We are well into Black History Month. I spoke to some people, all of African descent and they had mixed feelings about this month. "It's complicated" was the common response. Dawn Porter (Instagram), the documentary filmmaker who made the film John Lewis: Good Trouble, tried to capture this sentiment in an opinion piece for Reader's Digest. She describes the importance of intentionally celebrating African contributions among the Diaspora in the west. But she thinks it's also equally important not to dwell on the same well-known figures like Harriet Tubman and Martin Luther King Jr. She asked the historian and scholar, Henry Louis Gates Jr., for his thoughts and he immediately replied, “Every day should be Black History Month!”. We agree! Here's an Etsy design of what this looks like.

In this issue, we celebrate the stories of two Black creators, Dupe Adeyemi and Michael Barrett, who are pushing forward, working hard and smart towards their definition of success. We discuss the significance of community and neighborhood centers, especially in lonely cities like Toronto for marginalized communities. Lastly, as the AI race accelerates in 2024, it's important to listen to diverse voices like Joy Buolamwini who is an expert in AI gender and racial bias. Time magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people in AI in 2023.

Reading time: 11 minutes


Publisher & Editor, Spinning Forward


➡️ The Transformative Power of Community Centres 🏘️

➡️ From Nigeria to Canada: YouTuber Dupe's Content Creation Journey 🎥

➡️ Scarborough-Born DJ Natural.wav, Recalls Rec Center's Crucial Role in His Formative Years 🎧🏢🌱

➡️ New book Addressing AI Bias: The Intersection of Race and Technology 📘


“As AI infiltrates more of our lives, we must double down in making sure AI is for the people and by the people, not just the privileged few...I truly believe if you have a face, you have a place in the conversation about the AI that shapes our lives.” 🤖🌍👥

Joy Buolamwini, Ghanaian-American-Canadian computer scientist, digital activist, and Author of Unmasking AI: My Mission to Protect What Is Human in a World of Machines


The Transformative Power of Community Centres 🏘️💫

Community centres equal trust & belonging: One important highlight from The Toronto Foundation's 2023 Toronto Vital Signs Report came from community and neighbourhood centres. They are known for accessibility and inclusivity, and are the most trusted institutions across all age groups and neighbourhoods in Toronto. However, confidence drops significantly when they become less accessible. For example, confidence drops to only 39% among Toronto residents who do not live within walking distance of a community centre or recreational facility compared to 63% who do.

The importance of community centres is more significant for communities of color and low-income neighbourhoods due to systemic inequalities that have historically led to disparities in access to services, healthcare, education, and economic opportunities. People who use community centres, recreational facilities, and public spaces have better mental health, stronger social connections, a greater sense of belonging, and tend to donate and volunteer more.

Scarborough-Born DJ Natural.wav Recalls Rec Center's Crucial Role in His Formative Years 🎧🏢🌱

Content creator, Michael Barrett, who goes by "DJ Natural.wav" grew up in the Malvern area in Scarborough. His primary platforms are TikTok , YouTube and Instagram. When we spoke, he recalled how important the community recreational centre and library were in his development, boosting confidence and providing him skills and a sense of belonging in the community:

"I remember growing up being able to go to the rec centre and there being a bunch of things to do. I remember learning to play guitar a little bit because of the rec centre. Completely free program. I remember joining a basketball team. Anything creative that I wanted to do, I was able to go to the rec centre or library and get it done. I have a younger brother, and I'm noticing that these recreational programs aren't as accessible as they were before."

Michael relocated to Montreal during the pandemic because he wasn't having any luck with landlords in Toronto responding to his rental inquiries. In Montreal, the first few places he contacted got back to him right away and he took this as a positive sign. After he got laid off from his job early in the pandemic, he took content creation more seriously, which complemented deejaying. He still commutes to Toronto on weekends when he has a DJ gig and to visit family and friends. One future initiative he wants to do is return to Malvern after he gets wealthier to invest in more community activities for youth. He said,

"It would be cool if the community itself would get together and put on things for the youth to steer them away from staying in the streets and being bored."

🇳🇬🇨🇦 Dupe Adeyemi Shares Her Journey to Better Care in Scarborough at TAIBU Community Health Centre 🩺 🏥🌿

Lifestyle content creator Dupe Adeyemi, known as @saintdupsie on YouTube, immigrated from Nigeria to Toronto in 2021 during the pandemic to join her husband. He had arrived in Canada as an international student years earlier and secured a good job in his field after completing his studies.

