VICTORIES & CHALLENGES OF CALGARY'S BLACK COMMUNITY
For many, the last two years have proven to be extremely difficult. The isolation, the rise in cases and the uncertainties have taken their toll on everyone, especially the Black community. Issues of systemic racism, racial inequalities and biases were exposed and brought to light unlike ever before. Black people were left to find within themselves an extra level of strength to face many of the problems and challenges.
What were the challenges the Black community faced during this new unprecedented situation? And most importantly, how did people manage to rise up and find victories during these challenging times?
Tomi Ajele - Editor-In-Chief at Afros in tha City
Tomi Ajele is the Editor-In-Chief of Afros In Tha City. Her work can also be found in The Huffington Post, CBC, The Sprawl, and ByBlacks. Tomi is currently pursuing a Master’s in Public Policy and hopes to continue to use her voice to advocate for an anti-oppressive tomorrow.
Emilyn Ghann - CEO, Alora
Emilyn Ghannis one of three founding members of the Alora team. Emilyn was looking for a new hobby since her children were getting older, and she ended up discovering a new career.
Emilyn and her daughter Jameela had their first market at Prince Island Park in August 2008 and were surprised at the customers' responses to the pieces they had designed and made. That was the inspiration they needed to plunge full steam ahead. Alora went from attending events to having a fully-stocked store to having employees as well as becoming a significant wholesaler in the accessories business in Canada and the USA. Alora has come a long way, and Emilyn will continue to design pieces that her customers will appreciate for years to come. Alora has cemented itself in the accessories business.
Femi Bode-George - Curator, Icarus Sound
Femi Bode-George, is an ex finance professional, DJ, curator and founder of Icarus Sound collective based in Calgary. Born in Lagos Nigeria, he moved to Canada as a teenager in the mid 2000s. His passion for all music led to the creation of the Icarus Sound platform, which strives to create unique social events in safe spaces that bring people together for a memorable time. Since inception of Icarus Sound in 2018, Femi has gone on to collaborate with most of the top venues in Calgary, the likes of the Historic Palace Theatre to DJ and host other DJs from Alberta and Internationally. He continues to leverage the power of music to bring about positive cultural change that spotlight Calgary on the global scale.
Jon M. Cornish - Co-Founder & President, Calgary Black Chamber
Jon Cornish is known for his legendary nine years in the Canadian Football League where he was selected as the top Canadian player three years consecutively, Most Outstanding Player in 2013 and helped lead his team to two Grey Cup championships. During and after this unmatched, Hall of Fame career as a Calgary Stampeder, where he was only the second football player to win the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada’s top athlete, Mr. Cornish spent the last nine years in various wealth management roles, working as a consultant and as part of a private investment counsel wealth team. Jon is now an investment advisor and team lead at RBC Dominion Securities, where he is responsible for building client relationships, providing wealth management guidance and holistic, goal-oriented financial planning.
Jon works with various non-profits and charities around Calgary, including as an event host for the Alberta Children's Hospital, working directly with at-risk youth for Wood's Homes, and the Calgary Foundation, where he serves on the committee of the Doc Seaman Hockey Fund. Jon also continues to work with the Calgary Stampeders as their gameday ambassador. Jon is the president of the Calgary Black Chambers, a non-profit working to make Calgary the best place to live and work for BIPOC peoples.
Motola Dawodu - Artistic Director of Afrikadey
MoTola is a Canadian filmmaker, poet, and a founding member of Darkberry Creative, a group of black women who are artists based in Calgary, Alberta. As the Assistant Artistic Director of Afrikadey! Arts & Culture Society, showcasing African art is a central part of what she does. Whether it is through dance, music, spoken word, visual art and theatrical readings, her purpose is to display the positive aspects of African people, people from the diaspora and their contributions to the world. In 2017, she organized a successful African Film Festival in partnership with the Calgary International Film Festival. Her passion for the community has led her to help and partner with several organizations for events and panel discussions.
Her love for creativity has expanded to other artistic avenues. With a degree in Fine Arts MoTola Dee began writing poetry as a creative outlet to overcome barriers she experienced and worked to overcome early in life. For MoTola, writing is a profound expression of self; and allows her to make thought-provoking social commentaries through her words.
In 2013, her semi-autobiographical “I’m OK” was turned into a short film “The Close on Her Back “. As a filmmaker and poet, she continues to perform her inspirational poetry at events and festivals such as “We Gon Be Alright” Cabaret at Arts Common in Calgary. MoTola is currently developing and producing a comedy series and two Docuseries that will highlight the importance of African history and black and indigenous relations, with production in the USA, Canada and Africa.
Randy Quansah - Host & Founder, Kujo's Kid Zone
I am a Canadian-raised bilingual (English/French) black man and YouTube show host/founder, set out to create a series of episodes aimed at teaching young children and their parents about the wonders of the world at a child's level--using science, stories, music, social awareness, and conversation to learn about how to grow up kind, brave, curious and be proud of who you are. The show’s approach is based on early childhood education principles mixed with exploring social causes and issues such as racism, culture, diversity, and biases. The new iteration of our show is set in a community centre with BIPOC representation, music, experiments, anthropology, creativity and silliness.