Providing necessary support
In its 2019 Race Relations in Canada survey, analytics provider Environics found that 83% of Black Canadians perceive racism or discrimination “at least sometimes,” while 50% of members of non-Black communities say racism is “no longer a problem.”
Wiping out racism means eliminating that perception gap. Getting more POC into positions of influence is one of the best ways to do that.
“I think that the concept of the BlackNorth Initiative and the work that we are doing to develop and empower communities is very critical, especially where we are right now with the collision of racial tensions and COVID-19,” says Dahabo Ahmed-Omer, BlackNorth’s executive director.
“It’s important that we create these programs that are going to give our communities access to incredible opportunities. Corporate Canada has really stood up to be able to offer these amazing, amazing ways to support the community.”
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There are currently a pair of education-focused programs high school and college students can apply for.
One is the CIBC Youth Accelerator, a scholarship being offered through a partnership with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada. Successful candidates can secure $50,000 to cover four years of tuition, while also receiving mentorship, financial education and opportunities for paid internships or co-ops.
To be eligible, applicants must be in Grade 10 or 11 and be involved with a Boys and Girls Club; a nomination from a club staff member is required. The application deadline for the 2022 scholarship passed in December 2021. However, you now have plenty of time to start building your case for 2023.
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BlackNorth has also partnered with Toronto’s Ryerson University to encourage participation in two critical areas where Black voices are in short supply: journalism and the law.
The Wes Hall Award for Black Journalism, a $5,000 bursary, will be made available this fall to first-year undergrad students enrolled full-time in Ryerson’s School of Journalism. To be eligible, students must demonstrate both financial need and a commitment to their community.
Ryerson’s Lincoln Alexander School of Law is providing entrance scholarships worth $5,000 to five full-time members of the Class of 2024. As with the Wes Hall Award, applicants for this scholarship must have a financial need and be actively involved with their community. High academic standing is a must, too.
“The biggest part for us regarding education is really capacity,” Ahmed-Omer says. “When you know better, you do better.”
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A partnership with Habitat For Humanity GTA and Dream Legacy Foundation, the BlackNorth Initiative Homeownership Bridge Program is an affordable housing solution aimed at helping Black Canadians generate the kind of generational wealth that can be used to start a business, pay for a child’s education and plan for retirement.
Regina Magambo, a mother of three currently renting in Oakville, Ont., heads one of the families that will have an opportunity to purchase their first home with the program’s help.
“I am truly grateful and very excited to see what the future has to hold,” she says.
The program is fairly nuanced. There’s no down payment required, but there are two mortgages to pay off. The first comes from a traditional lender. The second is provided by the Homeownership Bridge Program and covers the difference between the purchase price and the first mortgage. You don't start paying that one until the first mortgage is paid off.
Participants will have to be on board with a shared equity program that caps their appreciation at 2% annually on the first mortgage. They’ll also have to meet several minimal requirements, including being the parent or legal guardian of at least one child under the age of 16, having a work history in Canada that’s at least three years long and having a gross household income between $65,000 and $90,000.
If you want to take part in the program, you’ll also have to commit to 500 hours of volunteer work, complete a homeowner education program and agree to act as a program ambassador.
According to analysis by the BlackNorth Initiative, Black Canadians:
Make up less than 1% of the country’s senior executives; Hold no C-suite executive positions at Canada’s largest energy companies, banks, telecom providers and life insurers; Have not been made federal deputy ministers or federal court judges.
BlackNorth Academy, a one-year online program led by professors at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, aims to reverse these trends. The program teaches enrollees skills — team building, governance strategies, brand development — that can help them improve their career prospects and put them on a path to corporate influence.
Aside from helping Blacks generate greater wealth that can be used to support their families and communities, populating boardrooms with non-white faces can also help chip away at lingering racist barriers.
“When we think about systemic change, we're talking about people changing. And when people start to shift, mindsets start to shift. When we have a diversity of perspective and thought and background, our systems will change,” says Ahmed-Omer.
The BlackNorth Initiative has also rolled out an offering for Black-identifying artists.
“A lot of our Black community members are in arts and media, but unfortunately have not been able to grow because of the lack of opportunities in these spaces and because of COVID-19,” Ahmed-Omer says. “Our work-live program is able to provide a space where you can work in the arts and feel that you have a sense of belonging.”
With support from real estate developer The Daniels Corporation, BlackNorth’s work-live program will provide eligible artists reduced-rate, work-live studios in Toronto’s Regent Park neighbourhood.
To be eligible, you need to be a professional artist that belongs to an arts group or organization. You’ll also have to agree to contribute at least eight hours a month to the Regent Park community and include in your proposal a “social impact exchange plan” that details how you plan on engaging with the community.
You can find more information on any of these programs here.
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