The Black Leadership and Recognition Breakfast, presented by United Way Greater Toronto and the Federation of Black Canadians (FBC), took place on February 2nd, 2024, marking the kickoff of Black History Month with a celebration of leadership and recognition within the GTA’s Black communities. Over 250 attendees gathered for the event, which aimed to honor individuals making significant contributions and to address issues impacting Black communities.
The theme of this year’s breakfast was “Beyond the Decade: Empowering the Next Generation,” reflecting on achievements and opportunities for future equitable communities. With opening remarks from Lisa Gonsalves, United Way Greater Toronto’s Chair of the Board of Trustees. The event featured notable speakers, including keynote speaker Bee Quammie, a renowned writer, radio host, and TV personality. Quammie’s insightful address touched on various topics, from race and culture to parenting and mental health.
“Using our platform to recognize and bring awareness to people doing amazing work in our community is a value that FBC holds dear. That is why we are extremely happy that United Way Greater Toronto and the Federation of Black Canadians could come together and ensure that the tradition continued at this year’s event. The Black Leadership and Recognition Breakfast is not just an event but a platform to recognize individuals keeping our community vibrant, giving their time sometimes without thanks, and helping to inspire the next generation as well.”
Christopher Thompson, Executive Director of the Federation of Black Canadians
“Today’s event holds particular significance marking the culmination of the International Decade for People of African Descent – equal parts a celebration and a reflection. As we look at the inequities facing the Black community, we recommit to our workwith Black and other equity deserving groups to help remove systemic barriers and improve social conditions. Celebrating Black History Month goes beyond the month of February as we continue to honour the histories of Black communities across Canada and the globe, andsupport Black-led solutions that advance equity and build an inclusive region – for all.”
Daniele Zanotti, President and CEO of United Way Greater Toronto
Femi Lawson, an esteemed arts advocate, actor, and entertainer, served as the host. With a background deeply rooted in community activism and cultural exchange, Lawson brought vibrancy and depth to the event’s proceedings.
The panel discussion, moderated by Len Carby, a Wealth Consultant and community leader, delved into crucial topics such as supporting Black youth in education and fostering diversity in tech careers.
Our Panelists shared their expertise and insights, emphasizing the importance of collaboration among Black organizations and not competing with each other.
Denise A. Campbell, Executive Director, Social Development, Finance and Administration (SDFA), City of Toronto
Paul Bailey, Executive Director, Black Health Alliance
Faith Edem, Policy Advisor, Environment and Climate Change Canada
The panel dove into deep conversations about how to support black youth in schools and how to encourage black people to pursue a career in tech. Additionally the question and answer period of the event was quite insightful allowing the guests to ask each individual panelist specific questions to their domain, share their voice and opinions.
Black Leadership Awards
During the event, awards were presented in three categories: Leadership in Business, Youth, and Community. Notable winners included Aretha McCarthy, Kamelah Blair, and Stephen Mensah, recognized for their outstanding contributions and leadership within their respective fields.
Community Leadership Award
Aretha McCarthy, Child Mental Health Specialist and Community Leader,who won the Community Leadership Award for demonstrating outstanding civic leadership through a commitment to addressing barriers affecting deserving equity groups, communities and people with disabilities. Ms. McCarthy was also honoured for the success of DevelopME, a non-profit she founded serving Black youth and their families.
Leadership in Business Award
Kamelah Blair, Award-winning author and founder of COJ BOOKZ, won the Leadership in Business Award, for her significant contribution towards the literary world, and her advocacy work in therapeutic writing to empower and improve the social well-being of the Black community.
Youth Leadership Award
Stephen Mensah, Executive Director of the Toronto Youth Cabinet, received the Youth Leadership Award, recognizing his advocacy work on behalf of Toronto’s over 623,000 youth for a more equitable and youth friendly city, including championing steps to address anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism in Ontario’s education system to ensure no young person is unable to reach their full potential due to their socioeconomic status and demographic.
The question and answer session provided an opportunity for guests to engage directly with panelists, sharing their perspectives and raising pertinent issues. Femi Lawson’s remark, “An older person sitting down can see more than a young person standing up,” highlighted the importance of intergenerational dialogue and collaboration.
Overall, the Black Leadership and Recognition Breakfast was a resounding success, fostering dialogue, recognition, and inspiration within the GTA’s Black communities. As the event concluded, it left attendees energized and motivated to continue the work of building more equitable and inclusive communities for all.
About United Way Greater Toronto:
As the largest non-government funder of community services in the GTA, United Way Greater Toronto reinforces a crucial community safety net to support people living in poverty. United Way’s network of agencies and initiatives in neighborhoods across Peel, Toronto and York Region works to ensure that everyone has access to the programs and services they need to thrive. Mobilizing community support, United Way’s work is rooted in ground-breaking research, strategic leadership, local advocacy and cross-sectoral partnerships committed to building a more equitable region and lasting solutions to the GTA’s greatest challenges.
About Federation of Black Canadians:
Founded in 2017 in Ontario, the Federation of Black Canadians (FBC) is a Black-led, Black-focused and Black-serving not-for-profit organization aimed at advancing the social, economic, political and cultural interests of Black Canadians, with active hubs also located in British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec. The FBC delivers community programming, hosts workshops, conducts research projects, organizes community events and supports capacity building.