Reflecting on Black History Month

Black History Month

February 2024 marked a significant milestone in my journey of self-discovery and community engagement, as I participated in Black History Month celebrations for the first time after two years in Canada. This year’s events organized in the Kitchener/Waterloo region that I was involved in, centered around “Black Futures” and “Inspiring Black Flourishing in Waterloo Region and Beyond,” provided not just a platform for dialogue but also a learning experience about the essence of community, inspiration and forward-thinking.

The first event organized by the Caribbean Canadian Association of Waterloo Region, focused on the future of Black youth, was an eye-opening discussion that brought together experienced individuals – Naomie Seh Abomo4th year Civil Engineering student and co-founder of National Society of Black Engineers at UWaterloo, Lowenna Barungi 4th year Communications Studies and Business student and talented singer, Junell Antwi3rd year Psychology student and current VP of UW Black Association for Student Expression, Emelia Assigbey – 4th year Health Studies student and current President of UW African Students Association and Rachel Almaw – masters Health  Sciences and Kinesiology student at UW and 2024 Global Future Feature.

Black Futures

As one of the panelists, I had the unique opportunity to contribute my perspectives on what black future means, what potential advancement or prospects I see as a black youth, how we can achieve our goals and whether there are any measures we think will signify we have arrived.

Empowerment through Representation

 

One of the critical takeaways from the “Black Futures” event was the importance of representation echoed by Naomie, Lowenna and Junell. Seeing individuals who look like us in positions of success and leadership can inspire a new generation to dream bigger and aim higher. As an extension to this, myself, Emelia and Rachel highlighted how to actively continue with the work we are doing in the effort to drive social change.

Mentorship as a Catalyst for Growth

 

The discussions we had at the round table with fellow youth and community members delved into the role of mentorship in nurturing the next generation of leaders. Mentorship, as we discussed, is not merely about guidance but about creating a supportive ecosystem that encourages exploration, resilience, and leadership from a young age. A revolving theme on this was on not gate-keeping, but

For those of you that do not believe in mentorship, I think it is key to explore the benefits of having one as simply a guide: 6 reasons Why You Need a Mentor. And beyond this understanding the difference between a Mentor, Coach and Sponsor will allow you to leverage your network and discover what you need based on the status of your journey.

Economic Empowerment

 

Another theme that emerged was the significance of entrepreneurship as a vehicle for economic empowerment and innovation. The conversation around how local businesses can support Black entrepreneurship was particularly enlightening. It highlighted the need for inclusive policies, access to resources, and community support systems that enable Black entrepreneurs to thrive. This aspect of the discussion was not only a call to action for existing businesses but also an encouragement for young Black individuals to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams and innovative ideas whilst seeking support.

Inspiring Black Flourishing

 

The second event, “Inspiring Black Flourishing in Waterloo Region and Beyond,” built on these themes, focusing on the current state and future prospects of the Black community’s flourishing. It was a celebration of progress, a recognition of challenges, and a collective envisioning of a future where Black individuals and communities thrive in all aspects of life.

Sharing the panel with community leaders like Aaron Francis and Jacky Beckford-Henriques, whose work in documenting the African Diaspora and fostering change in the University of Waterloo, respectively, underscored the diverse ways in which community can manifest and enrich the lives of Black youth.

Black Hostory Month

Networking, community building, and the sharing of lived experiences were central to this event. The connections made and the stories shared were a powerful reminder of the strength found in unity and the potential for significant impact when we come together. My engagement with attendees, fellow panelists, and organizers reaffirmed my commitment to the Young Eye Initiative and the broader goals of representing the needs, interests and aspirations of young people.

A Path Forward

 

Reflecting on this black history month, there is a lot to be hopeful about. The conversations, ideas, and connections forged during Black History Month 2024 are invaluable stepping stones toward a future where Black flourishing is not just an aspiration but a reality. The journey ahead is going to be challenging, but by working together, supporting each other, and staying committed to the cause holds limitless potential for impact.

My thoughts on supporting each other: Why we need to support each other?

I extend my heartfelt gratitude to everyone involved in making these events a success – from the organizers to the attendees, and especially my fellow panelists in both events. Your insights, enthusiasm, and dedication to fostering a better future for the Black community are inspiring. Together, we have laid the groundwork for meaningful change, and I look forward to continuing this journey, toward a future where every Black individual has the opportunity to flourish.

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