The Inaugural BlackNorth Gala, Jan. 21, Toronto
“Addressing anti-Black barriers ensures that Black people are afforded equal opportunities to succeed,” said Dr. Wesley J. Hall, founder and chairman of the organization BlackNorth Initiative. He was addressing a room of Black and corporate leaders on the evening of Jan. 21 at the inaugural BlackNorth Gala in Toronto. Since launching in 2020, the organization has been working with Black communities in Canada to address the challenges and systemic barriers facing Black talent. Monies raised at the gala and throughout the year help the organization empower these communities in the hopes of creating generational change.
The gathering was also a chance to celebrate outstanding Black community leaders and a number of corporations which are helping underwrite some of the organization’s great work. Bestowed with a lifetime achievement award was the Honourable Dr. Donald H. Oliver, the Nova Scotia-born lawyer who in 1990 became the first Black Canadian man to be appointed to the senate, where he served until 2013. Honoured with the same award was Jane Omollo, a passionate community leader and founding member of the African Caribbean Canadian Association of Northern Ontario. Management consulting firm Bain & Company and public relations firm Hill+Knowlton Strategies were honoured for their commitment to positive change, and Black entrepreneurs on the rise were also celebrated, including Kerin John, a graphic designer who started Black Owned Toronto, a social platform that works to bring awareness to Black-owned businesses in Canada.
A number of young people were also recognized: BlackNorth Initiative has, to date, awarded scholarships to 30 Black youth, through their Youth Accelerator program, a partnership made possible by CIBC and BGC Canada. Among those out at the inaugural to-do’: the aforementioned Wesley Hall, entrepreneur and philanthropist who attended with his wife Christine; TVOntario CEO Jeffrey Orridge; singer Glenn Lewis, who performed in-between courses; EY chairman and CEO Jad Shimaly and his wife Roula; Dr. Upton Allen who co-chairs the SickKids-Caribbean Initiative; TV presenter Tyrone Edwards who served as emcee; and Dahabo Ahmed-Omer, executive director of the BlackNorth Initiative.