Hamilton’s Afro Canadian Caribbean Association celebrate Lincoln and Martin day

By Lincoln DePradine

Evelyn Myrie

The support of the federal Liberals, headed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, for the Southwestern Ontario Black Entrepreneurship Network is one indication of the Canadian government’s commitment to ensuring “excellence’’ in the Black community, according to Hamilton MP Filomena Tassi.

“Our government is committed to fostering and encouraging Black excellence and access to opportunity,’’ Tassi, minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario, said last Saturday.

She was one of the speakers at the 2023 “Lincoln Alexander and Martin Luther King Jr. Day’’ celebration organized by the Hamilton-based Afro Canadian Caribbean Association (ACCA).

One of the flagship initiatives of the Southwestern Ontario Black Entrepreneurship Network is the “Black Business Development Program’’, which offers African-Canadian entrepreneurs what’s described as a “hybrid wraparound four-month experience which includes business skills training; personalized assessments of existing business activities and concepts; matching with professional services; mentorship; and opportunities for businesses to be profiled’’.

Two programs are being offered this year: one from February to May; and another from August to November.

“The Southwestern Ontario Black Entrepreneurship Network,’’ its leaders say, “brings together a consortium of partners led by Empowerment Squared to offer a dynamic resource for Black business owners, entrepreneurs, and nonprofit leaders in the greater Hamilton and Windsor areas.’’

Filomena Tassi

Among those who are partnering in the program are the federal government, Ontario Trillium Foundation, Hamilton Community Foundation and the City of Hamilton.

Alexander, a lawyer who died in 2012 at age 90, was a Hamilton resident and a former Member of Parliament and Ontario Lieutenant Governor.

“His legacy of excellence continues to inspire many today. His many words of encouragement continue to resonate as we seek to build a better, more inclusive society, founded on the principle of fairness,’’ Tassi said. “Like Martin Luther King Jr., he believed that everyone should have a level playing field to realize their full potential.’’

King, an ordained Baptist minister and activist, was born January 15, 1929. He was the leading figure in the American civil rights movement from 1955.

In1964, King won the Nobel Peace Prize for combatting racial inequality through non-violent resistance. He was assassinated in 1968.

Tassi, Hamilton Mayor Andrea Horwath and other speakers paid glowing tributes to King and Alexander.

Alexander was “a great Canadian and Hamiltonian’’ and King “strove for justice and meaningful social change. He understood deeply the concepts of reconciliation and fairness’’, Tassi said.

Mayor Horwath, former leader of the Ontario New Democratic Party, said Alexander and King were “champions for equality and human rights’’.

Alexander, she added, “fiercely advocated for Hamilton and further elevated our city’’.

Matthew Green, Liberal MP Hamilton Centre, said Alexander and King created “important legacies; important legacies to build on, to celebrate. It is a reminder that when the most obvious barriers are being put before us, that we have to ascend beyond them and shatter those ceilings, so that others may follow behind’’.

Alexander was “a trailblazer in this community and across Canada’’, said ACCA president Evelyn Myrie, who also underscored the need to fight against anti-Black racism.

“We need to combat and dismantle anti-Black racism. Each of us can make a difference in fighting anti-Black racism. There is always something we can do,’’ she said. “The great Martin Luther King Jr. showed us many strategies, many ways, that we can find injustice.’’