Message from our Director of Operations

Oh hey there!

What a summer it has been! So much has happened and is happening – a lot to sit with, to process and to heal from. I know I for sure need a break and a chance to breathe. I realized yesterday I haven’t been breathing. I haven’t been able to catch my breath. I haven’t been able to take in good quality breaths. Breathing in for four seconds and out for four is a real struggle right now. Trying to do it feels like I’m out of breath and is stress inducing.

I can’t breathe.

I can’t breathe.

I can’t breathe.

Mama, I can’t breathe.

Have you checked in with yourself lately? Are you breathing? I mean really breathing. Are you finding the joy while sitting in the dark? 2020 has brought everything to the surface and it’s not over yet! If you haven’t been taking time for yourself and your Self-care…START!

Find the time to get out in nature, read a book, laugh until your belly hurts, have random dance breaks, anything that brings a smile to your face and warms your heart. You need it! You deserve it! We deserve it!

We got a long road ahead of us; this has never been a sprint. This will never be a sprint. We have barely even started – we’re still here. Let me say that again. We’re still here.

To those who claim to be Allies, where are you? Where were you? Where have you gone? We’ve been feeling and seeing your support dwindling. I guess you really did mean ‘back to business.’ I wish I had the luxury, the PRIVILEGE of going ‘back to business,’ I wish I could take off my skin and be perceived differently when I walk out my door. In case you need that said more clearly, uniforms can be taken off, my skin cannot. One more time, uniforms can be taken off.

There was a protest held in Barrie at Sunnidale Park on Saturday 22nd, less than 100 people were there. Over 20 government officials and representatives were personally invited by the organizers. Three showed up. The protest started just after 1pm, the organizers wrapped up the protest by 330pm. The three that did show up weren’t there at the end. 2 hours and 30 minutes. 2 hours and 30 minutes. 2 hours and 30 minutes. Where were you? Where are you? Hello, test, test is this thing on?

The sporting world has spoken this week – if you are upset with players stepping up and saying ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. You are part of the problem! If you are still under the belief that politics and sports are separate you are part of the problem. If you still live in a fantasy world that makes you believe not everything is political you are part of the problem.

Everything in life is political from the clothes you wear to the clean water you desire to drink. If you still miss the ‘good ole days’, you are part of the problem. The good ole days have never been good for everyone! The good ole days, has led us to this exact moment in time.

To the real Allies, thank you – keep going, we need you. To the performative allies you’re not fooling anyone – we see right through you. To the colonizers, the white supremacists, and to anyone sitting on the fence:

  1. There is no fence – you’re part of the problem
  2. I ain’t stopping, we ain’t stopping.

You might have silenced me before, but I found my voice. You might have convinced me to hate myself, but I found love for myself and the skin that I’m in. You might continuously try to reinforce that I don’t matter BUT I know that I do. You might continue to underestimate me, don’t. You ain’t seen nothing yet, but you will!

Black. Lives. Matter.

Courtney Peters

Director of Operations


UPlift Black Art

Nothing Cavalier About Nimako

Sean George for UPlift Black Newsletter Volume 2 – 2020 Photography – Samuel Engelking (@samuelengelking)

Ekow Nimako’s book Beasts from Bricks, takes us to every continent (save Antarctica – represented as The Arctic) to create an iconic and powerful beast found there. With each beast he gives us a metaphorical line or brick to consider; we have to fill in or rather build the rest.

Beasts from Bricks is a carefully laid out how to guide for constructing beasts out of LEGO. Depending on who you are LEGO is either the ultimate medium for creating a masterpiece or a master mess.

Nimako’s work lies in the former. A scant internet search on what can be done with this ‘put it all together yourself medium’ does yield plenty of art, period. Quantified and validated by WIRED magazine, British GQ, The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), Hollywood Reporter, VICE magazine, and the NY Times.

While you were trying to get your son or daughter to pick their bricks up off the floor, LEGO came of age. It bypassed the theories and bibliographies of academia, and is now the medium that remakes popular culture and so very much more. Somewhat like photography anyone can build, but not everyone can make art.

In this piece by piece boldly coloured world Nimako has constructed a defining style of his own. Every piece he uses is black and shiny. Brought together the eye sees what Picasso suggested, black and white emphasize form, balance, and overall structure. 

