Blog: Supporting Black Youth in our Communities
February marks Black History Month, a time when we acknowledge the many achievements and contributions of Black Canadians and their communities throughout history in our province and the country as a whole. It is also a time to reflect on the disproportionately harmful outcomes that many Black communities have faced due to individual and systemic racism built into policies, attitudes, and structures.
Alberta is home to diverse Black communities, including the second largest Somali Canadian population (incidentally, the largest African community in Edmonton) and a significant Caribbean population (celebrated annually during our local three-day Cariwest festival). In 2016, 4.3% of the overall population was Black; in Edmonton it was 5.9%.
In spite of strong cultural and community representation, evidence shows that racial or ethnic groups with visible characteristics (i.e., cultural, religious, or physical) face high rates of discrimination and racism in Canada, including rejection of rental or employment applications, dismissal from community programs or services, and unearned profiling by retail staff or police officers. These experiences result in measurable gaps in education, employment, income, housing, health, and mental health outcomes—circumstances directly linked to the social determinants of health. For example, in 2016:
- 94% of Black youth in Canada (ages 15 to 25) wanted to go into post-secondary education, but only 60% felt that it was a realistic goal. At the time, Black youth were less likely to have attained a post-secondary qualification as non-Black youth.
- The proportion of young Black men without a high school diploma who were not in employment, education, or training was nearly double that of other young men without a high school diploma (58% and 33%, respectively).
- The unemployment rate for the Black population in Edmonton was 12.8%, compared to 7.1% among rest of the population.
- Just over 1 in 5 Black adults (aged 25 to 59) lived in low-income, with 28.2% of Black children in Edmonton (3 in 10) living in low-income. That’s nearly three times higher than the rest of the population (11.3%).
- Across Canada, nearly 2 in 10 Black parents led lone-parent family households, of which 34% were living in low-income (compared to 26% of the rest of the population). In Edmonton, 20.6% of Black women were lone-parents (compared to only 9.6% of the rest of the population). 
Understanding historical and contemporary experiences of discrimination and inequity is critical to making meaningful change for future generations. In honour of Black History Month, and in recognition of the value in supporting historically underserved youth, we offer a list of some of the resources available in Edmonton that aim to build capacity, empower individuals, and address historically inequitable outcomes for Black youth.
- YEGTheComeUp is an empowerment program for Black youth that focuses on education and career support, social engagement, and relationship building. https://www.africacentre.ca/yeg-the-come-up
- The University of Alberta’s Black Youth Mentorship and Leadership Program engages Black youth in high school with research and development opportunities in post-secondary settings. https://www.ualberta.ca/nursing/research/research-units/health-and-immigration-policies-and-practices/black-youth-mentorship-program/about-us/index.html
- The Experiential Learning in Innovation, Technology, and Entrepreneurship (ELITE) Program for Black youth offers high school students hands-on experience in industry, alongside leadership training, coaching, and support. https://www.eliteprogram.ca/program/
- Black Canadian Women in Action offers the Black Girls Empowerment Program to increase leadership and mentorship opportunities, focusing on interpersonal development and mental health. https://www.bcwinaction.ca/black-girls-power-program-1
- A Black youth empowerment initiative offered by Action for Healthy Communities, Empowering Girls, offers a mentorship program as well as activities and workshops for youth. https://a4hc.ca/program-services/newcomeryouth/#1581031111172-28a5485b-832b
- The African-Canadian Civic Engagement Council offers youth of African descent who are in vulnerable housing situations (e.g., due to recent incarceration or experiences on the street) a place to stabilize and receive support. https://www.accec.ca/
- The Africa Centre offers a mental health program in collaboration with the Alberta Black Therapists Network that ensures culturally safe counselling services. It is the first of its kind in Western Canada, and offers multilingual support as one way to reduce barriers. Though not specifically aimed at youth, leadership strongly encourage youth participation. https://www.africacentre.ca/counselling
- National Black Youth Helpline offers support to Black youth across the country to promote access to culturally appropriate supports for youth, families, and schools. https://blackyouth.ca/
- Throughout the month of February, the Black Teachers Association of Alberta will offer various programs and events for students, including workshops, social media posts, and an online summit with guest speakers https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/black-history-teachers-association-alberta-1.6331691
- A comprehensive list of supports for Black parents in Edmonton has been developed by the Health and Immigration Polices and Practices Research Program at the University of Alberta. Gaining access to these resources and services would lead to improved child well-being; the list focuses on health, child care, benefits, income, and education—among many others. The document will be regularly updated and revised. https://www.ualberta.ca/nursing/media-library/research/health-immigration/resources-for-black-parents_v1.pdf
Resources for youth are scarce in general, despite acknowledging the socio-economic benefits to supporting and improving outcomes for younger generations. Programs and services are vital to counter everyday experiences of discrimination and marginalization faced by Black youth—in conjunction with broader policies that specifically address inequity and racism. Supporting Black youth to reach their full potential is one of many essential steps to improving outcomes, such as those tied to the social determinants of health, and to creating lasting, positive change.
 To date, 2016 statistics remain the most recent data available from Statistics Canada. Unless otherwise indicated, information sourced from: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/89-657-x/89-657-x2020002-eng.htm