Black History Month: 6 young Canadian leaders changing the game

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Black History Month: 6 young Canadian leaders you should know
ABOVE: 6 young Canadian leaders you should know – Feb 29, 2020

Black History Month in Canada aims to celebrate the achievements and contributions of Black Canadians — both past and present — who help make the country a better place.

This year’s theme is “Canadians of African Descent: Going forward, guided by the past.” The theme highlights the importance of acknowledging the role Black citizens have played in the growth of the country and their continual work in shaping a culturally diverse and inclusive nation.

In honour of Black History Month this February, Global News spoke to ambitious young leaders across the country about their work, goals for the future and who inspires them.

From mentoring Black youth to advocating for climate justice, these young Canadians are doing important work in their communities and at large.

Ebuka Ufondu, 25, Montreal

Photo by Ilya Nesciorek, art by Laura Whelan

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Who is he? A solution designer at Deloitte and volunteer Big Brother at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Montreal.

Who inspires you? “I’m the oldest of four siblings, so I’ve always striven to set a good example for them and other younger members of the Black and African community. I mentor a teenager from Cameroon and also do activities regularly with him such as bowling, mini-golf and even attending both a Montreal Impact and a Montreal Alouettes game this past year.

“I moved to Canada when I was eight and experienced first-hand how challenging it can be to understand and fit into a new environment and culture. It has been a great experience helping my Little Brother navigate that. I would encourage anyone interested in being a mentor to a young kid in the community to get involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters; it’s been a rewarding experience!”

What are your goals for 2020? “My goals for 2020 are to continue building a strong relationship with my Little Brother from the Big Brothers program, continue to grow professionally at work, and also find ways through organizations such as Big Brothers or the Canadian Black Professionals Network at Deloitte to continue to have a positive impact on the Black and African community in Montreal.”

Kia Nurse, 24, Hamilton

Supplied by Kia Nurse, art by Laura Whelan

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Who is she? A professional basketball player for the New York Liberty of the WNBA and a member of the Canadian women’s basketball team.

Who inspires you? “My family is a huge inspiration. They have been so influential in helping me become the woman and the player I am today. I am grateful for all of the sacrifices my parents made to allow me to chase my dreams to the fullest extent. I am also inspired by the young women who are finding a love in sport. I truly believe in the power of representation. I want young women to be able to dream of becoming a female professional athlete and to reap the benefits of sport. I think the skills and lessons learned on the court, field or pitch can be so useful in everyday life.”

What are your goals for 2020? “In 2020, I hope to continue making an impact in the WBNA, create a cross-Canada camp circuit for the Kia Nurse Basketball Academy and expand the reach of the Kia Nurse Elite AAU program, as well as bring home a medal from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.”

Larissa Crawford, 25, Calgary

Photo by Solange Lalonde, art by Laura Whelan.

Who is she? An urban Métis and Jamaican woman, mother and founder of Future Ancestors Services, an enterprise that provides community services that centre around ancestral accountability, climate justice and equity.

What do you do in your work? “Future Ancestors Services provides speaking, training and research services. We host a growing portal that charts and supports diverse service contractors based in Canada, with the aim of uplifting people who — despite facing disproportionate barriers — remain committed to the Earth and community in their work and lives.”

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Who inspires you? “In the past year, especially, my inspiration has been fuelled by the front-line activists and organizers advancing climate justice and ensuring that climate action is not separated from Indigenous sovereignty and racial justice.

“While I participate in rallies and protests, I have an immense respect for the people leading the organization of public mobilization and the necessary community supports and education. They are required to be expert event planners, social service providers, and so much more, all while being unpaid.”

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What are your goals for 2020? “My 2020 aspiration is that this global movement towards climate justice and Indigenous sovereignty continues to grow in masses and spaces.

“I hope that more of us climate justice activists find our ways into boardroom spaces, into decision-making positions and into the legacies our generations will be remembered by. And hope requires action — otherwise, it is simply a stagnant dream — so my 2020 goal is to advance this mission by any means necessary.”

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Andreas Robinson, 26, Halifax

Photo by Mathew Forgione, art by Laura Whelan.

Who is he? A social entrepreneur who has established a group of companies over the last five years, including the Infinitus Academy, a consulting firm that works to empower youth and local communities. 

What do you do in your work? “Over the last four years, we’ve worked with elementary schools all the way up to post-secondary schools building workshops, bringing in speakers and running programs with youth. 

“We have two federally funded programs; one is specifically in 10 high schools across Nova Scotia. It’s a program that is addressing anti-Black racism and… empowering the young Black professional mindset.”

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Who inspires you? “I was raised by a single mother — she had me when she was 18 — and she went through and graduated university. That resilience and sacrificing… Those kinds of things are really ingrained in me as is the belief that it does take a community to raise a kid.”

What are your goals for 2020? “My goals are to continue to edge ourselves out as a brand by setting an industry standard and taking the lead in the different spaces that we work in. It is a privilege to have conversations with federal and provincial ministers… [which helps ensure] we’re being called in the room and brought onto projects by the government.”

Daenah Campbell (Dae the Poet), 21, Toronto

Photo by Dina Roudman, art by Laura Whelan.

Who is she? An actor and poet.

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What do you do in your work? “I write poetry and perform spoken word for a few different brands. Most recently, I was commissioned to write a piece for Versace, and I performed it at their store for an event. In terms of acting, I mainly do a lot of commercial acting and print modelling for different companies, like Venus Gillette, Uber and Nike.”

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Who inspires you? My mom was probably my biggest inspiration growing up; she’s a poet. She’d always take me to poetry bars or poetry slam competitions. 

“I always really loved the feeling of performing. As a little kid, I recall watching TV and I’d get so excited for the commercial break, because every time a commercial came on, I would try to do it with them. I felt like my inspiration always came from my vision of myself in the future.”

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What are your goals for 2020? “This year, I told myself that I was going to book a substantial TV or film role, something where I get to play someone very much like myself — kind of what Fresh Prince did for Will Smith.”

Mukisa Kakembo, 23, Halifax

Photo by Brie Dukeshire, art by Laura Whelan.

Who is she? A student at Dalhousie’s Schulich School of Law interested in advancing the protection of human rights and access to justice.

What do you do in your work? “I am on the board of directors of the Delmore ‘Buddy’ Daye Learning Institute, and co-chair of their first Black Youth Advisory Council. The council shares their experiences with the local education system to identify systemic barriers and challenges youth face to provide the board with advice on how to better support African Nova Scotian learners.

“I’m also a member of the Dalhousie Black Law Students Association and a pro-bono advocate for the Elizabeth Fry Society of Mainland Nova Scotia.”

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Who inspires your work? “Dalhousie law professor Michelle Williams and American lawyer Kimberlé Crenshaw.”

What are your goals for 2020? “Creating a meaningful experience for the members of the DBDLI Youth Council, find an articling position, work with the Dalhousie Legal Aid Clinic, travel to a new country, be more mindful and develop my self-care practices.”

Interviews have been edited for clarity.

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