Hamilton Black advocacy organization wants to wrap children 'with love and culture' in new project

A Hamilton-based Black advocacy organization, the Afro Canadian Caribbean Association (ACCA), will lead a project aimed at preventing crime and violence, and increasing self confidence in Black youth.

Province providing $284,671 to Afro Canadian Caribbean Association for ‘Rites of Passage’ project

Evelyn Myrie, president of the ACCA, which is based in Hamilton, Ont., says the Rites of Passage project aims to prevent youth from becoming involved in gun violence and gang activity. (Submitted by Evelyn Myrie)

A Hamilton-based Black advocacy organization will lead a project — under Ontario's Guns, Gangs and Violence Reduction Strategy — aimed at preventing crime and violence, and increasing awareness and self confidence in Black youth.

The provincial government is giving the Afro Canadian Caribbean Association (ACCA) $284,671 for the "Rites of Passage" project. The project is one of 11 new community-based programs aimed at deterring youth from becoming involved in gun violence, gang activity and victimization, including human trafficking. 

"We want to wrap around our children with love and culture so that they develop a strong foundation, and in so doing we hope that they will make better and healthier decisions for their future," ACCA president Evelyn Myrie told CBC News.

"This project is designed to instill a sense of cultural pride and self confidence in our children, so that they make good, healthy choices as they navigate their development."

Myrie said ACCA will offer programs that help Black youth see themselves as worthy and as contributors to society, and will affirm a positive message around them.

"This program will embed the principles of Kwanzaa throughout the design and delivery stages. The project draws on well-established service models and/or practices that are recognized as effective for supporting youth at risk of violence and victimization," she said.

"Rites of Passage will bring together caring adults and match them with a youth between the ages of nine and 13. These will be positive role models. We want to organize educational sessions such as Black history classes, self-development programs, drumming, things that are cultural to really surround them."

Our program is culturally-relevant, client and youth-centered, trauma-informed and holistically engages families in order to create positive and rewarding opportunities for youth through cultural empowerment and leadership training.- Evelyn Myrie, ACCA president

The program will include: 

  • Mentorship.
  • Peer support (virtual and in person).
  • Cultural/educational after school program.
  • Weekend retreat with African elders/cultural animator.
  • Support for parents and the creation of an entrepreneurial hub for Black youth. 

"Our program is culturally relevant, client and youth-centered, trauma-informed and holistically engages families in order to create positive and rewarding opportunities for youth through cultural empowerment and leadership training," Myrie said.

ACCA is putting out a call for staffing. Intake will begin in September.

Community-based programs in Ottawa, London, Thunder Bay, Toronto and neighbouring Indigenous communities also received money.

Ganohkwasra Family Assault Support Services at Six Nations of the Grand River received $246,165 for an anti-human trafficking education and awareness project for community members.

Help youth find meaningful alternatives to violence

Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, minister of children, community and social services, said the new intervention and prevention programs will help youth succeed and find meaningful alternatives to violence.

The 11 new programs, delivered by Black and Indigenous-led organizations, will support youth and young adults aged 12 to 29.

"Our government is working with communities across the province to support youth, reduce crime and make Ontario safer," Fullerton said.

"We know it's critical to intervene early and provide youth with supports that address the root causes that make them susceptible to violence and victimization, including through human trafficking."

Meanwhile, Attorney General Doug Downey said supporting youth and families is a critical part of the government's Anti-Human Trafficking and Guns, Gangs and Violence Strategies to reduce violence and confront human trafficking crimes in Ontario communities.

"We are determined to dismantle the criminal networks that prey on young and vulnerable people in our neighbourhoods, and these encouraging new programs will help communities fight back against gun, drug, and human trafficking which fuels gang operations and the continued recruitment of at-risk youth and young adults," Downey said.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.



Desmond Brown

Web Writer / Editor

Desmond Brown is a web writer and editor with CBC News, assigned to CBC Toronto, CBC Hamilton and CBC Kitchener-Waterloo. Email: desmond.brown@cbc.ca.