Great People   |   Black History Month

Connections Magazine

Black History Month Issue

In this issue:
Black History Month Profile: Taiwo Babalola
Raising the African Nova Scotian flag on Afri...
Black History Month Profile: Ola Oludimine
Black History Month Profile: Jovana Bailey
Black History Month Profile: Nicole Brooks

Black History Month Profile: Taiwo Babalola

February 12, 2024
Taiwo joins Arborstone Enhanced Care resident to raise the African Nova Scotian flag

Why is Black History Month/African Heritage Month meaningful for you?

Taiwo Babalola 
Community Manager, Arborstone Enhanced Care 

My name is Taiwo, and I am originally from Nigeria, the most populous Black nation in the world. I am a twin, and when twins are delivered among the Yoruba (my tribe), traditionally, they automatically go by the names Taiwo and Kehinde. Taiwo is the name given to the first twin, and it means go and explore, and Kehinde means the last to arrive. 

True to my name, I love to explore, and Canada has always been first on the list of my dream destinations. However, my twin sister (Kehinde) was first to move to Canada in 2013, although I tried to apply twice before she did, but I was unable to continue with the process. My first attempt was in 2010; my wife and I, with our 6-month-old daughter, drove 6 hours to an approved center to take the IELTS. We got all the requirements ready, but by the time we were ready to put in our application, the available slots for nurses were already filled. After another failed attempt in 2012, my wife and I decided to stay in Nigeria and began to invest in trade, agriculture, and real estate. 

Fast forward to 2019, and my wife suggested trying for Canada again. The political situation and crisis in Nigeria had become unstable and alarming to the point that terrorism and kidnapping had become the order of the day. My family and I were fortunate to have escaped a kidnapping that took place a few blocks away from our house. We put in our application, and then COVID struck – it was not until 2022, 12 years after our first attempt, that we could move to Canada as permanent residents.  

Relocating was the most difficult decision we’ve ever made; we had to quit our promising careers, leave our businesses, families and friends and venture into the unknown. Halifax, however, received us with unimaginable warmth and hospitality. We were gifted with food, furniture, and clothing to the point that we became overwhelmed and started turning away gifts. 

Today, I am truly grateful that I can call Canada my home, a beautiful country that has afforded me the opportunity of a promising future. My three beautiful daughters love it here and feel safe. My wife and I are again growing our careers thanks to an enabling environment, and our family is enjoying our second winter with hot cocoa and marshmallows as new homeowners.  

Black History Month reminds me of how much, as a people, we have grown. Less than a hundred years ago, black people were taken from their homes and forced to live here amidst insecurities; today, we work hard to meet the requirements to move here where we feel safe and at home. Canada is a very cold land but with very warm people.  

Read more about Black History Month

Raising the African Nova Scotian flag on African Heritage Month

February 21, 2024
Arborstone residents and team members join in unity to display the African Nova Scotian flag

As we celebrate Black History Month through participation in events and festivities in the community, it is most important to consider how we can make meaningful cultural change.

Unpacking the legacy of colonialism and enslavement in Canada can be an uncomfortable learning journey. Still, it is through cultural humility that we will collectively build a culture of acceptance, belonging and anti-racism. 

At Arborstone Enhanced Care healthcare professionals, management, frontline workers, and residents came together as a collective to proudly raise the African Nova Scotian Flag.

When asked what the flag raising meant to her, Arborstone resident responded, “I was very honoured to be able to lift the flag as I am the only resident of my African heritage at Arborstone Enhanced Care. I was proud to be part of it.” – Susan Mills Downey  

As an organization, Shannex strives to create culturally safe places to work and live and are committed to establishing and cultivating a workplace that reflects the diversity of our Great People -and the communities in which we operate.  

Read more about Black History Month

Designed by Nova Scotian artist Wendie L. Wilson, the flag features colours and symbols of significance to members of the African Nova Scotian community 

About the African Nova Scotian Flag

💧 Wilson’s version incorporates a wave, representing the ocean and her ancestors’ journey through the Middle Passage.

დ The design in the middle of the flag is Wilson’s stylized adaptation of Sankofa, an ancient Adinkra symbol conceived in West Africa, which signifies the importance of bringing past knowledge to the present

🎨 Each colour on the flag symbolizes something different; red for blood and sacrifice, gold for cultural richness, green for fertility and growth, and black for the people. 

💙 Half of a heart with a yin and yang symbol, representing “heartbreak balanced with awareness.”

⌒ The image is encompassed within an incomplete circle, representing those things absent but yet to come.

Learn about the creation of the African Nova Scotian Flag:
New official African Nova Scotian flag looking to connect past, present and future | CBC News

Black History Month Profile: Ola Oludimine

February 21, 2024

Why is Black History Month/African Heritage Month meaningful for you?

