Black History Month 2018

Toronto was the first municipality in Canada to formally commemorate the experiences and contributions of African Canadians, by proclaiming Black History Month in 1979. During the month of February, all across the city, from public libraries to the ROM to digital exhibits, events are taking place to reflect on and honour the legacy of Black Canadians.

I wanted to take this opportunity to shine a spotlight on WoodGreen’s Rites of Passage (ROP) process, which was the recent recipient of the Ontario Black History Society Rose Fortune Award – For Strength of Character and Firm Resolve 2018.

ROP assists young people of Afrikan descent navigate the transition from adolescence into responsible adulthood, providing knowledge, and opportunities to explore their history and contributions to world history. Twenty new participants are accepted into the process every year, and over the past decade, more than 200 young people have graduated from ROP. Alumni have gone on to work directly with community organizations, serving as role models to their peers, thus contributing to a stronger, safer community.

In 2016, the ROP team hosted an Indaba conference at York University, in partnership with GTA Rites of Passage and the National Rites of Passage Institute. The conference provided a platform for young people to explore their Afrikan lineage, and share stories that shape their identities and futures. Over 300 participants from Cleveland, Chicago, Washington D.C., and the United Kingdom took part. This year, a group of 10 current ROP participants are fundraising to attend the Indaba ROP Conference in the United Kingdom in August.

Opportunities to engage young people in life transformational processes like ROP are critical to ensure that they acquire the tools, cultural knowledge of self and confidence necessary to navigate their way through life’s many stages. If you are interested in learning more about Rites of Passage, please visit:

Sipho Kwaku
Director Employment Solutions, Workforce Development