Inspiring Black Flourishing

Black History Month

Black History Month

 

February 2024, my first ever involvement in black history month in any capacity. Not because I was unaware of it, but simply because, in my country, where race does not serve as the primary form of prejudice, we therefore tend to overlook it. However, this year, in a vibrant celebration of community, heritage, and forward-thinking, the University of Waterloo, in partnership with the Kitchener Public Library and hosted by CBC Kitchener-Waterloo’s Josette Lafleur, brought together minds and hearts from across the region in an event titled “Inspiring Black Flourishing in Waterloo Region and Beyond.”

The Event

 

I had the honor of being invited as a panelist by Kelly McManus, the Associate Vice-President of Community Relations and Events, an invitation that honestly humbled me. And the recommendation from Dr. Anita Taylor, the acting vice-president equity, diversity, inclusion & Anti-Racism.

The event was a blend of ideas, experiences, and visions aimed at nurturing and propelling the flourishing of Black communities in the Waterloo Region and beyond. I shared this panel with community leaders Aaron Francis, the visionary behind Vintage Black Canada™, and Jacky Beckford-Henriques, the Varsity Swim Coach at the University of Waterloo and Co-founder of the Alliance, was an experience that underscored the event’s depth and diversity.

Aaron’s contributions to documenting the African Diaspora in Canada and Jacky’s efforts to effecting meaningful change in the University of Waterloo culture, respectively, set a compelling backdrop for the discussions.

Panel Discussion and Presentation

 

The panel opened with in three individual presentations, each casting light on different facets of the black experience and the journey toward equity and empowerment. My presentation focused on the evolution of the Young Eye Initiative, tracing its journey from the Young Eye Foundation to Young Eye International, and now, Young & Restless. This initiative, with its different facets aims at simply representing the needs, interests and aspirations of young people from a youth lens.

Darren Harry Baine

The discussions that followed our presentations delved into critical areas of societal development and empowerment. We explored how local businesses can support entrepreneurship, a vital engine for economic growth and innovation. The importance of early youth development was underscored, highlighting the need for nurturing environments that foster curiosity, resilience, and leadership from a young age. Furthermore, the conversation ventured into the significance of documenting and sharing lived experiences, a practice that not only preserves history but also enriches our collective understanding and empathy – an interesting look into this was through the work Aaron does.

Panel Black Flourishing

The event was not just a platform for dialogue but also a fertile ground for networking and community building. I did what I do and used the lessons I shared from How to Build your network. I had the privilege of meeting numerous individuals, each bringing their unique perspectives and aspirations to the table. These connections for me served as a prospective promise of future collaborations, shared projects, and continued support for the Young Eye Initiative.

Future of the Work

 

“Inspiring Black Flourishing in Waterloo Region and Beyond” was more than an event; it was a testament to the power of community, the importance of dialogue, and the immense momentum of collective action if we all work together. This event was a reminder that while the journey towards equity and empowerment is long with challenges, it is filled with moments of connection, understanding, and progress.

Reflecting on the event fills me with a continued reassurance of purpose and renews my optimism. The conversations we had, the ideas we shared, and the connections forged are stepping stones toward a future where flourishing is not just an aspiration. This can be a lived reality for the Black community in Waterloo Region and beyond, but can also be a lived reality. The Young Eye Initiative, with its focus on youth engagement and leadership, will continue trying to contribute to this future.

I extend my deepest gratitude to Kelly McManus, Heather Bolton and University of Waterloo for the invitation. To my fellow panelists for their inspiring contributions, and to everyone involved in organizing and participating in this event. And to my friends Ola, Patricia and all the others that came all the way to support, THANK YOU!

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