City launches ‘ Community Conversations’ to fight anti-Black racism

Jason Johnson (YPF Program Coordinator), Jason Graham, Mayor John Tory, Zakiya Tafari (YPF Managing Director, Fredrick Benette

Toronto Mayor John Tory has called for action to deal with disproportionately higher rates of incarceration, unemployment and child protection cases in the Black community.

He issued the call at the weekend at the launch of ” community conversations,” an initiative aimed at fighting anti-black racism.

The launch took place at Ujima House, Canada’s first father-focused family resource centre, located in the West end of the city. The event brought together a number of community leaders to address the impact of anti-Black Racism in Toronto’s African and Caribbean communities.

Noting the ” disproportionate statistics” on rates of incarceration unemployment and child protection service cases within the Black community, Tory said  “you could go through a list of facts like these and see that there is clearly, a huge difference between other members of the community and Black Torontonians.

“There have been many, many reports written over 40 years that did the research. Now what we have to do is move from research to actual action steps.”

During the meeting, Tory listened to community feedback on how to address issues dealing with children and youth development, community engagement and black leadership, health and community supports, job opportunities and income supports as well as policing and the justice system.

Participants in  “Community Conversation” were encouraged to share lived experiences and provide constructive recommendations about how the City of Toronto can help create an action plan to address systemic barriers which Black Torontonians face.

Young and Potential Fathers, the Black-led non-profit agency that operates Ujima House, is one of 11 community-based organizations partnering with the City of Toronto to conduct the “Community Conversations.”

Zakiya Tafari, Managing Director of Young and Potential Fathers, spoke about the reality faced by members of the Black community, and the need to work towards collective change.

“We live in a society that’s, unfortunately, grounded with the impacts of anti-Black racism, and it’s been ‘normalized’ to a lot of folks.So what we’re looking to do here is deconstruct that and talk about how our community can be part of the solution.”

Brandon Hay, Founder of Black Daddies Club, who partnered with Young and Potential Fathers to host the event, outlined a number of the “social determinants” impacting the quality of life for a significant percentage of Black men in Toronto.

“One of the issues is around Black men coming out of the criminal justice system with criminal records [experiencing] difficulty in finding employment, housing, [and] education,” said Hay.

Judie Powell, Board Vice-Chair of Young and Potential Fathers, echoed the need for systemic change. “What solutions can we come up with?” “What brainstorming can we do as a community to be able to move forward and take back some of that oppression that’s been put up against us for so many years?” she asked the meeting.

Elias Walsh, an 18-year-old participant, spoke on where he feels change should begin.

“I would start, to be honest, with the education system,” said Walsh, “because that’s where the first seeds of doubt start.”

The “Community Conversation” initiative developed from  a public education project conceived by the City of Toronto and the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI) back in November 2016. The project challenged people  to address anti-Black racism, in addition to building on years of work performed by Black activists, leaders and community organizations

“Community Conversations” are scheduled to take place in various locations across the city until Tuesday, February 28, 2017. Recommendations from the meetings will be brought to City Council in the Spring.

Dates for upcoming “Community Conversations can be found at