Saturday, 3 February 2018

TD Bank Launches its 2018 Black History Month Series

By Neil Armstrong

Photo credit:      Naki Osutei, Director, Partnerships and Engagement, Community Relations and Corporate Citizenship at TD Bank Group.

Exhibitions, a film festival, an international jazz festival and its signature Black Diamond Ball are among the many events of the TD Bank Group’s 2018 Black History Month series which “celebrates inspiring black voices” as its theme.

Speaking at the media launch on January 24 at the TD Tower in Toronto, Al Ramsay, national manager, LGBTA Business Development TD Canada, who was there from the beginning of the bank’s support of the series over ten years ago noted that this is the biggest series of its kind in Canada. 

Ramsay, a Jamaican who was hired in 2005 to run TD’s community relations diversity program, said ten years ago they started this series to amplify their sponsorship and brand.

They started in Toronto and then expanded to Montreal, Halifax, Ottawa, Brampton and Waterloo, and it keeps expanding, he said.

“We know at TD Bank that supporting diversity and inclusion is the right thing to do. It also makes good business sense.”

He said February – Black History Month – is short but he believes in “Black History 365” so while there are great events in February, there are others throughout the year that the bank supports.

Photo credit:   Al Ramsay, National Manager, LGBTA Business Development, TD Canada.

These include the Irie Music Festival, the Black Business and Professional Association’s Harry Jerome Awards, Canadian Association of Urban Financial Professionals, and others.

Ramsay wants the community to take advantage of all these opportunities to support local artists and local organizations during this series to make it a success – what he calls dual accountability and dual responsibility.

Last year, the bank sponsored over one hundred events across Canada.

Among the roster of events in the 2018 series are: the ROM-original exhibition “Here We Are Here: Black Canadian Contemporary Art,” an exhibition at the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Wedge Curatorial Projects’ exhibition “Of Ourselves,” Toronto Black Film Festival, Tribute to the Legends of Reggae, and the Black Diamond Ball.

Naki Osutei, director, partnerships and engagement in TD’s Community Relations and Corporate Citizenship said these activities bring people together while centring black voices. She announced that TD had just bought four pieces of artist, Sandra Brewster’s work, “Blur,” which will be added to TD’s art collection.

Brewster is one of the artists whose works are being featured in the ROM exhibition.

Shawn Cuffie, curator of the Black Diamond Ball, announced that American Grammy Award-winning recording artist, Mýa, is the headliner for the 3rd annual Black Diamond Ball. Liberty Silver, multiple Juno Award-winning & Grammy Award-winning (collaboration) recording artist, Canadian rapper Choclair, and other artists will also perform.

He said since the inaugural ball they have included the black carpet which is quite popular, and a gifting lounge where they will be giving away a black diamond as well.

“The main reason for the Black Diamond Ball is to celebrate Black History Month and Black art,” said Cuffie, noting that a lot of artists do not have the ability to get into spaces that are hard to get into like the 54th floor of the TD Tower – the venue of the media launch.

“This is a space where artists get to meet celebrities like Brandy or Mya and they get to perform and to shine a little bit more in our community,” he said about the ball.

He said last year they had a thousand people and had given away a lot of tickets to youth and to shelters.

Hosted by Brandon Gonez of CTV’s “Your Morning,” the media launch featured performances by poet, Nadine Williams, drumming by N’dere Nimon Headley-Lindsay, dancing, fashion by designer, Kyle Gervacy.

Meanwhile, the Wedge Curatorial Projects exhibition “Of Ourselves” is at the Gladstone Hotel from February 1 to 24. Curated by Emilie Croning and Hannah Traore, it examines the complexities of the Black experience and explores African-American writer and activist, W.E.B. DuBois’ concept of ‘double consciousness’.

The 6th annual Toronto Black Film Festival (TBFF), which runs from February 14 to 19, is dedicated to promoting the development of independent film – while celebrating diversity on screen. It was created by the Fabienne Colas Foundation and is co-presented by TD Bank Group in collaboration with Global News.

[This story has been published in the North American Weekly Gleaner, Feb. 1-7, 2018 issue.]

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