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The First Annual Imani Awards – Supporting a Journey to the Motherland, February 24, 2013

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The African Canadian Legal Clinic and the Youth Justice Education Program will host the inaugural Imani Awards at 2pm on February 24, 2013.

The Imani Awards are a celebration of African heritage through recognizing the accomplishments of African Canadian youth in the GTA that have overcome adversity in the area of education, mental health, criminal justice and child welfare.

The awards show was developed by a group of eight young inner city African Canadian men that are involved in the ACLC’s Youth Justice Education Program.

All proceeds from this event will be used in funding a trip to Africa for the group. The journey to the motherland will connect these youth to their African Heritage, as well as provide them with an opportunity to assist in community development projects while overseas.

The Youth Justice Education Program (YJEP) is a paid work program and for some of the participants, this is their first time ever having a real job.

 “When they arrive, most are fresh from their legal problems. Some are still dealing with those problems. There is a mixture of excitement at having a stable job but there is no quick money which is what many of them are used to,” says program director Mobafa Baker.

The program is at the end of its first year, and in that time all eight participants have completed their high school diplomas. They have been learning about their identities as Black men and the next step on that journey is a trip to Africa.

The trip will take them to Ghana and to South Africa. They will have the chance to understand the rich heritage they were born out of. In Ghana the group will be visiting the slave prisons as well as learning about Ashanti Royalty. In South Africa they’ll be going to Robben Island and visiting with other young people their age who can talk about what it is like as a Black man having to fight for a right to education; things that they may be taking for granted.

 “The Africa trip is such a crucial step for these young men to see themselves in a completely different light. In many ways their identity is being shaped by external forces. All they can see for themselves is being a basketball player or a rapper because that’s what they’ve been told they can achieve. So this is all part of helping them to rediscover their Black male identity by connecting them to their roots,” says Baker.

For 25 year old Segun Akinsanya, the program has already been a life changer.

At age 18 he was convicted of manslaughter and spent three years in federal prison. His vision started changing when he picked up a pen behind bars and began to write out his life story. Segun turned those writings into a manual that he uses for motivational speaking engagements.

“My mom died when I was 7 and my dad struggled to raise four of us. I got lost in the shuffle and the world became my parents. I saw myself through the eyes of the media because I had no idea who I was. This program has changed all that for me. When I started learning about my history I realized I am here for a reason. I was not killed, I was not thrown off a slave boat, I am here to make a difference. It gives you a new reason to wake up,” says Akinsanya.

“When I look around me, in many ways the Black male is being destroyed daily; by how they are painted and the stereotypes that we’ve accepted for ourselves. If we can save these eight young men, and put them on the right track then we are saving eight families and potentially eight generations. That’s why this is so important to me,” says Baker.

Akinsaya says he plans to film a documentary about the entire Africa experience and use it to help influence other Black youth at home in Canada.

Mobafa Baker and Segun Akinsaya are both available for interviews upon request.

When: February 24, 2013
Time: 2:00 pm to 5:00pm
Where: Peter & Paul Banquet Hall @231 Milner Ave, Scarborough ON
Single Ticket Price: $50.00   
Table Ticket Price:  $500.00 (Seats 10)

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Written by Staff Writer