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Working Together Towards (a better) Tomorrow

4 minute read
Also authored by: Amanda Pinto

As our firm prepared to create the 2024 Black History Month committee, I reflected on my thoughts, interactions and the messages I felt were not effectively being addressed in the communities we work and live in. I wondered how racial discrimination could still be so prominent in this day and age; how did I go from witnessing the discrimination my childhood friends faced to now advocating for my child who still faces those same injustices? We cannot continue to allow generations to pass with such little change; this pushed me to submit my thoughts to the committee and I ultimately decided to join. I had not previously participated in the committee and was not reading the DAIC emails regularly, due to the discouraging feeling that not enough was changing. With frustration growing around the lack of engagement and concern around whether companies and firms are doing enough to help delegate, I wondered how we could amplify the messages and efforts our firm has already been making and how we could continue to evolve to expand these efforts past February.

“Each one teach one” is a quote derived from enslaved people who learned or taught other enslaved people how to read; this message signifies how we could do better as a community by teaching, learning and supporting.

This year’s committee came together with a theme: “Together Towards Tomorrow,” focusing on the contributions and impacts of Black leaders within our communities. With committee members from our London and Toronto offices uniting to gather information, we quickly discovered just how much we had been missing out on in our backyards - like how London Lawyer Mark McAuley is part of the Juno-nominated R&B group, The McAuley Boys! I also learned how Jean Augustine of Toronto, the first Black Canadian woman to serve as a federal Minister of the Crown and Member of Parliament, was integral to having February recognized as the official month of Black History in Canada! I’ve always known February as Black History Month, but learning how it came to be is truly inspiring.

We met weekly to discuss ideas and how to bring them to life. To boost engagement, we created an educational scavenger hunt with posters that showcased several notable Black leaders and highlighted some significant facts. We also had the pleasure of hosting guest speakers, The Honorable Justice Uwagboe and Anthony N. Morgan, racial justice analyst, strategist, educator and lawyer. Our group wanted to do more - we wanted to make a change for Tomorrow and echo some important messages surrounding Representation [the influence it has on shaping our unconscious thoughts and perceptions]. As we thought art and literature were the best places to start, we would display works of art by Canadian Black Artists and set up a book fair with books written by Canadian Black Authors. With little time and resources at our disposal, we understood we could only do one initiative and thought we would all try to bring in some books to make the book fair happen.

I shared some of our ideas during a brief discussion with Toronto Partner Elizabeth Grace, and she immediately presented solutions to make both initiatives happen while suggesting creative ways we could support a local cause. Elizabeth provided us with books of curated Canadian art we used to create a slide show displayed in our offices for all to enjoy, and she later banded together with London Partner Nancy McAuley.  Both lawyers reached out to other Partners and Lawyers of the firm in an attempt to raise funds to purchase books for the book fair. The response was heartwarming; seeing the support from leadership could not have been more encouraging. I started to see how this level of involvement could increase future engagement, and I hope we continue to extend our internal efforts. With the funds raised, we purchased various books to host a book fair in all of our offices from a local Black-owned bookstore, “A Different Booklist.” We will donate all proceeds from the sales at our book fair to the “Love of Literature Book Club.”

During my short time on the committee, I witnessed how willing the people of Lerners are to rise to the occasion. I saw how quickly IT jumped in to help us set up, and how resourceful and helpful business services are to assist with logistics. Members from various departments within the firm, some of whom I may not have had the pleasure of interacting with otherwise, were on the committee.

Natalee, Director of Marketing; Sahar, an Associate; Sunny, an Articling Student; Lily, a Law Clerk; Sara, our Toronto Human Resource Manager; Deedre, Manager of EDI; and myself, a Legal Assistant – all from different positions in the firm with various schedules and time constraints put together a matched effort as we worked Together Towards (a betterTomorrow.

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