So where does the Calgary Black Chambers stand? After the death of George Floyd at the hands of the police, people finally realize something needs to be done to equalize the equation, to make things more equitable for our black and indigenous peoples. I’m happy to see groups across Canada springing up left and right trying to help the cause. While there are definitely questions about the leadership and motivations of some of these groups, you can rest assured the Calgary Black Chambers board has been hard at work getting the right people, policies, procedures & partnerships in place to move Black culture in Calgary in the right direction.
Back in late 2019, we as a group came up with our fundamental values: Mentorship, Scholarship, Advocacy, and Fellowship. Further to this, I’ll break down what steps we’ve taken to provide structure to our values and how we will continue to grow upon these values moving forward.
Mentorship is perhaps our reason for existing. Our goal of fostering diversity in Calgary rests on the idea that providing a leg up to our student members will enable them to more easily join our professional ranks. When Coronavirus first struck, we found many international students were all of a sudden cut off from their support back home while simultaneously dealing with lost jobs and missed rent here in Canada. Through partnership with SAIT, MRU, and Bow Valley College, we were able to identify 20 at-risk students and provided cash to help these students along their way. These funds were raised through a brief email campaign to our mailing list and it was a remarkable first step for this now Alberta registered, non-profit society.
Now our mentorship program is focused on finding mentors. We have the capacity to support roughly about 50 right now and, with each mentor having up to two students they’re helping, we’d be able to help 100 students in our first school year. After their initial CBC training, our mentors can expect to have six touchpoints with their mentees throughout the school year at their discretion. Direct mentoring is only one aspect of three, however, with our Soft Skills course occurring throughout the year and volunteering opportunities for resuming building allowing our kids access to both the skills and the experience necessary to compete in today’s world. If you are interested in becoming a mentor, please let us know!
Our goal of providing Scholarships has certainly been a fun journey. After exploring various options available to us, we’ve now set up the Calgary Black Chambers Scholarship Fund at the Calgary Foundation. The Calgary Foundation will aid us in the acceptance and collation of scholarship applications for review, while our Scholarship Committee will have the final say on who gets what scholarship. As it stands, one partnership has already created two smaller scholarships for this coming school year. This is where most of our membership fees will go, to provide 4 more scholarships in the CBC’s name given to the students who best represent our four values.
Besides the CBC Scholarships, we are aiming for roughly 8 corporate scholarships. We are currently in discussions with several institutions, however, if you know of a group or business wanting to help black students, we are open to discuss. All of our scholarships will be presented at an awards night next June; something to look forward to post-COVID to be sure.
Advocacy is a place where we’ve received a lot of feedback. Our course of action, as previously decided by the CBC, is to operate in the background through coffees and direct lobbying of government officials. On top of this, seeing how the government can sometimes be slow to act, we’ve chosen to partner directly with Calgary Immigrant services and offer a Diversity program for HR Managers in corporate Calgary; something we’ve very excited to start. All of the actions we take will be vetted by our Advocacy board, led by Warren Libert-Scott. We’re looking for members of government, education-related people, and business & non-profit leaders to join this committee while we seek changes to the way the system works for Black people.
What is all of this predicated on? Fellowship. The one thing that makes the rest work. With everything going on, parents becoming full-time teachers, work is questionable, the future hazy… we need to come together and share our expertise. We’re focused on building up Black culture in Calgary by connecting all the different groups representing our interests. As a volunteer-based organization, we appreciate the help we’ve received from people on our mailing list volunteering their services.
What we need now is your help. To live up to our values, we first need your participation. As we draw closer to accepting membership fees ($30/month), I hope we can show you how we provide value in bringing Black culture together and can see how this value exists for your benefit. Going forward, we’ll have networking breakout sessions after every meeting to help you connect with others, monthly speaking engagements (Dr. Glory Ovie this coming Thursday!), and a member registration list so you can get in contact with Black people who can help you in business and life. Lastly, we have our blog and we want to share your message. If you have a business, group, or idea you want to share about, we will post and share your thoughts to get you some more attention!
We’re in the perfect place & time right now, with a true path for growth… but first, we need your help. We have the team to make this city a better place for all peoples so I urge you to step up and join us in growing & helping Black culture, life and commerce in Calgary. Let’s see what we can do together!