Our Board of Directors
A community-based board of directors is responsible for setting the strategy and providing oversight for BLAC.
Rinaldo Walcott, Chair
Rinaldo Walcott is Director of the Women and Gender Studies Institute at the University of Toronto. As an interdisciplinary scholar, Rinaldo has published writings on music, literature, film and theatre, policy and other topics. His research and publications focus on Black cultural politics, histories of colonialism in the Americas, multiculturalism, citizenship and diaspora; gender and sexuality; and social, cultural and public policy.
Rinaldo is the author of Black Like Who: Writing Black Canada; the editor of Rude: Contemporary Black Canadian Cultural Criticism; and co-editor with Roy Moodley of Counselling Across and Beyond Cultures: Exploring the Work of Clemment Vontress in Clinical Practice. He published Queer Returns: Essays on Multiculturalism, Diaspora and Black Studies (Insomniac Press, 2016).
Idil Abdillahi, Vice-Chair
Idil Abdillahi is an assistant professor at Ryerson University School of Social Work.
With over 15 years of experience in addictions, mental health, immigration, criminal justice, women’s services, community development and grassroots organizing, Idil is an activist-academic and community organizer.
Aba Stevens, Secretary
Aba Stevens is a New York and Ontario-called attorney with a long-established commitment to equity and human rights.
She has served in a voluntary capacity for numerous community organizations and initiatives, including as vice chairperson of The Black Secretariat. More recently, she organized a coalition of community organizations and equity-seeking individuals to respond to proposed diversity-related amendments to the Ontario Securities Commission’s corporate governance rule.
Aba’s legal practice has focused on securities, white collar criminal and constitutional law. As legal counsel to the Ontario Securities Commission and the Canadian Securities Transition Office, she has advised on wide ranging law reform initiatives relating to corporate governance, systemic risk, derivatives, market regulation, capital raising, data collection and emergency powers. Through her ongoing work to reform Canada’s securities regulatory framework including the proposed Cooperative Capital Markets Regulatory System, she specializes in modelling and advising through complex transitions.
Okeima Lawrence, Treasurer
Okeima Lawrence is multi-disciplined with a history of youth social infrastructure advocacy and community development work in Toronto. He has been active in a number of local projects and organizations addressing systemic issues that face racialized and low-income communities. As a former Toronto Public Library Board member, he was appointed to the board twice serving for eight years from 2004-2011, and as vice chair in 2010, leading the libraries innovative strategic plan and enhanced arts and youth programs and services.
Okeima enjoyed participating in Toronto CityIdol, a civic-engagement contest modeled off American Idol, but for local solutions-focused idea sharing and municipal governance. In 2012, he was a DiverseCity Fellow with CivicAction where he was the lead organizer of the Investing In Us: The DiverseCity Fellows and Inclusion Pledge. Currently, Okeima is the Creative Director of Creative Practices Institute, a client centered boutique coaching and organizational development practice, and an Analyst with the City of Toronto.
Okeima graduated from York University’s Political Science and International Relations program, and is the recipient of the Children’s Breakfast Club Community Builder Award. When Okeima is not immersed in work he is often exploring Toronto’s many restaurants with family and friends or at a tranquil parkette to read and enjoy the flow and rhythm of Toronto. Often with his camera in hand capturing these moments.
Roy Williams, Director
My official title is Professor Emeritus, now retired from Ryerson University where I was variously a professor, and Associate Chairman, and a Director of Entrepreneurship in the School of Business. In addition to the aforementioned day job my community activities included being a founder and first president of the Jamaican-Canadian Association in the early 1960’s and again as president in the mid-1980’s; chair of the Ontario Black Coalition for Employment Equity in the 1980’s; member North York Black Education Committee; member Employment Equity Task Force for the North York Mayor’s Committee on race and Community Relations and have been involved on a range of matters of concern to the Black and Caribbean Community. I am the first Black person to serve on the Toronto Police Services Board; member of Judge Clare Lewis’ Race Relations and Policing Task Force. I was instrumental in the formation of the Caribbean and African Canadian Social Services (CAFCAN) as it was divested from the Jamaican-Canadian Association and I am a charter member. I have spent the last several years in retirement.
Zanana Akande, Past President
Zanana Akande was the first Black woman elected to the Ontario Legislature, and the first Black woman to serve as a cabinet minister in Canada. A New Democratic MLA from 1990 to 1994, she represented the downtown Toronto riding of St. Andrew-St. Patrick and served as a cabinet minister in the government of Bob Rae.
After leaving politics, Zanana served as president of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations, Canadian Alliance of Black Educators and Toronto Child Abuse Centre. She worked with other community-based groups including the United Way of Greater Toronto, the Family Services Association and the Elizabeth Fry Society. She was the recipient of the African Canadian Achievement Award for Education and the Award of Distinction from the Congress of Black Women.
To access BLAC’s General By-Law, please click here.