This month’s BCC member spotlight is Charmain Emerson, a passionate advocate for racial justice and equity in the workplace. Alongside Akinkunmi Akinnola, Joshua Dyer, Paul Taylor, Angelina Williams, and Erica Russell, Charmain brings a unique skill set and perspective to The Drake’s Black Community Council. As a co-founding director of Black Opportunity Fund in 2020, Charmain envisions a just workplace where individuals can express their authentic selves, irrespective of their race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation. She draws inspiration from her 93-year-old mother and changemakers in the arts, including Weyni Mengesha and Maxine Bailey. In month’s blog, she emphasizes the importance of Black leadership beginning in the home, classroom, and politics.
+What does a racially just workplace look like to you?
It’s a workplace where one can feel comfortable being who they are regardless of their ethnicity, gender, religious belief or sexual preference. It’s a workplace where tokenism has no presence.
+What are you working on right now personally/professionally that has you excited?
I am a co-founding director of Black Opportunity Fund. We launched the organization in 2020 to increase social and economic empowerment for as many Black communities as possible across Canada. We are tired of waiting for change, so we are making the changes that are necessary to uplift our community—one loan, one grant, one program at a time. We are creating our own success stories by collectively working to advance as many Black serving community organizations and Black entrepreneurs as possible. We Back Black. Everyday.
+What Toronto changemakers are inspiring you and why?
I can’t focus on one. There are quite a few standouts, especially in the arts. There’s Weyni Mengesha as Artistic Director at Soulpepper Theatre who is creating some great theatre and telling exciting and interesting new stories through different and compelling voices; or Julie Crooks at the AGO who is curating great work as the head of the department of Arts of Global Africa and the Diaspora; or my 93 year old mother who never ceases to amaze me with her wisdom.
+What tools have helped you along your journey?
Education was a big one. University taught me so much and not just academically. There were a lot of life lessons that grew out of those years and helped to shape my career.
+Where do you believe we must begin to advance Black leaders? What change would you like to see in your industry when it comes to Black representation?
Black leadership begins in the home. Our first role models are our parents. School is another area where leadership develops. We need more teachers from the Black community. And then politics because through politics you gain access to changing policy that can improve education, healthcare and the criminal justice systems.