Organizations that provide support to Montreal’s Black community and how to help them

Get to know these organizations that are helping Montreal’s Black community. (Sayaspora team photo.) Courtesy Sayaspora

Black-led, Montreal based organizations non-Black allies should encourage

There are plenty of Black-led organizations in Montreal, many of which are easy to find for someone looking to donate or volunteer. And yet, there are students who are unable to name more than a couple Black community organizations from the top of their head, which is why there is a need to highlight these organizations, encourage them, and celebrate their work.

Here are a few organizations that directly help Montreal’s Black youth, seniors, women, and artists.

“We teach kids about their rights and responsibilities in different spaces: at home, [on public transit], at school, as a student, interacting with the police, etc.” — Raeanne Francis

The Black Community Resource Centre

The Black Community Resource Centre dedicate themselves to providing help for Black people in sectors such as education, employment, research, culture, and justice. 

One of their legal projects consists of going to schools with a high visible minority/Black demographic. “We teach kids about their rights and responsibilities in different spaces: at home, [on public transit], at school, as a student, interacting with the police, etc.,” said Raeanne Francis, manager of the BCRC.

Another project that focuses on Black youth is the Where They Stood project. It is run by 10 youth who are writing a book about the evolution of the English speaking Black community in Montreal. “To facilitate this project, we organize workshops hosted by volunteers and members of the Black community,” said Francis. “We even had some Concordia professors who hosted workshops,” she added. Right now, the BCRC is looking for funding to create an animated series based on this book.

The BCRC also has projects that help Black anglophones with job accessibility. They produce research about the Black anglophone community in Montreal, and provide health and social services to the seniors in their community. The local community however, doesn’t seem to provide any stable monetary support to the BCRC. “The most donations we got was during the George Floyd protests,” said Francis, “funding is always an issue for community organizations.” However, donations aren’t the only way people can help. Francis said a huge way to help the BCRC out is to volunteer time and expertise, as well as re-sharing their projects and events from their social media

“We want people to see [BTW’s] value, not for a flash or a moment, but to see how important it is to feed the growth of Black culture and art.” — Princess Symonds

Black Theatre Workshop 

The Black Theatre Workshop has three branches of projects: Mainstages, School Tours, and their Artist Mentorship program. 

School Tours are made up of actor groups that perform a play related to Black history and culture in schools around Canada. Before the pandemic, these tours were done throughout Black History Month. 

Princess Symonds, outreach coordinator at the BTW, expressed how important these tours are. “[The tours] are reaching thousands of students every year,” she said. “Not only do we perform for them, but we also provide them with study guides for them to further their learning.” 

The BTW’s school tours fill a gap in education that is not addressed in most curriculums—a gap that Symonds considers teachers cannot always cover because of different limitations. The last play they did for the School Tours, before the pandemic, was a play called Simone Half and Half, which portrayed a biracial teen struggling with issues of identity, class, and race. This year, the School Tours will be held virtually, throughout the month of March.

The BTW’s Artist Mentorship program recruits a cohort of around 10 artists of colour every year and provides them with opportunities to develop their careers throughout a span of six to seven months of time. The cohorts often consist of actors, playwrights, directors, and stage managers. “This year is the first year that [the cohort lives] all across Canada, and it is all Black participants for the first time ever,” said Symonds. 

Their Mainstage projects consist of putting on a play, from start to finish, and hosting it at a theatre venue in Montreal. Symonds also said they usually have two or three Mainstage productions going on every year, but the pandemic has widely changed that over the past two years. 

The pandemic, on top of other factors, has left the BTW in a state of exhaustion. “It’s been a lot,” Symonds said. She explained some of the frustrations that have been felt, not just in the BTW, but in Black-led organizations all over Montreal. “As an org, we had a lot of attention and a whole outpour of support, in May, June, July, and August of 2020. We are incredibly searchable, the word ‘Black’ is in our name. However, that has died down significantly as time has gone on,” said Symonds. “That can be even more hurtful; to feel like a trend-worthy topic that was so immediately discarded. The sincerity we thought we felt from various communities seems it was just because it was of the moment.” There has been a gap in the past year and a half in the support non-Black people have given to the Black community in Montreal. 

“Black organizations in Canada are historically underfunded,” said Symonds. “We want people to see [BTW’s] value, not for a flash or a moment, but to see how important it is to feed the growth of Black culture and art.” She explained the BTW has been able to survive for a number of different reasons, like being based in Quebec, where art funding is very prominent. One of the reasons, though, is because of long-term donors who have consistently given whatever they can because they see the value in supporting them. “Long term donors who are just giving $10 a month, $10 a year; that kind of support, [they are] giving what they can because they see the value in supporting organizations like ours.”

West Island Black Community Association

The West Island Black Community Association was founded by two mothers who wanted to create a safe space for their children and  kids in the area of the West Island, where they are based. The organization will celebrate their 40th anniversary this year, and throughout that span of time, their services have extended beyond serving the Black youth in the community. They now have programs specifically dedicated for seniors, adults, and youth. 

