By Neil Armstrong
|Photo credit: Black CAP Shannon Thomas Ryan, executive director, Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention presents opening remarks at "Joyful Giving."|
It was a night of live entertainment and solicitations at “Joyful Giving,” the annual cocktail fundraiser of the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention (Black CAP) that supports its Emergency Financial Assistance (EFA) program.
Decked in royal blue and gold, the auditorium of the United Steelworkers Hall in Toronto welcomed several patrons on November 16 to help raise much-needed funds for its clients.
“EFA provides important practical supports to our clients in times of financial hardship. Each year our EFA program provides more than $15,000 in assistance to our clients living with HIV and supports expenses such as winter clothes, transportation, childcare, immigration expenses, etc. The financial support the program provides has a big impact in the lives of the clients we support,” says Shannon Thomas Ryan, executive director of the organization.
He said for many of its clients, Black CAP is a home and also a family for people who don’t have family.
Board chair, Andrew Campbell, commended the agency for its strong leadership and strong followership. He emphasized the importance of supporting community.
“We have to support our own,” said Campbell, noting that 2019 will mark the 30th anniversary of Black CAP and that plans are already underway to celebrate the milestone.
The evening was complemented by performances of singers, Canadian Urban Music Award winner Ray Robinson, Julia Tynes and Aria Zenua, a silent auction, a raffle, and music by DJ Blackcat.
David Dk Soomarie, now a member of staff at Black CAP as MSM outreach coordinator, said he was once a client of the agency after he came visiting Toronto from Trinidad in August 2016 and eventually decided to stay.
He said it was because of the agency that he felt the need to stay and he was warmly greeted at the office by Ryan.
“As soon as I walked through the door I felt a distinct kind of energy – a community. I felt at home.”
Soomarie, who was involved in an NGO in Trinidad for six years, said he decided to stay after determining that he was going to be of value here.
|Photo credit: Black CAP Patrons, staff and volunteers enjoying "Joyful Giving."|
|Photo credit: Black CAP|
|Photo credit: Black CAP|
Chris Leonard, program director, reminded patrons that their donations go solely to support clients with application fees, access to medication, winter clothing and help to ease the financial burden of clients.
Cecile Peterkin, vice chair of the board of directors, expressed her thanks at the end of the formalities. The host for the evening was Dewitt Lee.
It is the largest service provider of its kind in Canada and is guided by the motto, “Because All Black People’s Lives Are Important,” a reminder of the importance of its commitment to these communities.
Its mission is to reduce the spread of HIV infection within Toronto’s Black communities and to enhance the quality of life of people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS.
“HIV/AIDS is spreading quickly in Toronto’s Black communities and we believe that our work is more important than ever,” notes the organization.
“At this time, ACB people account for almost one-third of all new HIV infections in Ontario; in the early nineties we made up only one-tenth of new HIV infections. Issues of HIV-related stigma and discrimination, homophobia, anti-Black racism, immigration, poverty, and barriers to social inclusion also continue to make our work harder,” says Black CAP.
The agency is a community of outreach experts, support specialists, and activists dedicated to improving health outcomes for ACB people who are living with, and affected by, HIV.
[This story has been published in the North American Weekly Gleaner, Dec. 6-12, 2018.]