The death of George Floyd in late May created a strong demand for justice across the globe, even reaching Simcoe County.
Out of this tragedy and the protests that followed, UPlift Black was born, a Black-led not-for-profit organization aimed at enhancing the visibility and socio-economic development of Black communities based in Simcoe Muskoka.
"We wanted to do something to help uplift and boost the spirits of Black youth in the community because, yes, we, as adults are watching this [injustice] too and the youth, they see it just as much, sometimes even more because they're all about social media,” said Courtney Peters, UPlift Black Director of Operations.
The group is made up of roughly 30 passionate residents in Simcoe Muskoka and launched its first project as it was getting incorporated in early June, which was to create and send out care packages to Black youth.
Each care package is catered to the recipient, filled with positive messages, art, crafts, a journal, and whatever the family specifically needs as their child heads back to school.
Nearly 250 care packages are now ready to be sent throughout Simcoe Muskoka, including New Tecumseth.
Donations can be dropped off in Alliston on the third floor of the Millpond Medical Centre at 106 Victoria St., Monday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. or Wednesday 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The project has received overwhelming support from the community, totalling $5,000, in addition to a $10,000 grant from the Barrie Community Foundation that the YMCA of Simcoe Muskoka helped to secure.
“The YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka is proud to support the UPlift Black - Youth Care Packages project,” said Simcoe Muskoka YMCA Vice President Brian Shelley.
“As an organization that values inclusion and is committed to inspiring youth to reach their full potential, projects like these are in perfect alignment with our mission and vision.”
In addition to the care packages, UPlift Black is working on increasing Black visibility, sharing Black stories, uplifting Black hair and supporting as well as showcasing Black artists.
Peters noted that UPlift Black is going to be introducing wellness content, such as yoga, meditation and breathing exercises. A children’s, youth and adult book club is also underway and for youth or adults, the books are written by Black authors.
A strong part of UPlift Black’s vision is to host a music festival filled with music, dance, art and culture, truly elevating the Black community, but they recognize this won’t be possible for some time, as COVID-19 is still circulating.
Going forward, the group is looking for support from community members but is still in the planning stage for many projects.
"We are hitting the ground running, right now we're still kind of behind the scenes to make sure all our ducks are in a row, but we're going to reach out really soon and welcome in more volunteers and more help,” Peters said.
Those interested in learning more about UPlift Black or want to help out can visit upliftblack.org and stay up to date.
“We need people to continue to share and support and show up, but show up how you can. Not everyone is a protestor, not everyone can donate money, but everyone can do something, there's a way for everyone to help out,” noted Peters.
Sam Odrowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, New Tecumseth Times