“Right now, we are very excited about the ‘Black Girls Gather’ book club,” said Joan Lee, president of the WIBCA. “It’s a book club with workshops for young Black girls from ages 13 to 17 where they read books by Black authors.” The workshops, she said, vary in topics such as hair care and love, poetry readings, paint shops, and more. They also have a robotics team club to inspire Black youth to participate in science, technology, engineering and mathematics related programs, with 52 current members, out of which 12 are girls. 

‘Black Girls Gather’ book club. Courtesy WIBCA

For seniors, they have services such as Senior Surf and Senior Fit. Senior Surf is a program that helps Black seniors to use everyday electronics, like their phones, as well as online banking, and how to not get scammed online. “The seniors are very grateful, especially now during COVID. It has helped them be able to connect with their family and not feel isolated,” said Lee. The WIBCA also provides transportation services for Black seniors to get to doctor’s appointments safely.

As for adults, the WIBCA has a support group for Black women called the Staying Power Women’s Group. “The format is informal,” said Lee, “you show up and if there’s something bothering you, it’s a safe space to just be you and relax.” 

The WIBCA also has a group called Confronting Racism. It’s a group for non-Black people to learn to be better allies to the Black community and understand their white privilege. “It is a very popular group,” said Lee. It is facilitated by a woman who is not Black, but the WIBCA has two Black women who she consults to make sure she is passing on the right message. 

All the programs at the WIBCA are available at the cost of a small annual membership fee. The WIBCA runs on donations and grants. “We're lucky to have really consistent donors who always give generously,” said Lee. Apart from donating, volunteers are welcomed at the WIBCA. Lee mentioned that the WIBCA is always looking for volunteers for their Saturdays tutoring sessions offered to Black youth in grades 1 to 11.

ForUsGirls Foundation Inc.

The ForUsGirls Foundation’s mission is to “develop, mentor, and empower unique, fierce, daring young women and girls into feminist community and global leaders,” said the president Aminka Belvitt. They accomplish this by providing mainly educational support, such as courses and scholarships, to Black girls in schools. She explained that the ForUsGirls foundation was initially one program based in Côte-des-Neiges, in 2014. From there on, ForUsGirls grew into a school-based program at Beurling academy.

Belvitt highlighted their C for Coding program. The 7th edition of the program will begin on March 12. It will offer an 8-week long HTML/CSS website development coding course for Black, Indigenous and Racialized girls aged 12 to 19.The program is sponsored by Montreal Behaviour Interactive.

The donations the ForUsGirls Foundation receive go towards funding an array of services for Black girls. They provide tuition scholarships for young Black leaders studying in university or college. They also use the money to cover software costs related to website hosting and video conferencing. The funding also goes towards their community emergency response fund, which provides food gift cards, items for babies and covers transportation costs for Black women in need.

There are many different ways in which people can help the ForUsGirls Foundation. Donations are welcome, but it is also possible to volunteer to give a professional workshop or service. It is also helpful to follow them on social media.

Photo of Sayaspora’s team. Courtesy Sayaspora
“I was tired of not seeing representation about being a young African woman stemming from the diaspora.” — Djamilla Toure


Sayaspora is a feminist media outlet dedicated to giving a voice to African women across the diaspora. Djamilla Toure, president and founder of Sayaspora, said she created Sayaspora at around the same time she came to Montreal to study in university, in 2015. “I decided to create what I couldn’t find in Montreal,” Toure said. “I was tired of not seeing representation about being a young African woman stemming from the diaspora.” Toure expanded, “we want to create media made by us and for us [young African women]; we don’t want to talk about it to one-another, we want to amplify the voices to women where they can be heard.”

In their second year, Sayaspora opened up their blog globally. “We received submissions from writers all across the world. It was beautiful to read stories from African women from all walks of life,” said Toure. 

In their third year, Sayaspora began hosting events and organizing projects. This, again, came from a need to fill a void in Montreal’s community. One of their ongoing projects is a pluriannual one called Making Your Way. It is designed to help young women of African descent navigate the job market in Canada through workshops. They also created videos for a campaign that aims to teach young women about the different problems they might encounter due to systemic racism in Canada’s job market.

Sayaspora’s team is completely made up of volunteers. “We are a team of 10 volunteers who work during their free time to create this kind of space for our community,” said Toure. Because of this, all donations they receive go directly towards funding their different events and programs. 

Additionally, Toure said that almost all of Sayaspora’s events are open to everyone. “To truly engage with what we create, come to the events,” she said. “We truly want to create conversations, we want to make sure that everyone is included in the conversations, and we want to amplify the voices of African women in the places where decisions are made.” Helping Sayaspora, therefore, doesn’t just have to be donating money. It could also be sharing their work on social media, commenting, reading their articles, and showing up to their events.