Helping to Create the Future, One Day at a Time

September 4, 2020

Hello Community,

The end of summer is almost here, and what a summer it has been! I wish to bring you the latest news from the CCAWR, to show that we are working to keep you informed and are advocating for the things that matter to our community.

Since the KW Solidarity March on June 3rd, with an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 persons (not including online attendees), there has been a concerted effort by government officials, businesses, individuals and not-for-profits to show solidarity with those that showed their support for justice and equity for the disenfranchised and the disillusioned. The march, organized by Black Lives Matter, the African Caribbean Black (ACB) Network, Carla Beharry and Selam Debs recognized that all BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) face structural and systemic barriers that have to be dismantled if we are to create a fairer society.

To that end, the CCAWR and other not-for-profits and charities that work on behalf of BIPOC communities have been invited to have conversations with varying levels of government, to contribute ideas and to help create a better future. Here is a quick summary of the conversations we have been a part of, plus proposed next steps:

  • WRPS Chief Bryan Larkin and eight of his reports met with 15 representatives of African associations on July 29th. I was invited to attend as well. The WRPS representatives came prepared with reports about the work they are doing to increase the percentage of visible minorities on the force. Chief Larkin said that ‘changing the culture’ of the force is a very difficult task. On Wednesday, September 9th, at 7:15 pm the Chief wishes to meet online with members of the Caribbean community. If you wish to join the call, here are the details:
    Meeting ID: 863 8298 7833
    Passcode: 417968
  • The University of Waterloo has launched an anti-racism Task Force, and various departments and faculties have initiated their own programs/projects to tackle racism. The previous Associate Vice President, Human Rights, Equity and Inclusion office was recently replaced  (sample news article) by new (interim) leader Jean Becker, previously the Director, Indigenous Initiatives.
  • Wilfrid Laurier University has hired Ivan Joseph, of Guyanese heritage, as Vice-President, Student Affairs. His five-year term starts on October 1st. Less than one year ago, WLU hired Barrington Walker as Senior Adviser, Equity Diversity and Inclusion.
  • Waterloo Region Chair Karen Redman invited me to a 30-minute, 1-on-1 videoconference meeting on July 23rd. We discussed how the Region of Waterloo might tackle racism at their headquarters, and also in the Region’s communities. The Region is launching an Anti-Racism Secretariat and is looking for applicants. There was a Town Hall Meeting on July 30th and 31st, moderated by Colleen Sargeant James, where residents of the Region were invited to speak for up to 10 minutes about their experiences and perspective on prejudice, defunding the police, institutionalized racism, and other topics. The two-day session was recorded, you can see the speeches and message here:
  • Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic, Councillor Sarah Marsh and African, Caribbean, Black community leaders met for a videoconference call on Thursday, July 16th. Over 30 persons were invited. Many persons spoke passionately of the racism they, or their children, have experienced in schools, at the hand of the police, or in seeking employment. The mayor and councillor reminded everyone of the Taskforce of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, which they said had been formed long before the current Black Lives Matter movement and was looking to deliver its report to the City of Kitchener in May/June 2021. The taskforce counts 50 persons, with 33% from the City of Kitchener, 33% from the ACB Network+ACCKWA+15 Community Representatives, plus 33% staffed via an “Open Call” to the community.
  • Trustees of the Waterloo Region District School Board and Catholic District School Board will have elections in 2022. There is currently one person of colour on the WRDSB, Mike Ramsay. Due to the racism challenges in our primary and secondary schools, that Black Brilliance (Deepa Ahluwalia, WRDSB) and Beating the Odds (WLU) have been trying to address, a number of community leaders and associations believe that we need to work to have better representation on the Board of Trustees. A number of political leaders with campaign experience have agreed to donate their time and resources to help interested individuals prepare and run for office. Let us know if you are interested in running for these positions; we will connect you with the relevant resources. Note that current employees of the school boards are not eligible.
  • Wellbeing Waterloo Region is a community-led initiative committed to making transformative change in Waterloo Region. To help people engage in discussions about equity and systemic racism, they have created a video series “Challenging Systemic Barriers: The Equity Lens”.
  • The ACB Network, African associations and I had a conference call on July 9th to discuss how our organizations might work together. The various groups have differing Missions and Visions, but similar overarching goals. The decision was made to keep the lines of communication open between the groups, to minimize duplication of effort and working at cross-purposes. The groups also agreed to continue to work together on common projects, such as the 2020 Black History Month Launch at the Ken Seiling Waterloo Region Museum.
  • Many foundations are now accepting grant applications from various community organizations. We encourage all eligible African/Caribbean/Black organizations that meet eligibility requirements to apply. Examples are:
    Youth Opportunities Fund, from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, for projects improving the wellbeing of children, youth and families facing systemic barriers.
    General Community Fund, from the United Way, focused on immediate community need and local solutions to address those needs.
  • McDougall Cottage Historic Site offers an annual Musician in Residence program which supports and promotes local professional or emerging musicians. This year, the focus has shifted away from McDougall’s Scottish roots towards all traditional music. They are inviting applicants that reflect the rich diversity of the Region of Waterloo:

If you would like to shape the future of our Region, reach out to us via email, phone (519.997.2780) or social media! We welcome feedback, creative ideas and expressions of support.

Enjoy the long weekend!

Lannois Carroll-Woolery, President, on behalf of the CCAWR Board