Nimako’s work says enough about his ideas, without yelling at you; it showcases and presents the power of blackness. I was reminded of the hand of Rodin, the thoughtfulness of Ai Wei Wei, and the boldness of Kara Walker’s large scale cutout black silhouettes.

His Flower Girl is part of his Mythos series – which draws ideas from West African folklore and proverbs. Are you still picking bricks up off the floor?

Long before Nimako received a degree from York University, his childhood hobby and devoted passion helped to hone his adept skill. Somewhere along the way the traditions and tensions of the African diaspora, the zeitgeist of Afrofuturism, helped to lay the theoretical framework to sculpt art out of LEGO.

With his shiny black stamp of approval from the Danish company. Nimako could rest easily on his laurels and continue to create commissions, exhibit in Berlin, and across the world. He does so much more. He facilitates workshops for students and educators in finely and well thought out sessions.

Ekow Nimako, Flower Girl, 2019

Sir David Adjaye, the architect of The National Museum of African American History and Culture, is quoted as saying “I think, I really think about ideas and not scale. I try not to think about scale. I think that sort of collapses your creativity. So, for me, it’s just the issue of the idea.” 

Nimako’s work Cavalier for Nuit Blanche 2018 in Toronto was near life size. It is the only work I have ever seen in person by this prolific artist…..who does use coloured bricks for commissions.

Everything else that Nimako has done I’ve experienced digitally – nothing is lost in translation. As an artist and art educator of twenty-five years I can say with confidence Nimako’s work will be around for a long time. No one will be picking black bricks up off the floor.

Ekow Nimako, (pictured with) Warrior Owl, 2020


Are you a local (Simcoe/Muskoka) Black artist or do you know one that should be featured? Email us at 

Project UPdates

UPlift Black The Web Series

We are so excited to announce the launch of the first webisode for UPlift Black – The Web Series

“Our Founder & President, Shelly Skinner, is the host for UPlift Black – The Web Series. In this episode she interviews our Director of Operations (formerly known as Managing Director), Courtney Peters. UPlift Black’s online web series focuses on members of the Black Community living in Canada, particularly outside of urban centres. Our platform makes space to tell their stories and share their work. The show creates a call for change within each episode, offering ways for ending Anti-Black Racism and supporting economic development for Black people living in Canada. “

We couldn’t of done this without our show sponsor Multi Tech Audio Visual Inc! Thank you Karen and Vanz for your continued support for your community! To watch the first episode, click here.

UPlift Black Youth Care Packages

The Youth Care Package Project was a huge success. It was gratifying to see the joy the personalized care packages brought to the youth who participated. The feedback we’ve received from families with messages, photos and emails has been overwhelming and makes us feel that we accomplished our goal in UPlifting our Black Youth. Thank you to all the volunteers who spent countless hours shopping, collecting, sorting, assembling, organizing and delivering over 200 care packages in Simcoe County. Thank you again for all those who donated items and sent well wishes! Want to see the reactions? Make sure you’re a part of our Facebook group UPlift Black – Share. Support. Show Up ✊🏾  

Book Club

The book club is officially launching! 

The books we will be diving into will be the topics of our conversation for two months at a time, giving each of you enough time to acquire the book and read through. Halfway through the two month period you will receive a ‘check-in’ to ensure that you are on track. This check-in will include some discussion topics, questions, and major highlights. At the end of the two month period, we will host a virtual meeting to discuss as a learning community.

Each two month period will have a book for young learners and a book for adult learners. Often, we enjoy reading the young adult novels as adults ourselves, so don’t be shy to read those books, too! We will send the discussion emails, but in order to create a safe space for our young adult learners, the meeting will be limited to those 18 and under (this section is geared more toward high school aged learners – all books will be 13+). Caregiver consent will be required for young learner participation.

The books that we are reading for September and October are the following:

ADULT: Born A Crime by Trevor Noah (note: there is a young readers’ version as well!)

YOUNG ADULT: The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed

Join our fledgling book club here

Check back for updates regarding a children’s book club, coming soon!

Terms to Know


Social movements in the past couple of decades have been able to gain intense momentum as a result of increased globalization and use of social media. A few social movements have even been born completely online and still have no central power. For example, the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag represents a social movement advocating for non-violent civil disobedience in response to police and state violence. It is a decentralized (no head person or organization) movement that arose as a result of the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the unprovoked shooting death of Trayvon Martin in 2013.