I spoke with Dupe about a TikTok and YouTube video she made regarding her unpleasant experience with her previous family doctor. For more than a year, she felt disconnected from this doctor. The doctor continued not to take Dupe seriously, didn't examine her properly, and regularly dismissed her symptoms. She said her previous doctor "sent me to go for a blood test and my results came in [but] she wouldn't call me to let me know that my results were in and let me know what's going on." Dupe initially thought she was asking "too much from her [doctor]" and kept giving her more chances and time. After a trip to her local hospital's emergency department, she began researching and looking for a new doctor. She said, "I didn't come to this country [Canada] to die" from lack of care by a doctor.

Dupe found a new doctor at the TAIBU Community Health Centre, a community-focused organization located in Malvern, Scarborough. The centre serves Black-identifying communities across the Greater Toronto Area. In addition to providing health services, it offers community programs for youth, families, and seniors to various marginalized populations.

After Dupe's first meeting with her new doctor, she was shocked at the difference in care. Her new doctor actively listened, thoroughly examined her and immediately took action on her health concerns and symptoms. This new doctor made referrals to other health care professionals, followed up with them in front of her and said she would call her to let her know about next steps. Reflecting on finding a doctor that provides care, Dupe said,

"This is the first time that I feel I have a doctor. This how I was supposed to feel with my previous family doctor. I pretty much love it."

Dupe is thrilled even though the new doctor and health centre are a 20-minute drive compared to a short walk to her previous doctor's clinic.

In a CBC interview, Paul Bailey, the executive director of the Black Health Alliance, a Toronto-based charity whose mission is to improve the health of Black communities, said,

"patients sometimes struggle to find clinicians that understand their needs."

Dupe has advice to anyone questioning their doctor's care:

"I want to tell you that if you are not comfortable in any way, in any form of way, that you feel like you are not comfortable with your family doctor in any way, just change the person."

by Trevon Daley & Flavian DeLima

Guest writer, Trevon Daley is a second year student studying Advertising & Marketing Communications Management at Centennial College. Flavian DeLima is the publisher and editor of Spinning Forward.


💼✨ Catherine Hernandez's "Scarborough" Honours Community Centre's Unsung Heroes

Source thumbnail image here

Catherine Hernandez on community resilience: Toronto-based Catherine Hernandez, author of the the novel, Scarborough, told Toronto Life why the story focussed on a community literacy centre that became a crucial service for vulnerable families in that Scarborough community:

"The story is about a community doing its best to survive against a system that is set up to fail them...I set my novel in one of these centres because it was a good place for the young characters to interact, and also a way to pay tribute to these workers who are so devoted even though a new government can come in with different priorities and suddenly their job might be gone. It’s this precariousness that affects the whole community."

The novel, set in the Scarborough neighborhood of Kingston/Galloway, was adapted into a film. It premiered at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival and won Best Motion Picture and eight screen awards. The book focuses on the coming-of-age of three young children living in a low-income neighborhood and how they form bonds in a community centre despite the hardships they and their families face.

Hernandez paints a vivid picture of underprivileged families that continue to fall further behind without dedicated community centres and staff who create a safe and supportive space for children and families.

A mother’s plea, denied: In one scene, an Indigenous mother, Marie, visits a clinic with her 8-year-old daughter, Sylvie, and her 3-year-old son, Johnny, whom she believes has a problem. She pleads with the doctor for a referral for Johnny, who has yet to be diagnosed with autism. The doctor ignores the mother's request and instead mentions the amount of paperwork involved, and tells her not to worry about Johnny. The doctor says:

“I know you mentioned you’re at the Galloway Shelter. I can’t imagine how hard it is to deal with these challenges in such small quarters. But once your housing is settled and Johnny is a bit older, maybe then we can talk about assessments. There’s a lot of back and forth with specialists. A lot of booking appointments, phone calls, trips across town. Think about dealing with all of that in addition to what you’re dealing with now. Besides, I have a strong feeling he’s just a bit behind. Nothing to worry about.”

From Nigeria to Canada: YouTuber Dupe's Content Creation Journey 🎥

Dupe Adeyemi is a Nigerian YouTube content creator, whose channel is called Saintdupsie {Dupe}. She is also a mother and a student at George Brown College. She's is currently completing her post-graduate diploma. She lives in Scarborough with her husband and their four-month-old baby. Despite her busy schedule, she projected a quiet confidence and thoughtful approach when we spoke.

