The York Region Alliance of African Canadian Communities (YRAACC) first Black History Month event was held on February 17, 2018, at Thornlea Secondary School, and has now become part of our new Canadian Black History. However, there is still more history to be made going forward. The event began with the drum call by Tam Tam foil (Kwabena McRae and Peter Amponsah). Ann Marie Campbell, VP YRAACC welcomed everyone to the occasion and handed over leadership for the event to the co-emcees Anita McFarlane and Jhamari Hussey. Anita shared the purpose of the YRAACC which is to cultivate a progressive community through advocacy, resource development, and service. As of January 2016, YRAACC is a registered Ontario non- profit organization. The focus for the organization is towards improvements in the areas of culture, education, employment, social services and government responsibilities within York Region as a whole.
Michelle White, a singer, songwriter, and classically trained pianist performed both the Black National Anthem and the Canadian National Anthem. Some dignitaries attended the event and shared their support to the African Canadian community. These dignitaries included the Deputy Mayor of Markham, Jack Heath, and our Federal MP, Mary Ng who greeted the group and shared their support for our Black community. From the school boards, Director of the YRDSB, Louise Sirisko and the Chair of YRDSB Corrie McBain. Other dignitaries in the audience include We have Marlene Mogado, YCDSB Trustee for Markham and Regional Councillor Nirmala Armstrong in the audience today. We would also like to acknowledge our Acting Director of Education, Diane Murgaski. York Regional Police (YRP) Chief Eric Jolliffe, Deputy Chief Thomas Carrique and the other members of YRP.
Jason Lindo a Grammy award nominee 2016 (the youngest Jamaican artist to be nominated) performed inspiring and encouraging songs. Kelise Fullerton, a spoken word artist, shared a thought-provoking piece. Winston Miller was the moderator for the panel discussion which highlighted the achievements and contributions of people of African ancestry to this great country and the York Region specifically. It includes a panel discussion with groundbreakers in York Region:
- Deputy Chief André Crawford – the first Black YRP deputy chief and has over three decades of service with the York Regional Police (YRP) and received many awards for his exemplary service
- Superintendent Camille Logan – the first Black female York Region District School Board (YRDSB) superintendent and has worked with the YRDSB for over 25 years with current responsibility for 18 schools
- Justice of the Peace Tessa Benn-Ireland – the first YRDSB Black school trustee who also served for ten years with the Ontario Court as well as held many other influential positions in other community organizations
The event included a phenomenal speaker:
- Garfield Miller – the first Black graduate of the University of Toronto Medical School ophthalmology program
Dr. Garfield Miller grew up in Markham and had his primary and Secondary Education at Central Park public school and Markville High School respectively. He graduated high school in 1998, a year in which the York region district School Board honored his academic achievement, received the Harry Jerome Award for academics. Lee Miller, YRAACC chair thanked all attendees on behalf of the YRAACC. He also thanked the YRAACC planning committee: Ann Marie Campbell, Vice Chair, Winston Miller, Treasurer, Sophie McKenzie, Jeffrey Thompson, Josie Rose, Cheryl Yarde, and Evelyn Pierre. He encouraged all attendees to network with each other and supported the vendors present. The vendors in the Black Marketplace included:
- Chapel Ridge
- Over the Wall
- Legacy Enterprises
- Tyloaks Distribution Inc.
- Young Living Natural Oil
- Black Girls Magazine
There was also an opportunity to network with many York Region public service agencies, and community organizations such as:
- York Regional Police
- Aids Committee of York Region
- Black Foundation of Community Networks (BFCN)
- Bellwood Mental Health Services
- Across Boundaries
The goal of the event was to uplift families by bridging the past with the present and navigating the present into the future. Attendees were encouraged to meet with at least ten new individuals and share experiences with them. We are thankful to Snapd for their coverage of our event. Here are the Snapd photos.