of Canada, Official Airline Sponsor Air Canada, Audi, the Windsor Arms Hotel and NKPR.