There's a resource guide for that: High schooler creates list to help Alberta parents

·3 min read
Edmonton high schooler Anjola Oyelami created the Black Parent Resource Guide. (Submitted by Anjola Oyelami - image credit)
Edmonton high schooler Anjola Oyelami created the Black Parent Resource Guide. (Submitted by Anjola Oyelami - image credit)

When African music teacher Garth Prinsonsky moved to Edmonton from Namibia in 2008, it wasn't easy finding resources he needed to meet other people from southern Africa.

And when he and his wife had their children, he searched hard for local resources to expose them to Black history and culture.

"I eventually found them, but it took a lot of time for me to find them on my own," he said.

His experience is exactly the type of thing Edmonton high schooler Anjola Oyelami is trying to change.

The 16-year-old Archbishop MacDonald High School student created the Black Parent Resource Guide, a 24-page PDF document that lists services to help improve Black children's well-being in Alberta, including health, cultural supports, Black-led service providers and extracurricular activities.

"There actually are a lot more resources than I thought that could be helpful to Black parents or any parents in general," Oyelami said in an interview aired on CBC Edmonton's Radio Active on Tuesday.

Oyelami, who created the guide as a research assistant under the University of Alberta's Black Youth Mentorship and Leadership program, interviewed parents about the resources they needed to help their families settle in Alberta.

"I learned how difficult it could be to come to a new country and not know anyone," she said. "And how hard it can be on a family."

Prinsonsky has worked with many of the organizations on the list as a musician, teacher, and parent.

"It's useful for newcomers but I think for those of us who have been here for a decade or more or even longer, I think that it's still useful," he said.

Discrimination, bullying

Research conducted in 2016 and 2017 by one of Oyelami's mentors in the program, University of Alberta associate professor Bukola Salami and members of the university's Health and Immigration Policy and Practices research program, found challenges Black parents faced accessing services were impacting the health of African children in Alberta.

The researchers interviewed 75 Black parents and community leaders, Salami said.

"One thing that was mentioned a lot by African and Black parents was how children were being treated in the school system," Salami said. "They are told to go into lesser-skilled occupations rather than the higher-skilled occupations. And also the bullying of Black children and African children in the school system."

While the guide includes legal services and mental and emotional supports such as drop-in single session counselling and distress lines, Salami hopes to expand the guide in the future to better address issues of institutional discrimination against Black children.

Meanwhile, the first edition of the guide is getting an A-plus from community organizations and parents, Salami said.

"People are always surprised when I say it's a Grade 11 high school student that helped me develop it," Salami said. "She's brilliant, she's smart. And I think one thing that we don't really do well is capitalize on the strengths of a lot of the youth in our community."

The mentorship program will be accepting applications for its next cohort later this month.

Oyelami is looking forward to seeing the resource guide updated every year by other young researchers.

"It was just a great experience to be a part of to help other families," she said. "If this could just turn into something that is much bigger than ourselves, that would be great."

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.