AFROCENTRIC LEADERSHIP & MENTORSHIP PROGRAM
This year we held our annual Afrocentric Mentorship and Leadership Program in person at Victoria College in the University of Toronto for 35 participants. The program ran for 6 days this year, with each day having curriculum and activities based on different African-centered sources of knowledge. Each day we enjoyed catering from different Black-owned African or Caribbean restaurants in Toronto. Students were mentored with Black mentors who were current undergraduate and medical school students. Mentors guided their students through the different lessons which included presentations from guest speakers, ice-breakers, and thought-provoking activities.
The program began with the theme Kujichagulia which means self-determination, and finding one’s path. Participants heard from Black Outreach Leadership Directive (BOLD), a province-wide educational initiative based at the University of Toronto seeking to increase the representation of Black Ontario high school students attending Post- Secondary education. Mentors led discussions on their own personal journeys to post-secondary education, and helped students to explore their own career interests through creating an outline of the path they would like to take towards their career and future education.
On day two, we were privileged to learn from Dr. Oswald Almasi, a professor of Swahili at the University of Toronto and York University. Professor Almasi spoke about the Swahili language, how culture influences the development and interpretation of language and taught students Swahili greetings. The theme of the day was Language and Nia, which means purpose in Swahili. Our mentors guided students in discussions about their cultural backgrounds and its influence on their lives and on their leadership skills.
Day three’s theme was Umoja, which means unity, and health. We heard from Dr. Akwatu Khenti, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto School of Public Health and Affiliate Scientist at the Centre of Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). Mentors led discussions about the structures of the health system and its treatment of Black people, and the importance of unity as a community. We also heard from Dr. Rhonda N. McEwen, the President of Victoria College, who spoke about the Black experience in her field, and the initiatives she has created and supported to promote inclusivity and equity at the University of Toronto. Students and mentors also participated in activities and games that reinforced leadership skills.
On day four, we went to SpinMaster headquarters to learn about the engineering that goes into making some of the most popular toys and games! SpinMaster is best known for its innovation in toys and games including award-winning brands like PAW Patrol®, Bakugan®, Kinetic Sand®, and is the global toy licensee for other popular properties. We toured the facilities and met and learned from professionals who have pursued careers in engineering. Students also learned about the steps of the design thinking process, and used those skills to address a real-world problem in our design thinking showcase.
Day five of our program focused on the academic subject of history and the Afrocentric principle of Kujieleza (self-expression). Mentors led students through the curriculum which focused on the idea of a “single story” and how history can be told differently depending on which lenses and perspectives are explored. Participants heard from Professor Michele Johnson, a history professor at York university who spoke about the contributions of Black people in different periods of Canada’s history, how the popular telling of history often erases their impact and how this impact can be seen in our nation today.
Our final day centered around social structures and law, and we explored the Afrocentric principle of Ujima (team work). Our keynote speaker was Dr. Chile Eboe-Osuji, an Distinguished International Jurist at the Lincoln Alexander School of Law and a Special Advisor to the President’s Office at Toronto Metropolitan University. Mentors led discussions on the importance of law, and the social structures of power and privilege that were historically created and how they still persist today. We concluded our programming by giving participants certificates of achievement with their own personalized superlative award chosen by their mentors.
This year, we provided a second year of virtual tutoring program for 30 weeks starting from October 17th 2022 to June 23rd 2023. Sessions ran from 4 – 7 PM from Monday to Thursdays. Students needing help in English, Math and Science at the grade 6 – 12 level were paired up with expert tutors who were knowledgeable in their requested subjects. Each week, students and their tutors met on Zoom to go over homework and cover challenging topics if time permitted. Topics covered in weekly sessions ranged from going over algebra to solving linear equations to formulating a thesis statement for English class. The virtual tutoring sessions also provided the opportunity for students to explore new subjects and ideas with their tutors, which is not always possible during regular school hours. Students also received the added benefit of seeing their tutor’s friendly faces every week as they mastered their homework.
Over the course of the program, we held 262 hour long sessions where students and tutors met in their individual zoom rooms and went over homework.
Session Feedback Quotes from Participants:
“I understand exponents better and I had a good experience”- Grade 7 Student in St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School
“Fikayo [my mentor] was really nice and helpful. We also went over future work” – Grade 11 Student in Northern Secondary School