Ola Oludimine 
Human Resources Business Partner, Moncton & Riverview 

In the midst of Nigerian rhythms and Canadian landscapes, my immigrant journey as a Black woman is a narrative woven with hope, resilience, and the pursuit of dreams. Migrated to Canada on February 25, 2020, leaving behind the warmth of West Africa for the frost-kissed winds of Canada, a land that promised opportunity and acceptance. 

Navigating the complexities of a new culture, I found strength in the stories of other Black immigrants who had forged their paths. From building a career to creating a sense of home, every step was a dance between nostalgia and adaptation. The Nigerian spices blended with Canadian flavours, creating a unique blend that mirrored the diversity celebrated during Black History Month. 

In the vibrant tapestry of my journey, the narrative takes a new hue with the opportunity to work in a diverse organization. Stepping into the Shannex corporate landscape, I am fortunate to work in a dynamic organization that mirrors the multicultural essence of Canada, which fosters and appreciates inclusivity. This acknowledgment goes beyond policies; it is embedded in the culture, creating an environment where diverse voices are heard and valued. Moreover, I am privileged to have colleagues who are Intentional about knowing me and my culture. They have gone beyond the surface to embrace the richness of Nigerian heritage. These colleagues, in their genuine curiosity, have even shared in the experience of tasting the famous Nigerian jollof rice with me—a delightful delicacy that transcends cultural boundaries. 

It is crucial to acknowledge that my beautiful journey is not devoid of the challenges faced by some Black individuals, including myself. On a personal level, I have experienced being singled out for extra checks and stereotyped while at a mall, highlighting the broader issue of racial profiling. These incidents serve as poignant reminders of the ongoing challenges faced by Black individuals, demanding a collective effort to foster understanding and dismantle stereotypes.  

I would also like to highlight the experiences of fellow immigrants who have encountered difficulties securing jobs due to the perceived lack of Canadian experience and the nonrecognition of previous certifications and years of experience. This reality is disheartening, emphasizing the need for increased awareness, empathy, and initiatives to address such barriers. Some even felt compelled to change their first names to English names, consciously or unconsciously, in response to bias. Some others have been critiqued for their accents, tone, physical appearance, etc., adding another layer to the complexities we navigate.  

In this context, each of us must be the voice and become an ally (support black-owned businesses, learn the history, read books by black authors, be intentional and embrace diverse culture) By standing together, advocating for equality, and fostering a culture of inclusivity, we can contribute to a more equitable and balanced society. 

As I reflect during this special month, I celebrate not only the milestones of my journey but also the collective triumphs of Black immigrants who have blazed the trails before me.  It is a testament to the resilience of the black community and recognition that our stories contribute to the ever-evolving narrative of Black history. 

“Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.” 

― Martin Luther King Jr. 

Read more about Black History Month

Black History Month Profile: Jovana Bailey

February 21, 2024

Why is Black History Month/African Heritage Month meaningful for you?

Jovana Bailey 
General Manager, Parkland on Eglington West 

Black History Month is meaningful to me because it’s a reminder of where I come from and helps me navigate my future in this world. 

Though I am of Caribbean descent, I am of African Heritage, which instills in me a sense of belonging and pride! 

The history of Black and African people is certainly complex, and the world has learned so much from the dark spots of the past.  

What I am most proud of is the history of African civilizations that were Kings, Queens, mathematicians, and astrologers, to a more present-day history of inventors, astronomers, scientists, artists, authors, musicians, you name it! Black and African people have contributed so many amazing things to our historical and modern-day societies, and this inspires me to leave my mark on the world as well – touching lives and leaving a legacy for my children and those who come after me.  

It is so important to be proud of who you are and where you come from because it helps you identify a true sense of self and helps to shape who you are.  

Happy Black History Month! 

Read more about Black History Month

Black History Month Profile: Nicole Brooks

February 21, 2024

Why is Black History Month/African Heritage Month meaningful for you?

Nicole Brooks 
Communications Manager – Home Office, NS  

I’m incredibly proud of my family, where we’ve come from and what we’ve accomplished despite systemic and societal barriers.  

Recently, we re-discovered an interview that my grandparents Rita and George Brooks did with a “community elders” church publication 40 years ago. My grandparents described meaningful lives filled with hard work growing up and raising children in East Preston, Nova Scotia. 

To their grandchildren, it was the humblest of understatements knowing that Granny raised 18 children and finished school after Grade 3 (her family needed her to support their blueberry farm) and that Granddad farmed his entire life across the street from his family home – the first Black-owned hotel in Nova Scotia (The Stag Hotel) that was opened by his great-uncle who was formerly enslaved.  

They persevered through being the first free generation of their family to create a legacy of love that stretches across Canada. 

The African Nova Scotian community is small – there are 52 towns in Nova Scotia where indigenous Black Nova Scotians are from – African Heritage Month in Nova Scotia is dedicated time to loudly promote our culture, accomplishments, and impact we’ve had on this province and Canada.   

Read more about Black History Month