What: Project Tsehigh
Who: Grace Mahary
When Edmonton-native Grace Mahary isn’t busy modelling—you know, hitting runways for Chanel, Dior and the pages of ELLE Canada—she is committed to her philanthropic work. The Eritrean-Canadian founded her non-profit Project Tsehigh in 2015, aiming to provide sustainable and renewable energy to impoverished communities. Last year, the NPO teamed up with footwear brand Suns to create the most fun pair of sneaks that go from white to blue when exposed to sunlight (with a portion of the proceeds going to renewable-energy products, of course).
What: Washington Black
Who: Esi Edugyan
It’s no secret that the ELLE Canada team loves Calgary-born writer Esi Edugyan. She wowed us all when her latest book, the 1830s-set Washington Black about an 11-year-old slave seeking his true identity in a world that forbids him to have one, dropped last year. And we weren’t the only ones blown away: it landed Edugyan her second Giller Prize in November (the first being for Half-Blood Blues in 2011).
What: Reflections of Love
Who: Ashley McKenzie-Barnes
As part of Kuumba, Harbourfront Centre's annual Black History Month festival, Scarborough-native Ashley McKenzie-Barnes curated a photography exhibit exploring the many forms of love in the black community. Featuring works from creatives like Daniel Caesar collaborator Sean Brown and Nigeria-born, Toronto-raised visual artist Stella Fakiyesi, Reflections of Love runs all month at the Marilyn Brew Community Space.
Who: John Eke and Meron Berhe
John Eke and Meron Berhe are co-founders of Bantu, an app created in Ottawa when Nigeria-born Eke realized that his fellow international student peers had difficulty finding a hairstylist who understood their needs. Eke and Berhe teamed up to build a community with Bantu, connecting black women with stylists who specialize in kinky, coily or curly hair.
Who: Donté Colley
Twenty-one-year-old Donté Colley’s motivational dance videos have gone viral—earning him more than 600,000 IG followers—for a reason; they’re inspirational and guaranteed to put a smile on your face. It’s good vibes only for the Torontonian’s Insta feed, and that’s all we could ask for.
What: Womxn Inspiring Passion and Purpose
Who: Bianca Harris
Toronto content creator Bianca Harris started Womxn Inspiring Passion and Purpose—a.k.a. WIPP—in 2015 as a network aiming to empower women-identifying people. To put it simply: WIPP is about women learning from other women, which is done through panels featuring guests like model Adwoa Aboah. This year, Harris is relaunching the WIPP empowerment-centric podcast, Wipped C.r.e.a.m. Radio. (In our totally unbiased opinion, we recommend checking out the 2017 episode featuring the wisdom of ELLE Canada EIC Vanessa Craft.)
What: “Best Part” (feat. H.E.R.)
Who: Daniel Caesar
We have, of course, been long obsessed with Daniel Caesar’s soulful crooning, but his song “Best Part” featuring the talented and mysterious H.E.R. just scored him his first-ever Grammy Award. We sense it’s the first of many for the Torontonian, so we’ll be giving this track a special spot on our playlists. Another reason we’re including Caesar on this list? It’s our not-so-subtle plea for new music.
What: Drawing Down a Daughter
Who: Claire Harris
When the CBC called Trinidad-born, Calgary-based poet Claire Harris’ book Drawing Down a Daughter one of the essential reads written by a black Canadian author, we knew we had to pick it up immediately. This novel-length poem (which was also shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award when it was first published in 1992) follows a woman speaking to her unborn daughter via letters, stories and journals.
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