Alexis Dawson is an established volunteer and community organizer with a commitment to improved equity for underserved communities, particularly Black communities in Toronto. Her volunteer work includes ensuring the needs of the diverse community were considered for a school ground revitalization. She also co-founded the Oakwood Village Garden Gang – an informal forum for discussion of local needs, human rights issues, and a place to actively seek collaborative solutions. As an Interim TDSB Trustee, she championed actions to address systemic anti-Black racism and to support equity and achievement of racialized students.
Alexis continues to advocate for students, teachers and hold school boards accountable to confronting anti-Black racism, as Community Co-Chair of the TDSB Black Student Achievement Community Advisory Committee, Chair of Governance on the Ontario Alliance of Black School Educators’ (ONABSE) Board of Directors, TDSB Ward 9 Equity Committee Co-Chair and in her ongoing work as a parent, community organizer and activist.
Colour of Poverty – Colour of Change (COP-COC) is an Ontario network building strategies, tools, initiatives and community-based capacity for individuals, groups and NGO’s, especially those reflective of racialized communities. COP-COCO initiatives allow for collaboration with mainstream policy analysts and institutions, anti-poverty advocacy groups, governments, funders and media to address and redress Ontario’s disturbing and growing structural or systemic ethno-racial inequality.
COP-COC Steering Committee members include: Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community Services; Black Legal Action Centre; Canadian Arab Federation; Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic; Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter; Council of Agencies Serving South Asians; Hispanic Development Council; Karuna Community Services; La Passerelle – I.D.E., Mennonite New Life Centre of Toronto; Midaynta Community Services; Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants; Punjabi Community Health Services; South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario; The Neighbourhood Organisation; and Urban Alliance on Race Relations.
Established in 1987, the William P. Hubbard Race Relations Award is presented to a Toronto resident or non-profit organization whose outstanding achievement and commitment has made a significant contribution to challenge racism and support a more harmonious city.
Julian Diego has made significant contributions to equity, diversity and inclusion, with a focus on marginalized communities. Working with SKETCH – an organization helping to integrate the arts into transformative justice and equity practice – Julian uses the arts to address conflict in organizations and communities. He has created programs that engage the whole body, mind and spirit, in moving through conflict and transforming triggers and moments.
Julian developed a train-the-trainer curriculum at the Royal Conservatory of Music Artists in Education Program. His practices, which have made their way into schools and communities across Ontario, help students infuse anti-oppression practices into everything they do and to manage conflict.
Julian has developed projects such as New Eyez – a board game for newcomers to help navigate Toronto; Living Well in Toronto – a needs assessment and referral system; and The Element of He which engages young racialized men to explore healthy masculinity and relationships.
Julian has volunteered with the Canadian Alliance in Support of Native People and the Toronto Coalition Against Racism. He has worked with the Ontario Association of Youth Employment Centres, advocating for change and ensuring policies and protocols are embedded with anti-oppression, harm reduction and restorative justice philosophies. Julian is currently designing an accreditation program at SKETCH that will help youth to achieve a post-secondary education in creative industries.
Black Lives Matter – Toronto (BLM – TO) is a diverse coalition of Black activists, students, workers, and parents who are committed to eradicating all forms of anti-Black racism, supporting Black healing and liberating Black communities. The Toronto chapter of the international movement works to bring a Canadian-specific narrative to the global fight against anti-Blackness and to (re)build the Black Liberation movement.
BLM – TO is a platform for Black communities to actively dismantle all forms of anti-black racism, liberate blackness, support black healing, affirm Black existence, and create freedom to love and self-determine. Their mission is to forge critical connections and to work in solidarity with Black communities, Black-centric networks, solidarity movements, and allies in order to dismantle all forms of violence and brutality committed against Black peoples.
In just two years, the coalition has shaken up politics in Toronto, forcing the issue of anti-Black racism as a priority for municipal, provincial, and federal policy makers, local and international media, and the public. Their two-week long occupation of Toronto Police Headquarters during winter, shut down of the Allen expressway, and sit-in at the Toronto Pride Parade are just a few examples of their commitment to direct people-led sustained action.
BLM – TO is loud, strategic, and persistent.
BLM – TO’s work extends to the affirmation of Black lives. They have organized a Black-victims focused Take Back the Night march, community healing spaces, and children’s programming. This includes their Freedom School initiative which is an arts-based summer program for Black children in the GTA. The program offers an alternative setting to teach children about Black Canadian and diasporic history and to engage them in political resistance to anti-Black racism through a trans-feminist lens.
