Black History Month

Randall Adjei - Ontario’s Inaugural Laureate Poet

Randall Adjei, born in Ghana and raised in Scarborough, helps kicks off YSYF’s campaign this Black History Month: What does it mean to be #BlackInCanada?

Adjei was most notably named Ontario’s first laureate poet in 2021, a position awarded by the provincial government to supply colourful and powerful groups of words for special occasions.

For Adjei, being #BlackInCanada is about using your voice to speak up, and he speaks from experience. “I, as a young person, I had a lot of anger in my heart. I didn’t have a lot of positive role models growing up. I had no access to opportunities.” CBC quoted Adjei in a 2015 article where he was nominated as Torontonian of the year.

On a day to day basis he channels his suffering, as he puts it, into making positive change with youth who are going through similar struggles. He founded Reaching Intelligent Souls Everywhere (R.I.S.E Edutainment), a youth-led program providing safe spaces for young artists to come together.

Esi Edugyan - Two Time Giller Prize Winner Canadian-Ghanian Novelist

Born to Ghanian parents, Esi Edugyan was born and raised in Alberta, Canada. She graduated with an undergraduate degree from the University of Victoria and a Master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University. Her strong foundation led her to write her first debut novel,  The Second Life of Samuel Tyne, which was shortlisted for the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award in 2005.

Fast forward to 2011, her book, Half-Blood Blues, was shortlisted for the year’s Man-Booker Prize, Scotiabank Giller Prize, Roger’s Writer Trust Fiction Prize, and Governer General’s Award for English language fiction. On November 8th, 2011, Edugyan’s book won her first Giller Prize award! 

Finally, in 2018, she won her second Giller Prize with the novel Washington Black, which went on to be shortlisted for the Man-Booker Prize, the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, the 2019 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction and the 2020 International Dublin Literary Award. More recently, it has been selected for the 2022 edition of Canada Reads! 

Philomena Mensah - Ghanian-Canadian Sprinter

Philomena Mensah was born in Accra, Ghana and is a sprinter who represented both Ghana and Canada at various athletic events. She previously represented Ghana in the 1994 African Junior Athletics Championships, where she won gold in the 100-metre race. In the same year, she won the bronze in the 200 metres and bronze in the World Junior Championships in Athletics. 

Mensah emigrated to Canada following the 1994 Commonwealth Games and began to represent Canada. She won the bronze medal in the 60 metres race at the 1999 IAAF World Indoor Championships after setting her personal best in the heats completing within 7.02 seconds. 

Ama DeGraft-Johnson - Ghanaian-Canadian Anesthetist

Ama DeGraft-Johnson closes our #BlackinCanada spotlights this Black History Month. She came to Toronto in 1973 and is now a retired anesthetist who practiced for more than 30 years in Hamilton. The first 15 of those years saw her as the only female member of the anesthesiology team. 

To say she was a pioneer in fighting sexist and racist stereotypes would be an understatement. Her commitment and passion for her trade has clearly inspired her own family, with her three daughters achieving success in their own fields of social work, psychology and law. 

Notably, DeGraft-Johnson recently spoke at the inauguration of the new Ghana Union of Canada ceremony this past summer. The GUC intends to be the voice of Ghanaians in Canada, focusing on three core pillars: Immigration, Settlement and Integration. Who better to advocate for Ghanaian immigrants than Ama?