Black History 365

See what’s on

Black History is about engagement, education, sharing and celebration. We’re grateful to our community partners for sharing their experience and knowledge, so please check out these resources!

If you want to read more, view our curated booklists:

Tuesday Takeovers with Making Change

If you missed the Tuesday Takeovers with Making Change Ambassadors, visit our Instagram or Facebook to learn more about Black history, white privilege, how to respond to racism, and the dos and don’ts of being an ally. Special guests include local activists Shondra Durrant, Keliah Casey, and Alasoba (Lala) Kelsy-Braide from Making Change.

What’s Cooking Innisfil: Spotlight on the Caribbean

Join Roxann Whittingham, owner of Ms. Hotty Hotty Jerk Marinade, as she puts her heart and soul into cooking a jerk-style shrimp and spaghetti dish.

Fun facts: Roxann is a published author of three books, the proud founder of the Black Education Empowerment Fund, and a mother of two handsome boys, Akeem and Joshua! The video premiered on the Rizzardo Health and Wellness Centre’s YouTube Channel on February 17 at 5:30 p.m.

UPlift Black the Web Series – Premiere episode of “UPlift Black Hair”

UPlift Black President, Shelly Skinner, sits on a panel with local hairstylists and experts discussing the continued segregation in the hairstyling industry, current Black hair trends and the lived experiences of living with Black hair in Simcoe County. The video will be available for viewing on the Library’s YouTube page until March 1, 2021.      

Cover of the book Boundless Grace

Live Storytime with Gwyn Beaver

Join local jazz and theatre performer Gwyn Beaver for a special storytime. Gwyn, who is also the creator of Stories of Colour, read Boundless Grace by Mary Hoffman.

Cover of the book Johnny Lightning and the Magic Yellow Yam

Live Storytime with Roxann Whittingham

Listen to local Caribbean author and owner of Ms. Hotty Hotty Jerk Marinade as she reads her book Johnny Lightning and the Magic Yellow Yam!

Our Partners

Get to know the speakers and organizers behind these Black History Month events.

Making Change logo

Making Change

Community Group and Partner

Read more about Making Change

Making Change is a local organization whose goal is to spark broad community interest and foster conversations around inclusion and diversity. We have a specific focus on raising awareness and educating and exposing people to the Black community, Black culture, issues around anti-Black racism. We are building community inclusion and togetherness through activities, allyship, participation and discussion. We also provide support, financial and administrative, to local organizations aligned with supporting the Black community, and those doing diversity and inclusion work. 

Through their initiatives centred around Black History Month, Making Change embraces the community values that connect us as people, bring us closer together, and encourage us to support each other.

Young Black woman with curly hair

Keliah Casey

Youth Ambassador – Making Change | Speaker | Activist

Read more about Keliah

Keliah Casey (she/her), is an ambitious activist in the making, who has a passion for the success of her community. She strives to use her talents in a way that will help to make a difference, be an inspiration, and help pave the way for generations to come. 

As the youngest child, she has grown up seeing the struggles her siblings have faced and is dedicated to making positive change within the cycle that has caused her community to be dormant in relation to the fight for racial equality. She has been recognized in her school community as someone who is devoted to bringing awareness, teaching, and exposing the bonds of racism. Volunteering with Making Change is another way she gives back to her community.

As a loyal activist, she is always trying to find new opportunities to expand her knowledge as well as educate and connect with others who are as passionate about making change as she is. 

Young black woman smiling with black vest and grey shirt

Shondra Durrant

Youth Ambassador – Making Change | Speaker | Artist

Read more about Shondra

Shondra Durrant (she/her) is a young activist, who strives to better her community in terms of ending racial inequality, and the intersectionality it can hold. With a creative and outgoing approach, she is always trying to further educate herself and her peers. She has been recognized throughout her school and her community as not only a positive influencer but a change-maker.

With two younger siblings, Shondra strives to make her community a safer and more inclusive place for them as they grow up. She has been recognized for her art from the MacLaren Art Centre, involving the Youth Social Media Project: Change, in early June of 2020. Furthermore, she is known around her school for being a dedicated community builder, sharing her education, passion, and irrepressibility with her peers in a positive manner. 

As a dedicated activist, she is always trying to make connections with others who harbour the passion to make real change. Thus leading her to become a Youth Ambassador and future Board Director with Making Change.

Light skinned black woman smiling in white t-shirt

Amber Beckett

Making Change Speaker | Facilitator | Panelist

Read more about Amber

Amber believes social disconnection is the biggest threat to our society and is not afraid to proclaim it. On a mission to eradicate loneliness and division in our communities, she focuses on giving others the confidence to take initiative in interactions, make deeper connections and create a friendlier world. 

