Brandon Hay got more than he expected when he enrolled his three sons in the 41-year-old African Canadian Heritage Association (ACHA) curriculum-based program last semester.
The Black Daddies Club (BDC) founder wanted his boys – Elijah, Tristan and Julian – to spend less time in front of the TV on Saturdays and instead learn about their heritage and Black heroes and heroines.
Hay also found the program very useful for himself.
“I quickly discovered that I was learning just as my sons were,” said Hay who watched the young boys perform at ACHA’s annual Kwanzaa celebration at the Africentric Alternative School recently. “I am not ashamed to say I know little of my culture and I was happy for the opportunity to learn.
“What I love about the program is that you just don’t drop your children off and come back for them. There is a room where parents can network and also learn from some of the best minds in the city.”
Hay, who established the BDC three years ago to combat the high rate of Black single mother-led households, singled out ACHA past presidents Dr. Eric and Emily Wickham – they performed the libation at the celebration – as fountains of knowledge and wisdom.
“I have learned so much from them in a short time that it’s amazing,” he said. “These people know their Black history.”
Originally launched as the Black Heritage Association, the organization changed to its current name in 1992 to preserve its unique identity following the establishment of several Black heritage programs across the city.
“The principles of Kwanzaa has guided the foundation of our organization and captured the objectives that we have for our children,” said ACHA president Carole Cushnie. “We have been educating our children to understand their relevance in our world and to give them the opportunity to succeed in a society that constantly reinforces the negative attributes of a community divided.”
Cushnie also expressed the ACHA’s support for the Africentric Alternative School and its principal Thando Hyman-Aman who was recently vindicated of accusations leveled against her.
She returned to the school recently after being away for a month on a leave of absence while the Toronto District School Board investigated a complaint made against her by a parent.
“This school at this time should have no doubt as to our support and commitment to its continued success,” said Cushnie. “Their achievement is also our achievement and we applaud the excellent work that’s being done and the people who are doing the work.”
African-American author, political activist and educator Ron Karenga created Kwanzaa as a weeklong celebration honouring African heritage and culture. The celebration features the lighting of candles and libations, and culminates in a feast and gift giving.