by Vive Akugha
26 March 2021
The Afro-Caribbean Mentorship Program (ACMP) organized a panel discussion for the lived experiences of black women in Canadian societies with help from The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) as the sponsor. The virtual event was held on Zoom on the 26th of March from 7:00pm-9:00pm. It was hosted by Karhema, a member of the organization or initiative. Camille Williams-Taylor, a seasoned educator and current director of education on the Ottawa-Carleton district school board, was the keynote speaker. The panel discussion consisted of six women inclusive of Karhema. They were:
El Jones– a community activist in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Agnes Appiah Apawu– a special events MC and host of Umami conversations podcast.
Terena Baldwin– the special needs assistant for the Toronto district school board.
Dr. Brenda Dogbey– the acting director of strategic policy at the office of chief scientist resource in Canada.
Rev.Dr. Veronica Adu-Bobie– the senior associate resident pastor at the All Nations Full Gospel Church (ANFGC), Ottawa.
There was also a discussion with Cindy Karugia, a financial advisor at RBC and co-chair of their black professional networks. There were over 70 participants present and they were very interactive in the discussions while asking various questions.
The experiences of being a Canadian black woman were similar to one another. Many of the co-hosts and speakers had wonderful insights while supplying great points. The themes of strategy and non-compliance were repeated. The despair of mistreatments and unfair categorization of women especially black women were shared. The statement of well-behaved women is usually used to shun black women because black women are seen as fighters, resistant and unwilling to accept just anything. Strategy was encouraged because planning should always be done. In terms of your life and the path you’re on as well as in how to confront people, especially in the workplace. A plan gives direction even though it might go through. Non-compliance is to avoid being the norm and to avoid reducing yourself to something you’re not for whatever reason. A sisterhood with one another was also emphasized because frequently women are made to be against each other but a good support system from a sisterhood could improve everyone as they share the highs and lows. Fear was made known as a choice. It is a choice to be afraid of whatever can bring you up or take you down. Something that takes you out of your comfort zone is not easily appreciated but overcoming fear would bring out the best in you if you let it. Most importantly, the need to know yourself was stressed. Knowing yourself, your abilities, worth, standards and more will always help guide you because no one would be able to destroy a person that knows themselves already.
During the event there were various memorable parts from the experiences to the advice given. One was the question asked by Cindy. She asked a question that was thought provoking and arguably shocking, “If you were to die today and you could choose to come back on earth, would you still come back as a black woman?”. This was a question she often asked herself as a game but now uses as a tool for self-love. Many participants in the comments section agreed that they would still come back as black women. After which she read two pieces, Women Are Not A Monolith And We Must Stop Treating Them As One by Sheree Atcheson and THE MONOLITHIC VIEW OF BLACK WOMEN by Melany Campoalegre. Black women were encouraged to embrace all their attributes and characteristics that may seem odd to the narrow-minded idea of a black woman. The event was very encouraging as they called it a safe space. It wrapped up with a few giveaways supporting black businesses but overall, it was a wonderful event full of support and realizations as well as uplifting messages to every black woman in Canada. Everyone was pleased with the event and ACMP’s work organizing it.
Vive Akugha is a student in the Bachelor of Arts degree program at the University of Ottawa, majoring in Communications. She writes on social issues, well-being and out of curiosity. Her major platform for writing is on Medium.com as @veevehhswritings. As a follower on there, you can sign up for her email list to be up-to-date on her posts. She is @Veevehhwrites on Twitter and Instagram. Feel free to share your opinions with her as she is with you.