Itse Hesse and Black Girl Collective

June 28, 2022

As an immigrant student from Nigeria, the absense of an identifiable Black community was evident a short while after Itse Hesse's arrival. As a young Black girl living a solitary life in Vancouver, she found it challenging to integrate into the Vancouver community at large. The culture shock, coupled with a heightened sense of isolation, made her feel disconnected from her surroundings.

Overtime Itse realized many other Black women must feel the same, so she decided to found Black Girl Collective (BGC), a registered nonprofit based in Burnaby and serving Black women all over the province. BGC was born out of sheer necessity to provide safe, inclusive, and accessible spaces for Black women to feel a welcoming sense of community in Vancouver, British Columbia, and Canada at large. 

BGC advocates for the joy and visibility of Black women with the goal of uniting, empowering, and inspiring each other through specially-curated programs, such as Black Joy Events, Black Futures, and Community Engagement. The team is a powerhouse of women who strive to make the world a better place.

We sat down with Itse and chatted about her SFU experience and how it relates to BGC.

How did your CMNS degree help in the success of BGC?

My degree has helped me better articulate myself when it comes to public speaking and writing. No matter where I go, when I speak or say I studied Communication, everyone always says: "I can definitely see that." I love that I can see my degree helping me in my day-to-day life.

Since leaving SFU, you have been so successful. It was fantastic having you speak at convocation. What did that recognition mean to you?

I was honoured that SFU thought of me. It was very validating to be in front of all the graduates. I felt like a true member of the CMNS and SFU community.

What projects are you currently working on?

I know my vocation in life is helping people and making the world better, and I also know I can do that through BGC. I have three main projects on the go. In the fall, we have a BGC Futures program starting. This program will focus on the personal development of Black women through empowerment and capacity building. We will do this through a personal and professional Mentorship Program, as well as through a Financial Literacy workshop.

I'm also working on the launch of our Businesswoman of the Year award, which I'm hoping to implement in the fall. Black businesswomen work so hard but get little to no recognition and support from the community or government. We want to let the women in our community know that we see them, we appreciate them, and we're rooting for them.

And finally, my new foundation called Tosan Combra Foundation, which is named after my parents. The foundation will be located here in Burnaby, but we will empower women and children in rural Nigeria.

Tell us about this Saturday's event.

This Saturday, July 2, we are having a Sports Day. This is our first community engagement event, and one where anyone Black can attend, including men. We will be taking the Black community down memory lane with track-and-field activities like the 100m sprint, 4x100m relay, tug of war, musical chairs, and more. There will be a DJ, and every ticket comes with unlimited drinks and snacks. Vansuya will also be on site selling more food. Anyone can attend as either a spectator or player. There will be medals, trophies, and prizes. I hope to see you there!

And lastly, what advice do you have for current CMNS students?

Your words matters! Speak up in tutorial! I always loved speaking in tutorials because it helped me build my confidence with public speaking. It honed my skills of getting my ideas and opinions across without making people feel like their own ideas are inferior. Remember, your words matter.

 

Register for BGC's Sports Day event here. This event is co-sponsored by the Faculty of Communication, Art and Technology and the School of Communication.

Donate to BGC here.

 

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