BY ALYSSA MAHADEO
Born out of a tradition that started twenty two years ago, First Fridays began in Toronto in 1994 and it is one of over thirty First Fridays that occur on the first Friday of every month throughout North America in cities like Montreal, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and New York, just to name a few.
First Fridays is a community activity club. Their main venture is to help aid organizations in their mission to organize, build and improve upon awareness, networking and information sharing for youth, adults, minority and mainstream communities in education, employment, self-employment, entrepreneurship, health and wellness, the arts and other events that would spark an interest of collaborating together.
In light of Black History Month this February, First Fridays hosted a Black History Edition at the newly established FUSE Restaurant in Toronto. The event was organized by Warren Salmon and made possible with the support of many community sponsors. Inside FUSE Restaurant guests were invited to come out and socialize with some of Toronto’s best in the business, giving them the opportunity to network and exchange ideas, to discover what movements are talking place in the community.
To begin the night, the floor was open for one minute to anyone who wanted a few moments to present their business, organization or project to everyone in the room, allowing for everyone to get a sample of who they were, what they are about and most importantly how to connect with them throughout the evening. The presentation of events was informative and engaging, peaking the interest of the many entrepreneurs in the room. The theme of the night focused on Black History and allowed for communications amongst the organizations to connect the right people within the Afro-Caribbean community and anyone else looking to establish a working relationship with them.
Throughout the night guests were privileged to hear from Liberal MP Ahmed Hussen for York South – Weston, Jerrold Johnson of Jamaica National Building Society, Toronto Black Film Festival Founder Fabienne Colas with the 2016 Festival Lineup, Robert Small – Artist of the African History Month Legacy Poster, Segun Akinanya – Co-Founder of Currant: 6Social – Where Ideas Collide, Amani Lewin & Andrea Cross – TDSB African History Month Committee, Black Diamonds Ball – Featuring Andra Day, Hasson Pereira – Founder and CEO, Charles Genard & Delroy Mendes of Sans Souci Marketing Alliance and George Fynn – Lord, Why Do I keep Choosing the Wrong Man Play.
Each presentation held insightful information for individuals looking to get more involved or participate in community events. Each presenter brought with them a passion for their respective projects, proud of the work they had accomplished and excited with anticipation of work to be done in the weeks leading up to their events. Every person in the room was inspired by the dedication demonstrated by the individuals who presented, whether it was to reveal their artwork, to tell a story about Black Legacy or to voice their very strong and valid opinions about history, starting conversations and upholding promises made to future generations.
Every initiative sought the common goal of bringing people in the community closer together, creating jobs and stimulating growth in the economy. Since First Fridays is a monthly event, people are encouraged to come out on the initial Friday of every month especially to fuel the necessity of empowering the community.
A Special Presentation of the Jackie Robinson Fortitude Award was bestowed upon CFL Hall of Fame Quarter Back Damon Allen by Dewitt Lee III, Chairman of the Toronto Community Advisory Board & First Fridays for his outstanding achievements throughout his athletic career. Every month the Jackie Robinson Fortitude Award is presented to a leader in the community who has endured adversity and displayed courage on their way to success. “Jackie Robinson was one of my heroes,” shares Allen. “When I did some research on his life and learned about what he represented, I started to emulate his values and implement them in my own life.” Growing up Allen had all the respect for his parents and took to heart morals they instilled in him growing up. “I’ve always been attracted to people who are intelligent and people who have courage, always attracted to people who show toughness so when I looked at my life, I saw myself in Jackie Robinson, what he represents and how he endured and fought for the rights we are allowed to have today.”
The First Fridays organization has created an opportunity for those people in the community who care about building, developing and sustaining the legacy left behind by our ancestors. They have continuously aided in the advancement of nurturing powerful ideas, allowing people the freedom to discuss issues, solve problems and collaborate with like-minded individuals. Many projects work closely with the development of youth and encouraging them to think for themselves and in turn make the right decisions for their futures.
First Fridays takes place on the first Friday of every month and presents the amazing opportunity to network, make connections, acquire that much needed exposure and add to your own legacy to make an impact in the world today. For more information on upcoming events and projects taking place this month visit www.firstfridays.ca.