In celebration of Black History Month, York University’s Office of Alumni Engagement reached out to a few Black Alumni to gather their thoughts on what Black History Month means to them.
Cynthia Appiah (BA ‘13)
Bobsleigh Pilot for Team Canada
“Black History Month in Canada is a time to highlight key moments in Canadian History such as the Underground Railroad and Africville, as well as the stories of prolific Black Canadians such as Viola Desmond, Lincoln Alexander, Willie O'Ree, Elijah McCoy and Anderson Abbott, just to name a few. It is chance to remind fellow Canadians that Black history is intrinsically Canadian history.”
Cynthia Appiah is currently the Bobsleigh Pilot – Canada’s first ever Black Bobsleigh Pilot – for Team Canada. Cynthia has excelled with fast pushes and medal winning performances at all levels, sliding provincially and on the North America’s Cup circuit. After heading to The 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang as an alternate on Canada’s 2018 Olympic Bobsleigh Team, Cynthia switched positions in the sled into the driver’s seat and is now steadily mastering the art of piloting a sled.
Amuna Baraka-Clarke (MPPAL ‘18)
Director of Human Resources and Operations for the Jane/Finch Centre
“Black History Month or African Liberation Month is a time for intense reflection and joyful celebration of the many contributions that we have made. We resurface narratives that often times get hidden within the pages of history. It’s a source of renewal and inspiration to continue striving to leave this world more beautiful than we inherited it.”
Amuna Baraka-Clarke is the current Director of Human Resources and Operations for the Jane/Finch Centre. She has spent over 25 years supporting non-profit agencies to strengthen their organizational structures and capacities and has worked in the areas of homelessness, law and community development. Amuna graduated from the Masters in Public Policy, Administration and Law program in 2018.
Layth Gafoor (BA ’02, LLB ’06)
Managing Partner, Lucentem Sports & Entertainment Law; Founder, Lucentem Strategy; International Speaker
"This year I celebrate our women - women who helped me to understand the difference between courage and bravery and showed me that they possessed both virtues. I honour them through seizing the opportunities that their sacrifices created for me and my three daughters. Their struggles stand as not only a testament to their lives, but as a challenge for us to be and do better for our nation, as the struggle rages on."
Layth Gafoor is an international speaker who also runs a successful sports and entertainment law practice that serves athletes and entertainers around the world. As founder of Lucentem Strategy, Layth also focuses on helping companies and individuals navigate through crisis situations.
Velma Morgan (BA ’95, BED ’97)
Teacher and advocate for gender and cultural diversity in politics.
Chair of Operation Black Vote Canada
“Black History for me is Canadian history and it is an opportunity to highlight the many accomplishments and contributions that we have made to build this city, province and country.”
Velma Morgan is a teacher and advocate for gender and cultural diversity in politics. She is also Chair of Operation Black Vote Canada where she is the architect of the first ever Black Community provincial leaders debate, Black Women’s Political Summit and Next Generation Political Summit.
Velma is the recipient of the John Brooks Community Foundation Scholarship Fund Community Service Award, the TNT Eagles Community Service Award, the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration Volunteer Award for her service and commitment to youth and her community, the Canadian International Black Women’s Enterprise 100 Black Women to Watch 2015 and 100ABC Women 2018.