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One Love: A Dialogue Event continues community outreach in support of LGBT youth

A recent event held to mark Black History Month focused on the importance of supporting Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, and Transsexual (LGBT) youth. It was co-organized by CAMH’s Substance Abuse Program for African Canadian and Caribbean Youth’s (SAPACCY), which has successfully focused on community needs in this area.

One Love: A Dialogue Event, a collaboration with Toronto District School Board’s Student Equity Department, was held in Toronto on February 13, 2010. According to Amanda DeGoeas, an addictions therapist with SAPACCY, the event's purpose was to educate and inform African Canadian and Caribbean youth and family members about the importance of supporting Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, and Transsexual (LGBT) youth.

Amanda DeGoeas, addiction therapist in CAMH’s SAPACCY program, provides culturally specific support to LGBT youth of colour.

“We wanted to let youth and families know of the difference that providing support can make in the lives of LGBT youth,” says Amanda, who developed One Love in 2009 as a health promotions utility for LGBT youth and their families of African Canadian and Caribbean descent.

A number of the clients in Amanda’s work present issues that are linked the lack of family support around their sexual orientation.

“Family attitudes often reflect stigma that results in the social isolation, mental health and/or substance misuse issues for some of these youth,” says Amanda, who took the initiative last year and began connecting with people already doing “great work” within the LGBT black community. The event was successful, she adds, because of this kind of outreach and partnership within the cultural community.

This year’s One Love: A Dialogue Event focused on celebrating the accomplishments of Black LGBT people and discussing those who have inspired them -- past and present.

Youth, service providers and family members attended and heard from a panel of consisting of youth, an educator, and professionals spoke about the accomplishments they have made in their life and in the Black LGBT community. They also identified key individuals who inspired them to get involved in their community.

“It was a powerful event that allowed individuals a safe space to discuss and celebrate the great work that continues to be done in the Black LGBT community,” Amanda says. “We also discussed how to further mobilize the Black community to reduce stigma and become more open and accepting.”

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