With Black History Month upon us, we’re celebrating by sharing stories and voices from the Black community, highlighting the incredible work of some of our partners in the arts, music and food spaces.
This week, we’re spotlighting Antonia Lawrence, co-founder of Uplift Kitchen, a food security initiative created to serve Black, Indigenous, and other racialized communities in Toronto and surrounding areas.
We chatted with Antonia to learn more about Uplift Kitchen’s projects, other organizations that have been inspiring her and why she says Black representation in non-profit world is so needed right now. You can learn more about Uplift Kitchen here (https://www.upliftkitchen.ca/) and on Instagram (@upliftkitchento)
From Feb 1 – 28, a portion of food sales at The Drake Hotel will be donated to Uplift Kitchen in support of their initiatives.
+ What are you working on right now personally/professionally that has you excited?
Currently, the Uplift Kitchen winter clothing drive is our main priority. With the help of our volunteer network, we are working together to provide proper winter clothing for families in need. It’s been really exciting and encouraging watching our community come together for this.
+ What change would you like to see in your industry when it comes to Black representation?
Black representation in this non-profit world is desperately needed. So many of the folks we assist are Black and have expressed how grateful they are when they know the person they’re corresponding with looks like them and has a deeper understanding of their circumstances and lived experiences. It’s so vital to see other Black folks doing work like this because it gives hope to the communities in need that they too can rise above their current circumstances and can find solace in knowing that someone has their back.
As a daughter of immigrant parents, I am no stranger to the pride that comes with moving to a new country or even new city and working hard to make it on your own without any outside assistance. Being able to provide our families with the assurance that their needs will be met to the best of our abilities has been the goal from the beginning. We have had the pleasure of watching folks really open up to us because of that and communicate their needs more clearly.
+ What Toronto changemakers are inspiring you and why?
Organizations like The People’s Pantry (@peoplespantryto), Community Fridges TO (@cf___to), Toronto Black Farmers (@torontoblackfarmers), This Way Up Collective (@thiswayupcollective), Sundance Harvest (@sundanceharvest), Not Another Black Life (@notanotherblacklife), and The Drip Honey (@thedriphoney). They all have made such a mark in their communities and by sheer willpower and a lot of volunteer assistance for most of them. We have had such fruitful conversations and interactions with all of them and it’s been so phenomenal watching all of them grow and shine in the middle of this global pandemic. The many pivots they’ve had to do in order to stay afloat have only made them stronger and having others to talk with and lean on has made all the difference.
+ What tools have helped you along your journey?
Honestly, the expertise and encouragement from strangers and our volunteers who have given really insightful advice since 2020. We have done similar work over the years but we were not prepared for how quickly everything would take off. Having people in our corner lovingly pointing out areas we could improve on or organizing fundraisers for us has gone such a long way. We have been able to sit on different panels, workshops, phone calls, etc. and chat with folks who have been doing this work for years and have gleaned so much knowledge from them.
+ Where do you believe we must begin to advance Black leaders in our communities?
It all starts from the top, right? The folks in power who hold the keys need to pass those off to Black leaders who need that extra push. The work that Black leaders are doing can’t slow down to match the speed of those with the power. Those in power need to speed up to meet us where we are and then let us take the lead. We need to be heard at all levels and truly taken seriously because we are the experts in these fields and have been putting our time and money into these initiatives and organizations for decades. We have the tools now all we need is the money and access.