AFROCENTRIC SUMMER MENTORSHIP & ENRICHMENT PROGRAM
This summer, we had the pleasure of running our third annual Afrocentric Summer Mentorship Program – with a virtual twist! The program ran for the month of August 2020 for youth ages 12 to 17 with live online sessions every Saturday at noon. Through hearing from successful Black leaders, engaging in conversations on Afrocentric themes, and bonding with Black mentors currently pursuing post-secondary education, we helped increase participants’ personal and academic resilience.
Each week, we featured a new African principle (based on the Sisters of Nia Rite of Passage Program) and paired it with a particular discipline, which were the focuses of that week’s discussions and events. We opened each Saturday with a presentation led by our guest speaker of the week, followed by a Q + A period. Our mentors then led discussions with their mentees in mentor pods, where they explored the themes of the week, resilience and other related matters.
Week 1 – Art + Kujichagulia (Self-Determination)
The first day was jam-packed fun activities and thought-provoking discussions featuring our amazing guest speaker, Randell Adjei, Executive Director of Rise Edutainment! Randell spoke about his work as an arts educator and what resilience means to him as a Black man and artist in addition to sharing some of his captivating and beautiful poetry. Our theme this week was arts, and this was discussed in relation to the principle of Kujichagulia (self-determination). This week’s activities and discussions explored how art is a medium that can be used to define and redefine oneself in positive and profound ways, thus enacting the process of self-determination. Everyone gathered over zoom to creatively and openly engage in art-creation. Mentors and mentees alike used a piece of art that they created (taking a wide variety of forms from drawings to playlist creation) to introduce themselves to their mentor pod and spent the week reflecting on music and art pieces from Black creators that were personally meaningful.
Week 2 – History + Umoja (Unity)
Our second week featured another guest speaker, the lovely Sharine Taylor, founder and editor-in-chief of BASHY Magazine. Sharine is an accomplished writer and a documentarian of cultures within the Black diaspora. Our theme this week was history and was explored in conjunction with the principle of Umoja (unity). Sharine facilitated a discussion on the fascinating history of Carnival and Caribana (taking place annually in our very own city of Toronto!), her work in Caribbean studies, and the importance of learning about one’s history! This week’s activities involved reflecting on how history, especially African history, is understood and critically analysing the different ways history can be told. Together, mentors and mentees discussed how history can be told in biased ways and how this can lead to stereotypes and “single stories” about individuals and communities. They then explored what it looks like practically to seek out unity in their communities and the world in light of this reality.
Week 3 – Science + COVID-19 + Ujima (Teamwork)
Our third week included a visit from Adaoma Patterson, the President of the Jamaican Canadian Association and a leader in the Black community who has worked for over a decade to uplift and advocate for underrepresented groups in the greater Toronto area. She shared about her ongoing partnership with public health researchers to collect race-based data with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic. This week was dedicated to science and COVID-19 as well as the principle of Ujima (teamwork), which recognizes that without collective work and responsibility, progress is impossible and liberation unthinkable. Participants spent the week learning about Black heroes in science who rose to the challenge and brought innovative solutions to pressing problems. Mentors and mentees reflected on how people have come together during the COVID-19 pandemic to support one another and how they can become heroes in their own communities during this pandemic by doing their part and helping others.
Week 4 – Self Care + Imani (Faith/Believing in Oneself)
The fourth week of the program included an interactive presentation from Monica Samuel! Monica is a powerhouse activist and educator on anti-oppression, equity, mental health and consent as well as the founder and executive director of Black Women in Motion. This week centred on the principle of Imani, the Swahili word for faith and believing in oneself, and the theme of self-care. Mentors and mentees reflected on the importance of practicing self-care, from spending time with loved ones to developing healthy eating habits and learnt about how setting meaningful goals for yourself and believing in your ability to achieve them is a great way to look out for your present and future self. Youth participated in activities and discussions on adopting growth mindsets (which see failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities), practicing self-affirming habits and setting effective goals.
Week 5 – Self-Advocacy + Nia (Purpose)
We had the privilege of ending our 2020 program with an impactful session led by artist, educator and founder of Our Women’s Voices, Keosha Love. Keosha facilitated an amazing discussion on self-advocacy and wellness. Keosha led participants through introspective activities where they had the chance to explore what advocacy means to them, how to practice self-advocacy and how to increase our self-advocacy skills. We watched and discussed an inspirational TedTalk by Clint Smith about the danger of silence (i.e. what happens when we don’t self-advocate and how that translates to other people). We closed out the program today with the principle of Nia (purpose). Nia relates to the commitment to building and developing our community, culture and histories to propagate our historical and ongoing role in adding to the good and beauty in the world.
We want to acknowledge our absolutely incredible team of mentors- without them it would be completely impossible to run this program. Their kindness, care and leadership has brought so much light to this program. Thank you to all our mentees for partaking in our program. This summer has been an important and wonderful journey despite the chaos of 2020!
EXPEDIA JOB SHADOWING
We were delighted to partner with Expedia Canada through their Annual Day of Caring program! Through a series of sessions during the month of September 2020, youth who had participated in previous Find Your Path programming had the opportunity to job shadow and network with successful professionals at Expedia Toronto and learn about their career trajectories and current roles. Students greatly enjoyed the program, but don’t take our word for it- read what they had to say about the experience!
“I had a great time and learned a lot from who I was shadowing”
“I’m happy I did this because it was an amazing opportunity.”
“I learned that many people change their plans in order to become the thing they really want to be”