She is the lead instructor at The Hello Code, debate adjudicator, and former Area Director for Toastmasters. Leveraging her degree in medical science and past lives as an educator at various school boards worldwide, a 911 call-taker, and a conversation cafe host in Japan, she has a natural way of asking questions and putting the people around her at ease. 

Amber has led multiple community forums on public safety and policing and has also created an online collective for citizens of Barrie to share experiences, knowledge, and ideas for the future. She is also an official ‘Ask Deep Questions’ facilitator and recommends we all spend more time in conversation, connecting, and listening to each other’s stories.

Black woman with glasses and red shirt

Alasoba Kelsy-Braide

Making Change Speaker | Facilitator | Panelist

Read more about Alasoba (Lala)

Alasoba (Lala) Kelsy- Braide came to Orillia as an International student from Nigeria and has made Orillia her home. As a Child and Youth Care student at Georgian College, she was part of the student executive council (Georgian college student association) as VP Community Engagement. She was actively involved in planning and executing many events at Georgian College, some of which include the initiating, plan and coordination of a week-long Black History Month celebration;  and the yearly Santa Claus parade; and mental health awareness.

Alasoba also worked hand in hand with the County of Simcoe through the Community Impact Project in Georgian College Orillia to implement a project called  WIN-WIN (What I need, When I need it). The project creates educational awareness to reduce the stigma related to transitional housing for youth, through workshops in alternative schools in Simcoe County. She also did her field placement at Simcoe Shore School and volunteered at the Calvary Pentecostal Tabernacle Orillia. Currently, Alasoba works at Apple Blossom Village as a Youth support worker for youth with special needs and mental health issues.

Alasoba strongly believes that inclusivity and diversity are important tools to create a safe community where everyone thrives regardless of their age, race, gender, and sexual orientation.

Uplift Black logo

UPlift Black

Community Group and Partner

Read more about UPlift Black

UPlift Black is a social service agency working to UPlift the complete wellbeing of Black people who live in Simcoe Muskoka. Their work is culturally based and anchored in 2SLGBTQPNIA+ inclusivity striving to achieve the ultimate goal of racial equity through a conscious community.

Smiling Black woman with curly hair and red jacket

Roxann Whittingham

Child & Youth Practitioner | Owner of Ms. Hotty Hotty | Author | Change Maker

Read more about Roxann

Roxann Whittingham is a trained Child and Youth Practitioner, graduating at the top of her class from Georgian College while working as the VP of Community Engagement for that institution.  She also holds a diploma in Education and has over ten years of teaching experience, working with elementary and high school students in Jamaica. She has a distinct passion for advocating for, empowering, motivating, and inspiring young people. Most of her Canadian work experience revolves around children and youth from marginalized groups, with various disabilities and mental health conditions. Her Caribbean upbringing and roots gave her the tenacity and resiliency skills needed to support this dynamic group. Roxann does everything with ‘heart and soul’, an imperative ingredient needed for the vulnerable sector in which she practices.

Roxann is a change-maker and backs up her values and beliefs with action. She is the proud founder of the Black Education Empowerment (Scholarship) Fund, (B.E.E.F), instituted to encourage and support black students applying to Georgian College while stimulating diversity. She is the owner of ‘Ms. Hotty Hotty’, a company that produces authentic Jamaican Jerk Marinade, a published author of three books, a proud member of the OACYC, South Simcoe Startup, UPlift Black, Georgian Changemaker et al, and a mother of two handsome boys, Akeem and Joshua.

Smiling Black woman with pink shirt and white headband

Gwyn Beaver

Creator of Stories of Colour |  Owner of A Taste of Soul | Singer

Read more about Gwyn

Gwyn Beaver is a native of Texas and has lived in Canada since 2004. Gwyn holds a Master’s degree in vocal performance from the University of Oklahoma. She is the owner of A Taste of Soul! which features the cuisine of the southern United States. Gwyn has been a featured artist with the Montréal Jubilation Choir and has worked with various jazz artists based in Montréal. In addition to singing jazz, Gwyn continues to present concerts in the classical/operatic genre. She has performed with the l’Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, Jongleur Opera, Fort Worth Opera, Cimarron Circuit Opera and was an apprentice with the Houston Ebony Opera. Gwyn’s theatre credits include Quarter Century Theatre, Newmarket National Play Festival, as well as community theatres in Texas, Oklahoma and Québec. On camera, credits include work with E LD Films, Les Enfants Production and Montréal Casting. She is an apprentice with the Union des Artistes and is represented by The Casting Solution.