BLM – TO uplifts the lives of Black queer and trans, disabled, Muslim, undocumented, incarcerated or formerly incarcerated, women, and lives along the identity and expression spectrum. BLM – TO includes those who have been marginalized within Black liberation movements.
BLM – TO is working for a world where Black lives are no longer systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. They put sweat equity and love for Black people into creating a political project – taking the hashtag off of social media and putting it into the streets.
Black Lives Matter is not a moment, it’s a movement.
Kamala-Jean Gopie embodies what we can achieve if we work together to effect change in our communities. Her resume and bio indicates the depth and breath of her contributions to make this a city we can proudly call home. As minorities, we are beginning to see ourselves in the media reading the news, in advertising, on law enforcement and other facets of city life thanks in part to the work of people like Kamala-Jean Gopie. She is a doer, not a chronic complainer and encourages us all to rise above our insecurities. She has lobbied institutions to change their practices and become more inclusive but she has also challenged the youth to participate in institutions such as the United Way and other services and other government organizations and give back to their communities. By example, she is encouraging support for the arts and for us not to limit ourselves to just what we know and are comfortable with and this augurs well for race relations in this city. If people are involved in the institutions that help make the city function they are less likely to feel disenfranchised and this leads to social harmony, thanks in part to the work of Kamala-Jean Gopie.
Ritu Bhasin is a lawyer, advocate, and social entrepreneur who has spent almost 20 years working to eliminate racism and prejudice.
For 10 years Ritu practiced civil litigation, human rights, and constitutional law on Bay Street and then she broke new ground in the Canadian legal profession by becoming one of the few people of colour to serve on a senior management team, focusing on talent management for law students and lawyers. Ritu worked tirelessly during this time to advocate and promote diversity and inclusion within her law firm and across the legal profession in Toronto and Canada.
In 2010, Ritu completed her Executive MBA while continuing to work full-time in her demanding Bay Street job. Upon completing her MBA, Ritu took a leap of faith and founded her own consulting firm. The firm focuses on advancing diversity and inclusion within organizations, and coaching diverse professionals to find success. Ritu works with a range of world-renowned organizations, including law firms, corporations, banks, academic institutions, professional associations, and non-profits.
Through her work, she brings together people to become actively involved in the elimination of racism and other forms of prejudice. Ritu has previously taught in the Executive Program at the Rotman School of Management, and in diversity strategy in not-for-profit governance. Additionally, Ritu was on the instructing team that contributed to The Greater Toronto CivicAction Alliance’s 2011 DiverseCity Fellows Program. Ritu contributes to many of Toronto’s community organizations including CivicAction and the Maytree Foundation, and is a mentor to dozens of emerging leaders from racialized communities, including youth from Toronto’s Regent Park community.
Ritu has been a member of the Pan Am Games Toronto 2015 Employment Advisory Council, the City of Toronto’s Yonge-Dundas Square Board of Management and the Habitat for Humanity Canada Board of Directors. She has previously served on the Rotman School of Management’s Values Initiatives Working Group, the Law Society’s Equity Advisory Group, the Board of Directors for the YWCA Toronto, and Rotman’s Business Edge Mentorship Program for Women In Business. Ritu is a recipient of numerous awards and distinctions, including the 2011 Gordon Cressy Leadership Award from the University of Toronto and the University of Western Ontario’s Young Alumni Award for 2013.
Samuel has been a dedicated volunteer and community journalist for more than a decade. He is an ongoing contributor to Generation Next and writes regularly for Sway, TZTA and The Huffington Post. He is also a regular commentator in the media on diversity issues. He has always used these outlets to tell the story of emerging immigrant Canadians.
Since 2009, Samuel has served as a board member with the Africans in Partnership Against AIDS (APPA). Previously, he served as a board member for the United Way Impact Committee (2005-2008), Citizens Advocacy Ottawa (2004-2008) and Swansea Town Hall (2009-2011).
Since coming to Canada from Ethiopia, Getachew has valued most the mentorship he has provided to countless young people. He has personally reached out to many of the country’s most dynamic yet under-resourced young leaders and has extended his own networks, time and support in service of their personal and community ambitions.
A 2010 Maytree Foundation fellow, Samuel studied Political Science at Carleton University. His efforts have been recognized with a 2011 National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada award, an Ontario Volunteer Service Award and a Duke of Edinburgh Award gold medal.