New lead of Hamilton's anti-racism resource centre says it's been a long time coming

After 14 years of effort, Hamilton finally has an anti-racism resource centre.

'I thought, 'I'm going to apply for this job''

"I saw it in September last year, and I was like 'oh my God, there’s a position like this, with this title?'" says Princewill Ogban, the new anti-racism lead at Hamilton's Anti-Racism Resource Centre. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

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.

Members of Hamilton's black community and its committee for anti-racism - including Winston Morrison, Roger Cameron and Bill DeLisser - listened in 2014 as councillors discuss setting up a resource centre for victims of racism. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

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.

There were 18 per cent more hate and bias incidents investigated by Hamilton police last year than in 2016. (Hamilton Police Service)

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.

About the Author

Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She has a particular interest in politics and social justice stories, and tweets live from Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca