By Munira Yusuf
This year, to honor Black History Month, The Corner held a forum for Black community members living in St. James Town. The theme for this year’s event focused on Black resiliency while highlighting Black-owned businesses in the community.
The host of the event, Lindiwe Sibanda, Housing Worker with The Neighbourhood Organization, started the event with a quote by Maya Angelou, “Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future, and renders the present inaccessible.” The event started with a presentation on the history of the silencing of Black voices and the importance of self-advocacy. It also brought attention to the issue of gentrification in predominantly BIPOC communities and the increase of high-rise condominiums.
One of the presenters, Munira Yusuf, a caseworker with The Corner, stressed the importance of breaking the silence and encouraged other Black folks to share their stories and experiences, “It is important that we continue to share our experiences and to speak our truth. To resist the negative narratives and to uplift Black voices to inspire others to change and advocate for anti-racist practices.”
Following the presentation, there was an opportunity for discussion which provided community members the opportunity to speak about their experiences being Black and living in the community. Participants spoke to the barriers they face while providing insight on the services and programs they would like to see in the community.
One participant expressed concerns for Black newcomer folks and the cultural stigma of addressing mental health issues “One thing that is missing from the Black Community and what is not being addressed is how to bring awareness to the mental health issues in the community and to destigmatize the process so that people are comfortable with realizing maybe they do need help.”
Another participant stated that information was important to the strength of the community, “What makes the community strong is information. If we have the right information and we are aware of the opportunities, that can help us and make a big difference.”
An idea that was raised during the forum was to have inclusive spaces for Black folks to congregate with discussions on different topics whether it be financial literacy, food insecurity or general pressing issues within the community.
The event ended with a spectacular guitar and singing performance from musician, Matuzolele. Overall, the event was a major success as it gave the community members a chance to come together and celebrate Black History Month.