Large demonstrations across the United States and Canada began in 2014 in response to the murders of two Black men, Michael Brown and Eric Garner. Sadly, in the 6 years that followed, the movement has protested countless other incidents of police violence, including here in Barrie in 2018 as a result of the murder of Olando Brown. Most recently, #BlackLivesMatter has garnered international attention because of the murder of George Floyd in May of this year.

The world is making hxstory, seeing its largest ever social movement, with other voices joining in that are waking up to the reality of the state of policing in colonized nations. #BlackLivesMatter, because it is decentralized, will not be going anywhere. It is a movement, and it is here to stay until the problem of police and state violence is resolved. Check out their website, here, to see a list of demands that would start to address the problem.

Police and state violence

These terms are used to refer to the harmful actions and human rights violations executed by the police or by the state. Police violence can include, but is not limited to: physical violence against peaceful protestors, sexual and gender based harassment, stop and frisk policies, tasering, tear gas, rape, and murder. While the police are often the people who are committing the direct violence, the police are one arm of the state. State violence can include forcibly removing Indigenous Peoples from their ancestral lands, building through territory that is unceded, creating laws that disenfranchise marginalized people, and removing children from their homes to send to residential schools. Usually the government or state enacts its violence through the use of the police force. Here are some statistics about murders by police:

  • In 2019 police in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, killed 1,810 people – an average of five per day
  • In 2019, Kenyan police killed 122 people
  • Between October 2019 and January 2020, police in Iraq killed around 600 protesters
  • Between 2015 and 2018, over 500 people were fatally shot by the police in Jamaica, and over 300 shot and injured
  • Around 1000 people are killed by police in the USA every year – currently at 751 murders this year
  • Over 30 people have died in Canada at the hands of the police in 2020 so far

For more information visit here

Optical Ally/Performative Ally

Although hashtags like #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo help to push the conversation forward, a hashtag and a post cannot be your only activism. Anti-racism work does not finish after you have finished reading “How to Be an Anti-Racist” by Ibram X. Kendi. It is impossible to finish only one seminar on diversity, equity, and inclusion, to then think that you have ‘become culturally competent’, and also actually be committed to break down the institutions that oppress the global majority.

An optical ally (aka – performative ally) is a person who sees themselves as an ally, but when it comes to actually facing racism, they tend to exhibit signs of upholding racist structures themselves. For example, did you know that the largest social protest in Barrie’s hxstory occurred this year? Back in June in response to the murder of George Floyd, #BlackLivesMatter, Barrie chapter, put on a protest which, at the time, drew a crowd of around 2000 people. On Saturday August 22nd, there was a peaceful protest in Sunnidale Park, and the crowd was under one hundred people.

Where are all the ‘allies’ who came to support Black lives back in June? The people who posted black squares on Instagram, attended the protest, and then a week later went back to ‘business as usual’? Yes, those are the optical allies. In it for the recognition of being thought of as accepting and tolerant, but when it comes down to it, where are you?


Broadly speaking, justice is the idea that each person receives what they deserve.

Let’s look at an example. Recently, a Black man named Jacob Blake was shot 7 times in the back by police in Wisconsin. As a result, no police have been arrested. During the #BlackLivesMatter protests that inevitably ensued as a result of this attempted murder, a white terrorist walked through police lines at a protest, killed two people, and somehow managed to escape this situation with his life. He has been arrested, but justice has not been served. The white and Black people in this situation were not treated in the same manner. One was almost sentenced to death, while the other was able to walk through a protest with an assault rifle and come out with their life while having taken the lives of two others. The cops who tried to kill Blake are still free.

Trevor Noah said it well this week on the Daily Show:

“Why do the police decide that some threats must be extinguished, while other threats get the privilege of being defused? We all know the answer: the gun doesn’t matter as much as who is holding the gun, because to some people, black skin is the most threatening weapon of all.”

On Instagram check out @jamespoetry WE ASK FOR FIRE, here, demanding justice for BREONNA TAYLOR! 


Current Events

This week, 4 years ago, then NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick made hxstory by taking a knee during the singing of the American national anthem during a game to protest police and state violence.

