Yonis Hassan, Noah ‘40’ Shebib and Jermyn Creed of the Justice Fund recently hosted the OVO Social Justice Summit recap in Toronto. Andrea Butters takes a look at what went down.
In the heart of Toronto’s creative scene, the Justice Fund co-founded by Yonis Hassan, Noah ‘40’ Shebib and Jermyn Creed, is making waves with its transformative efforts. Focused on empowering communities, the Justice Fund has three strategic priorities that underline their commitment to social justice―supporting community-led initiatives, reforming philanthropy, and creating essential community infrastructure.
Recently, the Justice Fund hosted an electrifying event that seamlessly merged live performances with thought-provoking conversations. The event came alive with talented Toronto DJs taking center stage, skillfully spinning hip-hop and R&B tracks from the ’90s to the present.
A notable highlight of the event was a captivating fireside chat projected on screens, featuring influential personalities at the forefront of promoting diversity and inclusion in their respective industries. Yonis Hassan, the event’s host, engaged in an insightful discussion with esteemed guests, including Olivia Chow, the Mayor of Toronto; John Wiggins, Vice President of Organizational Culture and Inclusion for the Toronto Raptors; and Sarah Bay-Cheng, Dean of the School of the Arts, Media, Performance, and Design at York University.
During the conversation, the guests shared their personal journeys within their industries and the challenges they encountered regarding diversity and inclusion. Mayor Olivia Chow recounted her transformative shift from fine arts to the realm of public service, recognizing the power of creativity in driving change. Sarah Bay-Cheng, originally from California, highlighted the sense of belonging and community that the creative arts provided her, emphasizing its potential to foster innovation and inclusivity. John Wiggins, through his work with the Raptors, expressed a commitment to create platforms that empower underrepresented individuals with opportunities, particularly in the realm of sports.
Notably, Yonis Hassan, co-Founder and CEO announced several groundbreaking partnerships during an inspirational speech, reinforcing their commitment to fostering social justice through the arts and entertainment industry. One such collaboration is with the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), aiming to leverage creative tools to enhance safety, mental health support, and community engagement within public transit spaces. This partnership will also promote public art installations on TTC platforms, celebrating artistic expressions that resonate with passengers from all walks of life.
Additionally, the Justice Fund‘s collaboration with York University will create a Black and Indigenous student scholarship program within the School of the Arts, Media, Performance, and Design (AMPD). This initiative will provide crucial financial support, offering entrance scholarships to 13 deserving AMPD students annually, empowering the next generation of diverse creatives.
Another vital partnership with Toronto Community Housing addresses support gaps for youth in conflict with the law within the community. By conducting a comprehensive study and working closely with community organizers and government agencies, this initiative aims to develop targeted programs and pathways that address the unique challenges faced by these youth.
The Justice Fund‘s most ambitious collaboration, the Creating Pathways to Employment Program (CPEP), represents a $4 million partnership involving the NBA Foundation, Northpine Foundation, and the Province of Ontario. This program provides tailored entry-level training to Black, Indigenous, underrepresented, 2SLGBTQ, and Afro-Indigenous youth in conflict with the law, offering them access to opportunities within the creative industry. Through this initiative, they envision promoting economic equality by empowering marginalized youth with the skills and pathways needed for success.
In the end, the Justice Fund‘s commitment to social justice is an inspiring testament to the power of creative expression and community engagement.
When asked, ‘What is the best way to support Black and Indigenous creatives? Noah ‘40’ Shebib told SHIFTER, “Creating a welcoming environment for those communities, where you feel safe and protected and wanted and validated.”
By forging strategic partnerships and fostering a culture of diversity and inclusion, they are paving the way for a more equitable and inclusive society. As they continue to champion community-led initiatives, reform philanthropy, and create essential infrastructure, the Justice Fund‘s impact will undoubtedly resonate far beyond Toronto, setting an example for other communities and organizations to follow.