This week we’re talking about Black leadership and Black-led initiatives, non-profit appreciation, and the need for real housing solutions.
On February 2, I had the immense privilege of joining more than 250 friends and colleagues at the Black Leadership and Recognition Breakfast Event. Co-hosted by United Way and the Federation of Black Canadians, this inspiring morning kicked off Black History Month by celebrating Black leaders in our community and reflecting on the progress made in the past decade.
A dynamic panel featuring Denise Campbell from the City of Toronto, the Black Health Alliance’s Paul Bailey, Faith Edem from Environment and Climate Change Canada and Mo’ Ekujumi from SkillHat spoke about how Black-led movements have galvanized local governments to address anti-Black racism. How Black youth are building coalitions to fight the climate crisis more effectively. How Black-led initiatives are leading to more young people developing careers in tech and other rapidly growing sectors.
Lisa Gonsalves, a changemaker in York Region and chair of United Way Greater Toronto’s Board of Trustees, turned the spotlight on some of the initiatives United Way has had the privilege of investing in and working with: The Nia Centre, an outstanding black community centre that opened in Little Jamaica this past fall. The Black Resilience Cluster, which is strengthening the capacity of Black –led, –focused and –serving organizations. The Youth School Success Initiative, which has been supporting youth in peel since 2017 and has inspired similar work in York Region and Toronto.
But even as they celebrated the wins of the past, these local leaders kept the focus on the future—and the fragility of the progress made so far. As panellist Denise Campbell said, “We make steps forward and then we also go backwards simultaneously.” A reminder that change does not happen in a straight line—and that it is all of our responsibilities to do what we can today so that the next generation can go further, faster.
This Black History Month, and every other month of the year, we here at United Way will continue to support that work however we can. Because the only way forward is to stand united. And I am proud and honoured to stand beside the brilliant Black leaders guiding us toward a better future.
Always, and only, thank you.
President & CEO
United Way Greater Toronto
Things to Know Right Now
Celebrating Black Leaders
We want to take a moment to celebrate the achievements of a few more Black leaders in our community. Debbie Douglas, executive director of the United Way-supported Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI), was recently one of several prominent Black leaders appointed to the Order of Canada. Her powerful work around equity and inclusion in the Canadian immigration system is strengthening our communities. And at the Black Leadership and Recognition Breakfast Event, we celebrated three other local leaders making real change in our region. Awards were given to Aretha McCarthy for outstanding civic leadership, Kamelah Blair for her contributions to literature and Stephen Mensah for his advocacy work on behalf of Toronto youth. A big congratulations to all three!
Non-Profit Appreciation Week
Next week is the third annual Non-Profit Week of Appreciation in Ontario. United Way Greater Toronto was all in when MPP Daisy Wai, philanthropist Raksha Bhayana and the Ontario Non-profit Network first championed this week of awareness and recognition. Now, we’re taking this opportunity to show our appreciation for the organizations and the staff who create vibrant, connected communities through their vital work. This crucial community safety net kept our communities going throughout the pandemic and continues to meet skyrocketing demand—and we need to back up our gratitude with investment in the non-profit sector to ensure it continues to be there when we need it most.
Advocating for Real Housing Solutions
As the provincial government outlines its budget priorities for the year, we, along with United Ways across Ontario, are calling for investment in the non-profit sector to deliver the full range of housing options we desperately need to address the affordable housing crisis in the GTA. The seven recommendations outlined in our Bringing Affordable Housing Home report form a blueprint for action that makes the most effective and efficient use of government funds and taxpayers’ dollars.
Update from the Frontlines
Helping Youth Stay Housed
At age 15, Serpil had nowhere to live and thought she would end up in the shelter system. Then she discovered 360°kids, a United Way-funded agency that offers housing and support for youth facing homelessness, providing Serpil with the stability she needed to thrive . That is just one of more than 40 housing programs we fund across the GTA thanks to supporters like you. That includes programs that offer young people like Serpil safe shelter during the cold days of winter, education support so they can succeed and the space to be themselves.
Providing Accessible Transportation
Having access to transportation is an essential part of staying connected with your community, which is why we partnered with Reaching Home to fund LOFT Community Services’ new accessible van. Part of LOFT’s Crosslinks Supportive Housing Program, the van will provide transportation and foster community engagement for previously unhoused individuals in the program.
Join Us as We Celebrate 211 Day!
Tomorrow, February 11, is 211 Day. We are so proud to be a founding partner of 211 in Canada, which serves more than two million people every year. We hope you take some time to learn more about this vital service connecting people across Canada with community-based health, social and government resources. In need of support? 211 is available 24/7 by phone, text and web chat and offers free, confidential assistance in over 150 languages.
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