By Nabeela Damji & Ishawna Ross
“We are only stronger together.”
Those were the words that Shawn Cuffie - Creator of the TD Black Diamond Ball, shared as TD Bank kicked off its media day for the upcoming Black History Month.
The event was held at A Different Booklist, an independent, multicultural bookstore specializing in books from the African & Caribbean diaspora, and was filled with celebration, great food, fashion and inspiration in an inclusive and welcoming environment.
Al Ramsay, Spokesperson for TD, has seen the events for Black History Month grow up to 90 this year since he started back in 2005. In light of recent political events, Ramsay thinks these events are important in promoting peace and tolerance saying that, “The black community is an integral part of Canadian society, however as I look around the room here, there’s black folks and people from every background which is important because we’re talking about diversity and inclusion.”
“Ultimately togetherness is the key,” says Cuffie. “These events are important because we can get everybody in the room. Everyone’s having a good time and not necessarily dealing with politics, just celebrating our culture, celebrating our community and celebrating each other.”
Denise Jones – Founder, Jones & Jones Productions, looks back at history stating that, “We as Africans have faced tremendous difficulties for hundreds of years. It’s a struggle for us to realize that our history did not begin with slavery. We have a responsibility to share what we know, and we need to be sharing the truth, and in our case, our story.”
This month and these events are also an integral part in the promotion of black artists, entrepreneurs and their impact on the youth. Ramsay believes that sometimes there’s a lack of showcasing these leaders and explains that “part of our campaign is highlighting this, to show there are black leaders in our community that are heroes, that the younger generation of heroes look up to”.
While Black History Month is less than 30 days long, there are many things people can do to support the Black community year round. There’s seems to be an agreement that there needs to be a shared responsibility between the community and the corporate world.
Jones wants a shared accountability with the government and the community. She believes that the government should look at the role of entertainment music in particular, in contributing to peoples’ wellbeing, health and mental health, and they should think: “You see how the kids can sing the songs, we’re hoping that when they sing the songs that we’re sharing, they really hear the uplifting.
Ramsay echoes the sentiments of dual responsibility stating: “We should keep organizations like TD honest, but it’s incumbent of the Black community to also step up. If the community doesn’t support and show up it’s not going to be successful.”
The promotion of Black History Month has come a long way, but there is room for improvement and growth. So, where do we see Black History Month in five years?
“I want to do bigger and better,” says Ramsay. “There are so many people that are doing great work and we need to highlight their stories.”
Cuffie says that he wants: “Every culture and every community to attend one or two events so that they can understand the struggle and understand why we’re holding these events.”
Jones again reiterates her idea saying: “We have a responsibility to share and expand beyond the month, and we welcome all hues of Canada’s cultural mosaic to come and experience who we are and what we’ve got. There’s a whole plethora of opportunities for education. Edutainment - we call it.”