Putting a focus on youth during Black History Month

Toronto group working to celebrate achievements of young, black individuals and inspire future plans.

Somali-born Canadian supermodel Yasmin Warsame is involved in humanitarian work in Toronto and Somalia. She'll be one of the people making special appearances at the event.

A Toronto project is flipping the narrative on how we celebrate Black History Month.

The Black Arts and Innovation Expo aims to put more focus on what young people are doing to forge a better future in their communities.

Created two years ago by Excelovate in conjunction with First Book Canada – two Canadian publishing companies with a focus on diversity – the expo is a platform for young talent in the local black communities to showcase their creative achievements.

Toronto photographer Adeyemi Adegbesan, whose Instagram account @SoTeeOh has more than 60,000 followers, will also be part of the expo.

Torstar News Service file – Toronto photographer Adeyemi Adegbesan, whose Instagram account @SoTeeOh has more than 60,000 followers, will also be part of the expo.

Dalton Higgins, the creative director for the event, says it’s time to look beyond historic figures.

“We’re all versed on Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and Miss Lou and Malcolm X, and that’s fantastic,” he said. “But for a lot of millennials it’s starting to sound like cliché, and we have to start looking at contemporary realities of black people.”

The expo wants to reflect those realities by underscoring the work of young innovators who are making positive changes in their communities.

Apart from panel discussions on various issues, music performances and art exhibitions, the event will also feature special appearances by former world champion hurdler Perdita Felicien, Somali-born supermodel Yasmin Warsame and poet laureate George Elliott Clarke among many others.

Bob Marley’s granddaughter Donisha Prendergast, who is an actress, model, dancer and poet, will make a special appearance at the expo.

Contributed – Bob Marley’s granddaughter Donisha Prendergast, who is an actress, model, dancer and poet, will make a special appearance at the expo.

Higgins said the goal is to bridge a multigenerational gap by keeping the history of African Canadians alive, while making sure youth are taking charge of their own narrative going forward.

The event will also feature the Lion’s Lair entrepreneurial competition, with the winner receiving $10,000 to help launch or expand a business. It’ll also offer 20 scholarships for African Canadian students to pursue post-secondary education in science, technology, engineering and math.

“If we don’t have youth in the driver’s seat, it’s going to be a shaky future,” Higgins  said.

The Black Arts and Innovation Expo takes place on Saturday, February 25, from 2 to 9 p.m. at York Mills Gallery (1885 Leslie St.) in Toronto.

BY GILBERT NGABO – METRO

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