As police violence continues, and in many cases becomes a lot more emboldened, we are seeing more activism from more people in many spaces. Within the sports world, as a result of the state of police violence in North America and as a show of solidarity with Jacob Black and the protestors of Wisconsin, there was a mass boycott this week. Five major leagues, due to players’ decisions, refused to entertain while Black people are dying at the hands of state violence. While Colin Kaepernick was blackballed out of the NFL for his peaceful protest and this week’s five major leagues protested police and state violence by boycotting their games. How do you blackball entire teams across multiple leagues? We guess Colin was right and should get his job back.

This is not a performative allyship action. These players stand to lose a lot from boycotting their jobs. They are using their enormous platforms to help push for and enact change.

Remember how we mentioned that Barrie made hxstory in June with its largest social protest? Our vision for Barrie, the Simcoe Muskoka region and beyond is to have communities full of activated allies, not performative allies. Come to events, attend protests, write letters, and continue sharing. We want to live in communities that demonstrate its help and support for marginalized people.

WNBA, NBA, MLB, MLS, and NHL thank you for stepping up and using your platforms to keep the attention and focus on racial injustice.  

Remember, police violence is not new; it’s just being filmed – which is also not new.

UPlift Book Recommendations



Something Happened In Our Town – Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard, Anti-Racist Baby – Ibram X. Kendi and The Undefeated – Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson




The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas, Dear Martin – Nic Stone and I Am Alfonso Jones – Tony Medina




The New Jim Crow – Michelle Alexander, Stamped from the Beginning – Ibram X. Kendi and Invisible No More – Andrea Ritchie

UPcoming Important Dates

Date: Sunday, August 30th, 2020 at 1pm

Event: Back2School Free School Supplies GiveAway 

Location: Alan Kuzmich Park 134 West Park Ave, Bradford, ON 

For more information and to donate supplies, call 416-830-2148


Date: Monday, September 14th 2020 at 7pm

Event: Barrie City Hall General Committee Meeting to Support Shak’s World 

Location: Online – watch here through Rogers tv

Come on out and support Shak’s World presenting again to the City of Barrie during their next general committee meeting. Shak’s World is asking for support with rent for a space downtown Barrie, the space was designed and has been used as a community centre in the past. If you missed the last meeting you definitely do not want to miss this one! For more information on Shak’s World go here. For the latest media coverage of Shak’s World, visit here 

**All eyes are on you Barrie City Hall hopefully this time around you all are ready to actually listen and will keep the focus on Shak’s World and not your own personal grievances.**

Have any UPcoming Important dates? Email to help keep the Simcoe Muskoka community informed! 

UPlift Spotlight

Business Spotlight: AviRo Baby Boutique

Based in Bradford, Ontario, AviRo Baby Boutique is a Black-owned business that features hand-crafted all natural and safe baby products. Shop all their beautiful items here.

Like AviRo Baby Boutique on Facebook here and follow them on Instagram here.

UPlift Spotlight: Ramona Reed Deane

Ramona is the big beating heart at the center of UPlift Black. She shows incredible caring, courage and empathy in her daily commitment to advancing social justice through education, activism and compassion. Ramona brings her brilliant energy into every UPlift Black meeting and UPlifts the whole team. She is always there with encouragement and support and we love having her as a part of UPlift Black.


Help us support the community! Email to UPlift and spotlight a Black owned business or Black individual within the Simcoe/Muskoka area. 

Community Support

Our President Shelly Skinner enjoying Black is Beautiful – Imperial Stout

Barnstormer Brewing & Distilling Co. Brewpub Restaurant


A big THANK YOU goes out to Barnstormer Brewing & Distilling Co. Brewpub Restaurant located in Barrie for stepping up and supporting UPlift Black with the Black is Beautiful Campaign. Black is Beautiful is an international collaborative beer and campaign launched by Weathered Souls Brewing of San Antonio, Texas.

Our Black Art & Aesthetic Coordinator, Sean George

“Black is Beautiful is a collaborative effort to raise awareness for the injustices people of color face daily. Barnstormer Brewing will donate to UPlift Black, a black led non-profit based in Barrie, ON. Chocolate, and coffee notes. Moderately sweet with thick body and light carbonation.” More information here

What are you waiting for?! Go to Barnstormer now and enjoy the Black is Beautiful Imperial Stout – supporting has never tasted so delicious!