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United Way Greater Toronto partners with the Federation of Black Canadians to celebrate the International Decade of People of African Descent

UWGT and the Federation of Black Canadians host Black Leadership and Recognition Breakfast Event awards to honour business, community and youth leaders in the GTA

February 2, 2024 (Toronto, ON) – United Way Greater Toronto and the Federation of Black Canadians kicked off Black History Month with an awards ceremony at the annual Black Leadership and Recognition Breakfast Event this morning with over 250 attendees from across the GTA.

The event was first launched by United Way’s Black Community Advisory Council (BCAC) in 2017, to recognize leadership by people in Black communities and provide a platform for issues impacting Black communities. Held in-person after four years, the theme of this year’s event was Beyond the Decade: Empowering the Next Generation, with opening remarks from Lisa Gonsalves, United Way Greater Toronto’s Chair of the Board of Trustees.

Three award categories were presented: Leadership in Business, Youth and Community.  

Winners include:   

Child Mental Health Specialist and Community Leader, Aretha McCarthy won the Community Leadership Award for demonstrating outstanding civic leadership through a commitment to addressing barriers affecting deserving equity groups, communities and people with disabilities. Ms. McCarthy was also honoured for the success of DevelopME, a non-profit she founded serving Black youth and their families. 

Award-winning author and founder of COJ BOOKZ, Kamelah Blair, won the Leadership in Business Award, for her significant contribution towards the literary world, and her advocacy work in therapeutic writing to empower and improve the social well-being of the Black community.  

Stephen Mensah, Executive Director of the Toronto Youth Cabinet, received the Youth Leadership Award, recognizing his advocacy work on behalf of Toronto’s over 623,000 youth for a more equitable and youth friendly city, including championing steps to address anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism in Ontario’s education system to ensure no young person is unable to reach their full potential due to their socioeconomic status and demographic.  

The event also featured radio host and television personality, Bee Quammie as keynote speaker, and hosted an engaging panel of leaders who discussed the achievements of the Black community over the past decade in the areas of business, health, climate change and technology, ultimately celebrating how progress is empowering the next generation to build more equitable communities.  

Today’s event holds particular significance marking the culmination of the International Decade for People of African Descent – equal parts a celebration and a reflection. As we look at the inequities facing the Black community, we recommit to our work with Black and other equity deserving groups to help remove systemic barriers and improve social conditions. Celebrating Black History Month goes beyond the month of February as we continue to honour the histories of Black communities across Canada and the globe, and support Black-led solutions that advance equity and build an inclusive region – for all.

Daniele Zanotti, President and CEO of United Way Greater Toronto 

Using our platform to recognize and bring awareness to people doing amazing work in our community is a value that FBC holds dear. That is why we are extremely happy that United Way Greater Toronto and the Federation of Black Canadians could come together and ensure that the tradition continued at this year’s event. The Black Leadership and Recognition Breakfast is not just an event but a platform to recognize individuals keeping our community vibrant, giving their time sometimes without thanks, and helping to inspire the next generation as well.

Christopher Thompson, Executive Director of the Federation of Black Canadians

For all media inquiries, please reach out to: 

Meetu Madahar
Communications Manager, United Way Greater Toronto
(416) 817-4668

About United Way: As the largest non-government funder of community services in the GTA, United Way Greater Toronto reinforces a crucial community safety net to support people living in poverty. United Way’s network of agencies and initiatives in neighbourhoods across Peel, Toronto and York Region works to ensure that everyone has access to the programs and services they need to thrive. Mobilizing community support, United Way’s work is rooted in ground-breaking research, strategic leadership, local advocacy and cross-sectoral partnerships committed to building a more equitable region and lasting solutions to the GTA’s greatest challenges.


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