New lead of Hamilton's anti-racism resource centre says it's been a long time coming
'I thought, 'I'm going to apply for this job''
Princewill Ogban was in Nova Scotia when he saw the ad for his new job, and he could hardly believe his eyes.
It was an auspicious title — "anti-racism lead" — for Hamilton's new Anti-Racism Resource Centre. And for the social worker whose last job was helping black men access the health care system, he couldn't help but apply.
"Most people don't want to talk about racism, so putting it in the job title is a bold step," he said. "I thought, 'I'm going to apply for this job.'"
Ogban will oversee the centre's launch April 4, a moment 14 years in the making for racialized people in Hamilton. The centre will monitor and track racism complaints, as well as support victims.
The idea came out a racism symposium in 2003. In 2004, the city's anti-racism committee presented it to city council. City council asked for a feasibility study.
The committee returned with a study in 2010. Council asked for more information. The committee returned in February 2014, and again in September 2014, when council deferred it again.
"It's easy for us to say (there's no need for a centre)," Coun. Sam Merulla said then, talking to what was then an all-white council. "It's not very easy for those that need it to say."
In late 2015, city council finally approved a three-year pilot project. The city is partnering with McMaster University and the Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion (HCCI), and the latter is offering office space. The city will pay $100,000 per year over that time, while McMaster will pitch in $70,000 and the HCCI $30,000.
Ogban has experience dealing with racialized communities. A graduate of Nigeria's University of Calabar, Ogban is a registered social worker who last worked as a health care social worker and wellness navigator with the Nova Scotia Health Authority.
He knew little of Hamilton when he saw the job ad online, he said. But now, "I'm very, very excited to be here."
The event will be from 6 to 8 p.m. April 4 in the main auditorium of the David Braley Health Sciences Centre, 100 Main St. W. It is open to the public.