Celebrating a Black Futures Month full of events promoting learning, inclusion and community building

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Thanks to programming organized by Black Futures Initiatives, February was full of learning opportunities and events that enlightened and challenged the George Brown College (GBC) community. 

Mary Ola, Senior Manager of Black Futures Initiatives, led an incredible lineup of events, with some delivered in partnership with departments across the college, including the Office of Anti-Racism, Equity and Human Rights Services (OAREHRS), Alumni Relations, the Centre for Hospitality and Culinary Arts. The programming honoured the past, highlighted current achievements, and examined how we can collectively move forward to continue building an equitable college community where everyone feels they belong. 

“Our Black Futures Month programming throughout February was a tangible result of the college's unwavering commitment to centre and uplift Black individuals,” Ola said. “The varied array of events offered serves as a testament to our collective efforts, providing a snapshot of how Black Futures Initiatives will be woven into the fabric of our institution, ensuring sustained support and flourishing for the Black community.” 

Learn more about Ola's role and plans for Black Futures Initiatives. 

Leaders share their experiences and expertise 

Leaders in their fields shared their perspectives to educate and motivate the GBC community. Renowned artist d'bi young anitafrika led an intervention and dialogue alongside George Brown professors Charlene Dunstan, Nadine Sookermany, and Gail Hunter on the importance of grounding ourselves and contextualizing the land we occupy. They encouraged participants to think through the meaning and intention of land acknowledgments.  

Dragon's Den investor and BlackNorth Initiative Founder Wes Hall inspired students, employees and alumni by sharing how he overcame a difficult childhood to reach incredible heights in Canadian business.  

Dr. Mary Anne Chambers, Chancellor of the University of Guelph, imparted knowledge from her long and distinguished career as a banking executive, community leader and former Ontario cabinet minister in her Brighter Futures keynote address on February 21. She emphasized the importance of reflecting not only on the historical challenges and remarkable accomplishments of Black individuals but also on leveraging this history to shape a positive future, reminding us, “It’s also never wise to assume progress cannot be reversed.” 

"It was a great honour to listen to Dr. Chambers speak and gain wisdom from her stories," said Gisa Gatera, a student in GBC's Information Systems Business Analysis program and the Black Futures Ambassador. "Dr. Chambers is down-to-earth and took time to meet and listen to everyone." 

Celebrating a GBC milestone, highlighting Canadian Black history and building community 

On February 7, we celebrated the Black Student Success Network Space opening at St. James Campus, a place for Black students to build community and access support.

"BSSN has been a leader in this work," Jennifer Grant, Associate Vice-President, OAREHRS, said at the opening celebration. "Don't look at today as a moment, but as an experience over a period of time where people have advocated for this, have reached this important milestone, and continue to strive towards greater inclusion" 

Black Futures Initiatives engaged the college community with virtual documentary screenings on Canadian Black history. The month also included opportunities for workshops and spaces for members of the Black 2SLGTBQIA+ and disabled communities at GBC. Together with the Centre for Hospitality and Culinary Arts (CHCA), Black Futures Initiatives showcased the culinary traditions and diverse flavours of the African and Black diaspora at the Roots and Recipes cultural food exhibit on February 22.  Avion Primus, a student in the Honours Bachelor of Commerce (Culinary Management), made a dish called doubles for the event. 

“It is a delectable dish made in the Caribbean, specifically Trinidad, and it was a great experience to share a piece of the culture with the public,” she said. “I feel proud that I was part of an occasion that impacted the community for Black students.”

Primus said doubles highlight natural ingredients such as mangoes, chickpeas, tamarind, and cucumbers.

“This year’s Black Futures Month provided outstanding opportunities for the George Brown College community to honour the legacy of people of African descent in Canada and around the world,” said George Brown College President Dr. Gervan Fearon. “The programming and events inspired us to look towards the future with hope of the possibilities of a more just and inclusive society and highlighted the exciting vision of Black Futures Initiatives at George Brown College.” 

Spotlighting alumni achievement 

We also celebrated the achievements of GBC alumni, including Emefa Kuadey, whose acclaimed women's clothing brand, ISRAELLA KOBLA, was recently picked up by Nordstrom. We showcased the continued success of actor and Theatre Arts – Performance grad Tymika Tafari and Construction Engineering Technician grad Rokhaya (Rok) Gueye, who has become an invaluable ambassador for skilled trades training. 

Black Futures Initiatives would like to thank the Marketing and Communications, Facilities, Special Events, and External Relations departments for their support in co-creating an amazing month of events.  

Black Futures Initiatives continues to look forward and build out its programming and supports, all aimed at eradicating anti-Black racism, championing transformation, and fostering an inclusive environment for Black students, staff, faculty and allies within GBC.  

Learn more at georgebrown.ca/black-futures. 

d'bi young anitafrika with Dr Gervan Fearon

d'bi young anitafrika with Dr. Gervan Fearon

Wes Hall and Kizzy Rodney during fireside chat

Wes Hall with Kizzy Rodney, Associate Vice-President, External & Community Relations

Jennifer Grant, Dr. Mary Anne Chambers, Mary Ola, and Dr. Morris Anthony Beckford

(L-R) Jennifer Grant, Dr. Mary Anne Chambers, Mary Ola, and Dr. Morris Anthony Beckford.

CHCA atrium full of people for Roots and Recipes event

A packed CHCA atrium for the Roots & Recipes cultural food exhibit event.

Staff and students celebrated the BSSN Space opening, February 7, 2024.

Land Acknowledgments from the Black Perspective, February 5

BSSN Space opening, February 7

Book launch & fireside chat with Wes Hall, February 8

Wes Hall and Kizzy Rodney during fireside chat
Wes Hall speaking into a hand held mic
Wes Hall signing his book

Brighter Futures keynote address with Dr. Mary Anne Chambers, February 21

Roots & Recipes cultural food exhibit, February 22