From hair to lifestyle content creation: Dupe started creating content in Nigeria in 2017, focusing on how Black people can better manage and take care of their hair naturally without chemicals. She was one of the few local creators and found her creator friends online. She was intrinsically motivated to make content, which made her happy. After arriving in Canada in 2021, she changed her hairstyle to dreadlocks and wanted to start a new lifestyle YouTube channel about her life in Canada. She's still trying to find her voice as a lifestyle YouTuber. She needs to create content that balances her need for self-expression while maintaining privacy for her husband and baby.

Community Culture Shock: In a humorous video, Dupe offers advice to extroverted Nigerians planning to move to Canada. She thinks they may struggle because neighbours seldom talk to each other. In a light-hearted humous manner, she says,

"Nigerians are loud in attitude, character and speaking. If your mental health is not really strong right from home in Nigeria, my brother, my sister, you may enter depression. Canada is not for extroverts. Canada is for introverts."

Dupe, on the other hand, is more reserved and introverted than most Nigerians. She enjoyed the solitude of content creation in Nigeria and continued when she arrived in Canada. She thinks Canada is well-suited for content creation, especially in the colder months when most people are indoors at home doing more activities. She noticed that in Canada, young people do things by themselves, especially DIY (Do It Yourself) projects. She says:

"I see people being their own carpenter, you know, building their homes, building their sofa or their furniture...If something happens to your appliance, you mostly likely go on YouTube to figure it out before you throw it out."

In Nigeria, there's someone to hire for any home project for not very much money.

Neighbours Feel Disconnected in Toronto: Dupe continues to be surprised how few people talk to each other who aren't family and friends in Toronto. In Nigeria, the community comes together when someone new arrives. The custom is to show kindness, where the community regularly meets in someone's home to discuss things.

In Toronto, Dupe jokingly says,

"Your phone will be your buddy. ..You have to start recording your voice. Everything that's going on in your head that you really want to talk about. You have neighbours, but you don't even know them. I'm telling you, we've been in this house for six months now and yesterday was like the first time that I really saw our landlady. ...They also have a child -- like a seven-year-old daughter. I don't even know her. You can be in this area for years and you won't even know your neighbours."

Dupe's goal is to complete her studies at George Brown and work in her field like her husband. Her main focus is to care for her baby as a new mother and continue her part-time side hustle as a creator for her YouTube channel, Saintdupsie {Dupe}. She plans to explore brand partnerships this year and currently makes money from Google ads and affiliate marketing.


📜 Diversity Crucial for Shaping Future of AI In December, Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Chairs Rep. Emanuel Cleaver and Barbara Lee sent a letter to OpenAI, addressed to CEO Sam Altman and the Board of Directors. They expressed concerns over the lack of racial and gender diversity on its board. They wrote that "OpenAI is a non-profit public institution created to ensure that AI benefits all of humanity, is now composed exclusively of white men."

🤝 Open AI responded acknowledging the importance of diversity and stated that building a diverse board was one of its top priorities. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver was disappointed by OpenAI's response and wanted a more concrete response like, "we are trying right now to look across the ethnic, racial and gender barriers, and we hope to be moving in the direction of higher inclusivity".

💡Why it matters? Diversity and inclusion will shape the future of AI so that technological advancements benefit all people equally.

📘  New book Addresses AI Bias: The Intersection of Race and Technology: MIT researcher and author, Dr. Joy Buolamwini, has a new book, called Unmasking AI: My Mission to Protect What is Human in a World of Machines. Time named her one of the 100 most influential people in AI in 2023. Buolamwini, is a Ghanaian-American-Canadian computer scientist and digital activist, and founded the Algorithmic Justice League (AJL) in 2016.

🔍Buolamwini's book covers topics about the dangers of AI facial recognition software that reinforces racial bias when used by law enforcement. She appeared in the Netflix documentary, Coded Bias, where she investigates the bias in algorithms and uncovered flaws in facial recognition technology that couldn't detect her face because of her skin color. In addressing the tech industry challenges with an intersectional view, Buolamwini says, “We cannot have racial justice without algorithmic justice.”

💡 Why it matters? Algorithmic discrimination in AI has significant implications for society. Discourse is necessary for responsible development and governance of AI technologies.