Organizations receiving funds to serve the Black community should report the number of individuals in the community served as well as the targets and actual outcomes attained in key areas of economic well-being, education, employment, health, housing, justice & safety, political engagement and social inclusion.
They also must request that the Ontario government establish a smooth and clear path from college diploma/degree attainment at the undergraduate and graduate levels and make poverty reduction a key and immediate strategic objective with specific alleviation targets.
These are some of the recommendations in a report – Towards a Vision for Our Community – unveiled last Saturday at the Jamaican Canadian Association (JCA) Centre.
“More than any other community, Blacks are increasingly attaining college as opposed to university level education,” said MPP Mitzie Hunter, who is a member of the report committee. “Our community works hard. In fact, we work four per cent more in terms of the 40-hour work week than the general population. However, a more targeted approach is needed as we are working for less pay and below our potential.
“If we want to have our community earning higher amounts of income so they are participating to their full potential in the labour market, we have to address those gaps. Our education is leading to college and university diplomas.”
For individuals with a college diploma and/or university education, 25.5 per cent of the Black community achieved this level of education compared to 24.5 per cent of visible minorities and 21.5 per cent of the general population. However, the general population is twice as likely to have a Bachelor’s degree in educational attainment.
“Clearly, a community strategy for addressing individual and family income as well as the poverty level must include efforts to increase educational attainment,” Hunter said.
It’s also recommended that organizations work with police and the justice system to develop and implement strategies to promote the potential of Black community members – particularly youths – to live safe and productive lives. Greater emphasis on crime prevention, pre/post-charge diversion, comprehensive multi-sectoral “hub” early risk interventions, rehabilitation and the provision of inter-culturally competent bias-free policing have been suggested.
“There should be a funded program to allow for these kids to be put into the JCA for a youth program on Saturday instead of being put before the courts for some sort of judicial process,” said Toronto Police Service (TPS) deputy chief Peter Sloly. “The youth criminal justice act provides for this legislation, but the funding has never been in place to allow for that to be systemic across all communities.”
In the keynote address at Tropicana Community Services Organization’s (TCSO) 18th annual Caribbean Ball two years ago, media practitioner and diversity specialist Hamlin Grange issued an urgent call to action to radically empower the Black community and he charged TCSO – which has served a broad cross section of the city for the past three decades – with convening a forum to address the troubling issues facing the community.
TCSO is Canada’s largest Black social service delivery agency.
“It’s time for a family meeting and I believe Tropicana is perfectly positioned because it’s in every community and it understands this city and community,” he said at the time. “There’s no need for a large gathering. We just need a few key individuals to have some plain talk about the way forward. I know we have tried before with limited success, but we can’t give up. This time, let’s leave the egos and agendas outside the room.”
Initiated by Sloly and Royal Bank of Canada regional vice-president Mark Beckles, the first ‘family meeting’ took place at the JCA in January 2012 to celebrate United States president Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration and reflect on the implications of this fundamental change in the political landscape.
“At this meeting, there were about 100 people and these were individuals that would not be in the same place together except for some major awards ceremony or something like that,” Grange said. “This was an interesting gathering of people from our community, representing politics, community development and law enforcement. Out of that came a real desire for more information.”
Another meeting took place last November to further define the community’s goals and actions. At that forum, Brandon University vice-president Dr. Gervan Fearon outlined the importance of establishing an overarching mission and vision for the Black community that would allow individuals, organizations and community partners to find scope and opportunity for shared action to support desired outcomes.
“This is a framework for the conversation we believe our community should have going forward,” said Grange. “We believe the future of our community will influence the future of Toronto and Canada. We are a significant population. However, there is a sense that members of our community feel beleaguered, ignored and unimportant. If we don’t begin to act in a different way and create this new paradigm, we will increasingly become irrelevant in a number of areas in our community. We need to start taking control of our destiny and that is what this report is all about.”
Other community members that contributed to the report are TCSO executive director Sharon Shelton, TPS Youth in Policing Initiative (YIPI) co-ordinator Danielle Dowdy and JCA president Audrey Campbell.
“This is about changing the trajectory of our community and empowering ourselves,” said Campbell. “This report is a tool that we can use in terms of different aspects of our community.”