Building communities by building relationships

TCHC Equity and Diversity Award Winner Joseph Adkinkrah talks about his approach to community engagement

Joseph Adkinkrah and members of the Toronto Youth Cabinet. Photo credit: Toronto Youth Cabinet.

Joseph Adkinkrah and members of the Toronto Youth Cabinet. Photo credit: Toronto Youth Cabinet.

Joseph Adkinkrah, a long-time tenant of the Empringham neighbourhood, got involved in his community when he noticed a breakfast program he used to visit had disappeared over time.

This program used to give food to youth in the community who didn’t have breakfast at home. Joseph and his friend Nate, who he used to go to the breakfast club with, worked together for over a year to get the program back up and running at the Hope Centre.  

This community activism was one of the reasons Joseph was recently nominated for an award at the Black Youth Gala on June 24. Award nominees like Joseph were recognized for their work in areas like building community through entrepreneurship, youth advocacy and urban health promotion. At the Gala, he won the TCHC Equity and Diversity Award.

The event was hosted by the Toronto Youth Cabinet in partnership with TCHC’s Centre for Advancing the Interest of Black People. It was a way to celebrate the exceptional contributions of Black youth. At the event, ten youth from across the city received awards for their community work.

Joseph was surprised by the nomination and invitation to the gala. “This is the first time I’ve seen anything like that being recognized on a bigger scale. Personally, I don’t do it for the recognition. Most of us just do it from our hearts or because we want to see change.”

Joseph has been involved in many community initiatives, but the most meaningful to him was a school supplies giveaway. “Just seeing how many families needed that support was very eye opening to me,” he said.

“Everybody was outside, it’s great to see so many different cultures in just one community.”

We asked Joseph about his definition of community engagement. Instead of trying to define the idea, he gave an example of a community event. Joseph talked animatedly about a basketball tournament that brought groups together from all around the community.

“Parents got to meet other parents, kids got to meet other kids. Police officers were there too,” Joseph said, emphasizing the importance of creating an environment where people felt safe and comfortable. “We had food, a DJ. And instead of the youth being intimidated, they’re getting to know everyone.”

Joseph knows that community engagement is not always easy, especially for people who want to get involved and are starting from the beginning. Coordinating with different members of the community and getting funding were a few of the challenges Joseph faced when he started.

His advice for people who are trying to make a difference or get more involved in their communities? Hold as many community activities as possible. “Build relationships with everybody. I think that’s the most important thing.”

Congratulations Joseph on the award and for your amazing contributions to the Empringham community! We can’t wait to hear more about your work in the future.

Award winners at the Black Youth Gala

Award winners at the Black Youth Gala