Project seeks to define Black communities

By Jasminee Sahoye

Suelyn Knight
Suelyn Knight

As Black History month wraps up, efforts are being made to gather insights from some 2,000 members of the Black community through exploring the lived experiences and views that speak to individual and collective strengths, contributions, challenges, opportunities, capacity and resiliency.

The Black Experience Project (BEP) is hoping to create the first-ever comprehensive understanding of the diverse communities that make up the GTA’s Black population through a three-phase study.

Phase two of the BEP is in progress and its project manager says they have been working diligently through a number of outreach programs across the region to reach their goal of signing up and interviewing some 2,000 people from the Black community.

Suelyn Knight tells The Camera a team of outreach staff has been going to many events and locations across the Toronto area to encourage community members to sign up online and conduct “on-the-stop interviews” for their questionnaire.

The questionnaire has “roughly 150 questions and the interview is on average one hour and 15 minutes,” face-to-face. It covers a number of themes, ranging from values, media representation, interaction with institutions including police and the criminal justice system.

It’s based on information gathered from the first phase from the 24 focus groups the project engaged in the GTA.

“It’s a combination of the feedback we got from our focus group, the literature review that we’ve done. We also have a research advisory committee that has many well-known Black academics,” Knight says.

“We sat down through several meetings and looked at the feedback we’ve received, as well as the literature review and their own background and knowledge of the research they have done in the Black community as well and that’s what we’ve taken to create our survey.”

Knight is encouraging members of the community to participate in the survey. “Our stories are often misunderstood and it’s our chance to share who we are, our struggles and our success.”

Phase three will be public dissemination of the findings.

“The other part would be to engage the community to say, here’s what we’ve found, what are you seeing, what are some the gaps, how do you as a community want to take this research forward and again it would be to have similar conversations to phase one, but now it would be based on what we’ve found as well as engaging decision makers and policy makers and the like and helping to understand what the findings were and what that could mean for them.”

Environics Institute in partnership with Ryerson’s Diversity Institute, the United Way of Greater Toronto, and the YMCA of Greater Toronto, is undertaking the research study.

Those interested in signing up for the survey should visit