Umoja Black Advisory Committee hosts potluck for Black community

Image via Kaboompics.

The Umoja Black Advisory Committee is inviting members of Kingston’s Black community to its first event, a potluck, to share information, network, empower each other for a better future for the children, and eat great food.

The Umoja Black Advisory Committee is a collaboration between Family and Children’s Services of Frontenac Lennox and Addington (FACSFLA) and the Limestone District School Board (LDSB). According to both organizations, the purpose of this committee is to improve supports and services for families from the Black community who interact with the LDSB, FACSFLA, and other organizations within the Kingston Frontenac Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) community.

The Kwanzaa celebration is an important part of the Black community’s end-of-year holiday, and its first principle, ‘Umoja,’ means ‘unity.’ Umoja means striving for and maintaining unity in the family and community — A powerful guiding principle that will transform and inspire a rework of the way LDSB and FACSFLA interact with children, youth, and families from the Black community, according to a joint release from both organizations.

Submitted image.

In the release, the organizations stated that they will, “maintain an ongoing commitment to provide excellent and high-quality educational and child welfare services to children, youth and families of diverse backgrounds that are free from discrimination, racism, and oppression. Both LDSB and FACSFLA also maintain an ongoing commitment to provide equitable access to educational and child welfare services via responsive approaches to the unique identities and needs of children, youth and families, and communities that we serve.”

Judith Brown, a Trustee of the Limestone District School Board and long-standing member of Kingston’s Black community, said that this initiative is a major step in addressing anti-Black racism.

“One realizes just how early attitudes are formed, and it is by addressing issues at the earliest stage that one has the best chance of helping persons in the formation of their attitudes. In my lived experiences as a teacher, I have been subjected to such incidences, so I am very aware of just how early attitudes are formed,” she said.

According to the release, both organizations recognize that addressing the unique needs of Black children, youth, and families is crucial to address the disproportionate disparity of outcomes faced by members of this group in both educational and child welfare systems.

“We are proud to partner with the LDSB as we recognize the unique needs of Black children, youth, and families in both the educational and child welfare system,” stated Sonia Gentile, Executive Director of FACSFLA. “By taking the time to understand the culture of Black children, youth, and families, it enriches our community as we learn from someone else’s experiences that are different than our own.”

The Umoja Black Advisory Committee will provide a forum to advise, support, and hold LDSB and FACSFLA accountable in the implementation of their equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) initiatives to ensure better outcomes for Black children, youth, and families involved in both systems, according to the release.

“The establishment of this committee recognizes the value and importance of hearing from those we serve and acknowledges the unique experiences and needs of Black children and families,” stated Yusuf Adulkareem, LDSB Human Rights and Equity Officer. “This committee will facilitate better communication and increase information exchange between Black communities, FACSLA, and LDSB, and ensure that Black children and families face no prejudice in service delivery.”

Msenwa Mweneake, Manager of Equity and Transformation with FACSFLA added, “Black people have been telling us repeatedly about the barriers they face when accessing child welfare and educational systems, among other systems in KFLA. Our systems have not been nice to Black people, and the only way to address disproportionality and disparity of outcomes for Black people, is for systems to start intentionally working together alongside the Black community, for them and not against them.”

At the potluck, there will be guest speakers from LDSB, FACSFLA, and Black community leaders. Everyone is welcome: Black children and youth, their parents, mentors, coaches, uncles, and aunties.

“With community involvement, it will help change to come about more quickly. I strongly encourage members of the Black community and allies to join this committee. Your voice matters,” Trustee Brown concluded.

The potluck will be held Thursday, May 26, 2022, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the offices of FACSFLA, located at 817 Division Street. Membership is open to anyone who identifies as Black or People of African Descent, including families of Black children and youth.

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