Black History Month - Ours to Tell

Posted by Nakida Kett on Feb 24, 2023

“While we may share the same identity with others, our experiences are individual,” said Tara Rhodes, Learning and Development Specialist, who kicked off an important discussion around Black History Month on a virtual meeting of Sienna’s national leadership team.

Tara Rhodes
Black communities across Canada are rich with diversity with nearly 1.2 million Black people descending from 150 different countries; each with their own unique culture and heritage. This year’s theme for Black History Month, Ours to Tell represents both an opportunity to engage in open dialogue and a commitment to learning more about the stories Black communities in Canada have to tell about their histories, successes, sacrifices and triumphs.

This month was dedicated to hearing from leaders in our communities about their own experiences and perspectives. 
Abiola AwosanyaAbiola Awosanya, Executive Director at Weston Terrace, was born and raised in Nigeria until the age of 9. She is a dynamic and passionate leader who has been an integral part of the Sienna team since 2021. “To me, Black History Month is a glimpse into the rich history of individuals who are from the African Diaspora. It gives us all an opportunity to celebrate this history but most importantly learn from it, being aware of the impact this history has on our lives today,” said Abiola. 
Masika Gardner

Masika Gardner, Executive Director at Norfinch, proudly hails from Kingston, Jamaica, and since joining the Sienna team in 2003, she’s jumped in to support several different communities, making a positive impact every time. “Still to this day, we often see a lot of negative representations of Black people in the media and hear less about their accomplishments. Black History Month is an opportunity to recognize the many achievements of Black people in our country and throughout the world,” said Masika.

Abiola and Masika bravely shared some of the challenges they’ve faced throughout their careers while shedding light on how their colleagues can support a more inclusive environment for everyone who works, visits, and lives at our communities.

They touched on some of the microaggressions they’ve experienced, from assumptions about their abilities made based on race, to being perceived as aggressive when they are assertive in the workplace. Microaggressions can arise despite good intentions. Tara reinforced this by stating, “Impact over intention always matters.”

Masika, Abiola and Tara all stressed the importance of getting to know someone for who they are as an individual and to value where others come from. “We need to see team members and residents as whole people,” said Tara. “It doesn’t matter where you are from, you are still an individual. We need to listen, be mindful and treat others with respect,” echoed Masika. 

Closing out the discussion, Abiola shared, “Whether it’s our colleagues, our residents, or other people we encounter throughout life, it's important that we celebrate our diversity and recognize that we all bring something to the table.” 
Team members, like Abiola and Masika who bravely share their experiences, as well as all the team members who took the time to listen in, learn, and share messages of support are actively working to increase awareness and understanding of the Black experience at Sienna. Our diverse team is one of Sienna’s greatest sources of strength and will continue to be celebrated. 

Learn more about the history of Black communities in Canada. 


Topics: Sienna Senior Living, Life at Sienna, Ontario, Black History Month, Ours to Tell