While recognizing the role philanthropy and volunteerism play in trying to enhance the lives of poor Blacks and other people of colour whose lives are ensnared by generational poverty, University of Toronto assistant professor Dr. Rinaldo Walcott suggests there’s a need to reanimate the role that government plays in people’s lives.
“We are seeing the constant eroding of government responsibilities to the very citizens who make governments possible,” Walcott, chair of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education/U of T Department of Humanities, Social Sciences & Social Justice Education, said in the keynote address at the United Way of Peel Black Community Advisory Council’s (BCAC) second annual “Unity in Diversity” fundraising gala last Saturday night in Mississauga. “Such erosions are erosions of community and we can’t talk about resilient communities if government is involved in eroding them.
“In the last three decades or more, we have been told repeatedly that government can’t do it all. We have been told so much that we now believe it and even more importantly we act in such fashion. And yet, at this time, especially at a moment in history when human culture has attained more wealth than ever previously known, poverty, racism, violence, sexism, homophobia and the displacement of people with disabilities and others continue to shape our families and communities and organize the minutiae of our everyday lives.
“What does it mean when a young Somali man must move from Dixon Rd. (in Etobicoke) to Fort McMurray (in Alberta) to make a living or that our gay, lesbian and trans youth are couch surfing, which literally means they are homeless in downtown Toronto?
“Having to make those choices have impacts beyond the individual. We don’t yet fully understand how racism shapes our lives despite how long we have been identifying the practices and working against them.”
The gala’s theme was “Healthy Families, Strong Communities”.
Walcott said that family and community are at the root of how societies understand and organize themselves.
“I want to suggest that how families and communities are treated and what place they hold in the larger society are reflections of that society,” said Walcott whose teaching and research are in the area of Black Diaspora Cultural and Post-Colonial Studies with an emphasis on questions of sexuality, gender, nation, citizenship and multiculturalism. “When it comes to Black families and communities in Canada and the United States, for some 47 years now we have been seen as a problem and as the evidence of families that just don’t work.”
The 1965-released Moynihan report following an investigation into the state, status and structure of Black families in the USA, concluded that a combination of rising illegitimacy rates and the matriarchal structure of Black culture led to crime, poor academic performance and the breakdown of the Black nuclear family structure.
“It is indeed such thinking that lies at the root of attempts to explain much of the violence in the Greater Toronto Area,” said Walcott, a former York University associate professor in the Humanities Division.
Awards were presented to community members who have contributed to the advancement of the Black community in Peel. Elvenia Gray-Sandiford and Valerie Coker were the recipients of Community Leadership Awards.
As a member of the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter collective, Gray-Sandiford worked tirelessly to eradicate violence against women and children before moving to Ontario in 1999. The Jamaican-born certified counsellor coordinated the special events and volunteer programs at the Dixie-Bloor Neighbourhood Centre and was on the Chemo Crisis Centre, Richmond Family Services and Rosemary Brown Family Service Society boards of directors.
The founder of TransformNation Inc. and TransformNation Community Services, whose programs are designed to address hopelessness created by youth violence, Gray-Sandiford mentors Black youths who are struggling with self-esteem issues, including obesity.
A clinical nurse practitioner at Brampton Civic Hospital, Coker is a leader in creating an inclusive, accessible and welcoming workplace environment.
A Leadership in Business Award was presented to Chief Emmanuel Mbulu.
“It is significant when you are honoured by your community,” said the 2007 Harry Jerome winner. “Canada has been good to me and my family and I am just happy that I am blessed to be able to make a meaningful contribution.”
After the brutal murder of his father prior to Nigeria’s civil war, Mbulu came to Canada in 1973 as an international student and graduated with his first degree four years later at York University. The father of two, who is married to a York University graduate, completed a Master of Business & Public Administration degree at Southwestern University in Washington and founded Tone-A-Matic Inc. which manufactures and distributes electronic muscle stimulators.
He also established the Chief Emmanuel Mbulu Foundation and an award through a $12,500 gift to the York University Foundation. The endowed award, which is matched by Ontario Trust Student Support program funding, rewards a student who demonstrates financial need.
The City of Mississauga rewarded Mbulu for his philanthropy by naming a street – Chief Mbulu Way – after him.
The Peel Children’s Aid Society Ujima Committee and Clem Burrowes were the recipients of the Youth Leadership and Unsung Hero Awards, respectively.
A natural nutritional coach and practitioner, Burrowes is affiliated with many organizations in a volunteer capacity, including Commonwealth Sports & Cricket Club, Malton Neighbourhood Services, Brampton Community Health Care, Malton Tennis Club and the Mississauga Airport Rotary Club.
At the gala, the BCAC announced a collaboration with Big Brothers, Big Sisters Peel for a community-based mentoring program that will provide Black youth with adult Black mentors.
“Success leaves footprints,” said BCAC chair Sophia Brown-Ramsay. “When our young people have the opportunity to interact regularly with mentors that look like them, mentors who are interested in their well-being and their future, this can only bring about a positive impact on education, juvenile justice and economic equity of our youth.”
BY RON FANFAIR