EMBRACING THE SKIN WE ARE IN - How does one maintain and not lose their Black Identity in Canadian society?


Whether we are 1st, 2nd or 3rd generation Black Canadians of African or Caribbean descent or have recently moved to this country, finding our rightful place in this mostly white homogenous society can often take its toll. The need to fit in and our attempt to embrace a new identity without losing the other can be challenging for many racialized people. Maintaining the values and traditions of our Black cultures while integrating Canadian values and culture can cause feelings of displacement and sometimes Imposter syndrome.

This panel will discuss these issues and look at how we can better assimilate into Canadian culture and find a harmonious balance between the two.


Sarah Onyango (Radio Host, CHUO 89.1FM)

Sarah hosts the monthly African cultural program Fontonfrom, on Rogers TV Cable 22 as well as the weekly radio programs, Ici l'Afrique and Black on Black on CHUO 89.1FM (University of Ottawa community radio). She is very active in the Black community in Ottawa, and has spent over 20 years promoting its people, organizations and causes, as well as hosting events. Sarah is a board member of Black History Ottawa who coordinates the organization's public relations and outreach activities. Since 2008, Sarah has also been a member of the United Way East Ontario Community Builder Award Recognition team.


Bettyna Belizaire (Municipal Councillor)

Bettyna Bélizaire is a Canadian citizen of Haitian descent who moved to Ottawa with her family in 2003. She has been the Executive Director of the Accompagnement des femmes immigrantes de l'Outaouais (AFIO) since 2019. This is a community organization that helps immigrant women in their social, economic, and cultural integration. Additionally, Bettyna is a newly elected Municipal Councillor in the district of Plateau. As part of her functions, she is the Vice-President of the Economic Development Commission and the Vice-President of STO - Société de transport de l'Outaouais.

Bettyna is also the president of the steering committee of the Bourse d'excellence des étudiants haïtiens de l'Outaouais - BECHO. The purpose of this scholarship is to recognize the excellence and involvement of Haitian students in Gatineau-Ottawa. This is further proof of the active participation of the Haitian community in Canada and particularly in the Outaouais.

Assi Ake (Artist)

Assi Ake is an Artist from Ivory Coast who came to Canada in 2011 as an international student. Graduate in law, public relations and conflict studies and a Proud alumnus of St. Paul University. After a career in local and international academic recruitment, he became an entrepreneur in the organization of artistic events.

Co-creator of Poetry night flow (an Ottawa event featuring painters, musicians and poets). He is also co-founder of Pamoja vibe, a music band that showcases artists from the black community. Passionate about mental health issues and internalized racism in the Black community, he uses his art to support his beliefs wherever he goes. He loves creating bridges in the community through uncomfortable conversations.

When he is not working, he is a Pianist, a poetry writer, a painter and a black history enthusiast.

Reggie Aristide (Music Producer)

Reggie Aristide aka PoppaSteed is a self-taught and dedicated music creator with over 15 years of production experience. Born in Montreal and currently living in Ottawa, Canada, the husband and father of 5 nurtures a life-long passion for music. The diverse genres and styles of music he listens to, ranging from pop, rock, gospel, jazz and afrobeat, have shaped his unique profile as a multifaceted artist. PoppaSteed can most often be found in his well-equipped home studio, perfecting dynamic tracks he produces in collaboration with a diverse set of singers. In addition to making tracks and arranging instruments, he also enjoys writing songs and finding the perfect voices to bring projects to life.

Paula Alphonse (Founder, Paula Alphonse Services)

A speaker, trainer and facilitator, Paula Alphonse uses her leadership and change management experience to broaden perspectives, explore new avenues, and add spice to everyone's lives through her speaking, training, and her show, Getting Real with Paula.


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