These organizations are working in and with diverse Black LGBTQ2+ communities in Toronto…
By Jumol Royes
Did you know Toronto was the first municipality in Canada to officially proclaim February as Black History Month back in 1979?
The month is meant to celebrate the many contributions Black Canadians have made and continue to make to the country and the city. It also recognizes that the work of addressing and dismantling anti-Black racism is ongoing and a shared responsibility of all Canadians.
Living at the intersection of being Black and queer means that Black LGBTQ2+ folks face additional barriers and compounding experiences of racism and discrimination that can make it challenging for them to find safe or safer spaces to just be and breathe. For example, a Black-owned barbershop may be a safe space for a straight Black man hoping to avoid anti-Black racism while getting a haircut, but it may be less safe if that Black man happens to be gay.
The existence of safe(r) spaces that affirm and acknowledge the lived experiences of Black LGBTQ2+ people and their multiple and overlapping identities is essential. Here are five queer Black organizations in Toronto to support, and for those seeking support.
Across Boundaries serves racialized people with mental health and addictions issues across the GTA by providing access to equitable and holistic services and supports. They recognize the need for programs that meet the specific needs of diverse Black and LGBTQ2+ communities by offering case management and counselling, individual support, trauma-informed counselling and alternative healing, and virtual programs, events and support groups. Their Inhale/Exhale program provides free, heart-centred, feel-good programming for QTBIPOC (Queer and Trans Black, Indigenous and People of Colour).
Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention (Black CAP)
Founded in 1989, Black CAP is Canada’s largest Black specific AIDS organization working to respond to HIV/AIDS in Toronto’s ACB (African, Caribbean and Black) communities. They also work with diverse LGBTQ2+ communities to raise awareness and reduce their vulnerability to HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections. Their programs and services include Circle of Care, community outreach, employment, harm reduction, intake, MSM (men who have sex with men) outreach, PHA (people living with HIV/AIDS) and LGBTQ2+ settlement, prevention, refugee settlement, the AYA Project, women’s peer support and more.
Black Queer Youth Collective
The Black Queer Youth Collective has been providing opportunities and support to Toronto’s Black LGBTQ2+ youth since 2017. Their mission is to provide a safe and welcoming space for queer and trans Black youth, and youth questioning their identity, through culturally sensitive programming like community events, continuing education and professional development, movie nights, Pride events, theatre shows and the Domino Project, a peer-led queer Black youth drop-in.
Blackness Yes! has been building and sustaining safe(r) spaces for diverse ACB LGBTQ2+ communities and their friends, families and supporters for over 20 years, through art, music and AIDS awareness and outreach. The volunteer collective is composed of professional DJs, stage and visual artists, community organizers, healthcare workers and activists, and celebrates queer and trans Black history, creativity and resistance 365 days a year. They participate in community events throughout the year and organize two signature events during the Toronto Pride Festival: Blockorama and Blockobana.
Supporting Our Youth (SOY)
SOY is a Sherbourne Health program for LGBTQ2+ youth 29 and under, including those who are homeless, racialized, newcomers to Canada or have been in the child welfare system. The program supports youth in restoring, maintaining and improving their overall health and well-being. Youth can participate in groups, programs, events and one-on-one support to help them access affirming counsellors, healthcare providers and dieticians, apply for money to support themselves, find a job or a place to live, set goals, go to school and learn life and relationship skills.
JUMOL ROYES is IN Magazine’s director of communications and community engagement, a GTA-based storyteller and glass-half-full kinda guy. He writes about compassion, community, identity and belonging. His guilty pleasure is watching the Real Housewives. Follow him on Instagram @jumolroyes.