A first-ever provincial black youth leadership conference was hosted at Mount Saint Vincent University (MSVU) on Friday.
The conference brought 135 black youth from across the province to Halifax, and was put together by the Delmore Buddy Daye Learning Institute and MSVU.
Chanae Parsons, a co-ordinator with the institute, said they decided to host the provincial conference after recognizing a concern voiced by many black youths.
“A lot of them spoke to previous experiences around growing up attending all of these youth conferences that don’t necessarily happen for African Nova Scotian students anymore,” said Parsons. “So we decided to go ahead with having a provincial-wide conference.”
Various workshops, ranging from financial education, mental health and wellness to preventing community violence, were available for the youth to attend.
Co-organizer and MSVU Black Student Co-ordinator DeRico Symonds said that the topics were deliberately chosen to meet the needs of the community.
“These particular topics are important for the African Nova Scotian community,” said Symonds. “To have young people go to a workshop facilitated by someone who looks like them is empowering in itself.”
That same empowerment is what 18-year-old Sheraton Simmonds from Sydney Pier in Cape Breton said she felt.
“It’s been really eye-opening,” said Simmonds. “I get to know that I’m not alone in this.”
Simmonds, who graduates this year, said that she found the conference useful for her, especially what she learned in a cultural identity and self-love workshop.
“I know a bunch of my friends (who) came don’t have the amount of confidence and support,” said Simmonds. “So, it’s good to go and see how I can help them.”
Showing initiative to give back is what Symonds said he hoped the students would bring to their communities.
“I would like students to leave with the energy and the idea of feeling empowered to actually do something,” said Symonds.
Parsons said that there was an importance in having the event hosted on a post-secondary campus.
“We wanted folks to see themselves reflected in post-secondary institutes,” said Parsons. “We also wanted them to see themselves in leadership roles.”
Simmonds hopes to become a nurse in the future. Before that, she wants to pass on what she’s learned during the conference to her community.
“Even though I’m graduating in a month, I’d rather leave something behind for the rest of the generations coming,” said Simmonds. “If I can help make a change, I’m going to make a change.”