The Urban Alliance on Race Relations benefits from an active and committed volunteer Board of Directors.
2019-2021 Board of Directors
NIGEL BARRIFFE, PRESIDENT
A community organizer and an elementary teacher with the Toronto District School Board in Rexdale, Nigel is a Board member of the Rexdale Community Legal Clinic, Board Chair of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations, and a member of the Good Jobs For All Coalition. He was the interim-treasurer of the Ontario Alliance of Black School Education (ONABSE) and a former Co-Chair of the African Heritage Educator’s Network (AHEN). Nigel’s activist work focuses on quality public education, good green jobs, and a more just society for all inside and outside the classroom. His efforts have been recognized through a number of community service awards including the 2011 Urban Heroes Award, the 2012 JS Woodsworth Award and the 2014 Jack White Service Award from the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists. He holds a Masters’ degree from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.
GARY PIETERS, IMMEDIATE PAST PRESIDENT
Gary is an educator, writer, media/subject expert, diversity change agent, equity leader, community volunteer and history scholar. He has over 23 years of work experience in the education sector as a teacher and school administrator. Gary has served the community through his involvement on several boards and advisory committees. He is currently the President of the CityPlace Residents Association; a member of the Minister’s Advisory Council on Special Education (MACSE) in Ontario; and a jury member on Park People Public Space Incubator. He completed a 3-year term as president the board of directors of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations in 2015. He also served as a Board Member of Sojourn House and as a member of the Toronto Star Community Editorial Board. He also served as a member of DiverseCity Voices, an initiative of the Maytree Foundation which aims to improve the diversity of voices in the media. His recent interests are around the Internet of Things (IOT), Machine Learning, and Artificial Intelligence (AI), and how innovations in these creative technology sectors are transforming every aspect of society and daily life.
RESHMA DHRODIA, MEMBER-AT-LARGE
Reshma Dhrodia is a social worker, educator, and social justice advocate whose professional interests are in equity, anti-oppressive practice, mental health, gender-based violence, and trauma. She has worked for several community organizations, hospitals, and edu- cational institutions including the Scarborough Women’s Centre, the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health, and the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multicultural Women Against Rape. Between 2012 and 2014, she managed a community-university project to engage post-secondary students to prevent gender-based violence at U of T Scarborough. In 2014, she delivered a TEDx talk on age discrimination called, “The Trouble with Aging” based on her work as a seniors mental health consultant with West Park Healthcare Centre. Reshma has worked in student services at the U of T St. George Campus since 2015. Her work on the downtown campus has included co-designing and facilitating equity trainings to build skills in allyship among students and staff. She has been a U of T Accessibility Advisor working to support students with disabilities since 2016.
ZENIA CASTANOS, MEMBER-AT-LARGE
Working in the social work field for 13 years in Toronto, Zenia has experience in community health centres, family shelters, a Drop In centre for women, non-binary and trans folks and has worked with youth and their families in London, England. Her work has focused on women’s mental health, homelessness, poverty, volunteerism and community engagement while aiming to do this work from an anti-racist, anti-oppressive and intersectional lens. Her interests are in community-based work, health promotion & the social determinants of health, racial justice initiatives and increasing access to services. She is a registered social worker who obtained her Psychology, Social Work and graduate Social Work degrees at York University. Currently, she works as a Counsellor in a community agency.
EMILY MOONEY, MEMBER-AT-LARGE
Emily is a trained researcher, writer, facilitator, teacher, and registered social worker with over a decade of experience leading diverse groups. Her work teaching adult ESL, particularly at Newcomer Women’s Services Toronto, and her more recent study of Black and In- digenous history and culture in Canada, inform her interest in how — and for whom — this country has been constructed. She has worked with Community Living Toronto, CultureLink, COSTI Immi- grant Services, CAMH, and the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI) to collect and analyze data, facilitate workshops, write reports and training materials, and improve supports and services for immigrants and refugees to Canada. She holds an honours B.A. in English literature from Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts. In 2016, she received her master of social work with a specialization in social justice and diversity from the University of Toronto, and also com- pleted the Collaborative Graduate Program in Ethnic and Pluralism Studies at the Munk School of Global Affairs.
Winnie Falkenstein works as a Project Manager in Elections Services with the City of Toronto. Prior to this, she worked with the City of Toronto in the area of equity, diversity and human rights. She has also worked as a Policy Advisor for the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services and as a Parole Officer with Correctional Services Canada. Winnie has a BA and MA in Criminology from the University of Toronto and has been a volunteer with the UARR since 2002. Winnie is deeply committed to equity, and as a parent, she enjoys finding ways to create and disrupt conversations about race. She is particularly interested in questioning the social construction and (mis)representation of race, crime and gender in the media, racism in the criminal justice system, and violence against women.
KIRK MARK, M.Ed.
Kirk Mark is a recent retiree as Senior Coordinator of the Community Relations Department in Toronto Catholic District School Board (Ontario, Canada), the largest Catholic School Board in the world with 92,000 plus students, 16,000 plus staff and 200 plus schools. He has been involved in diversity programmes in corporations, communities and schools for over thirty-five years with extensive travel to and consultation within the Caribbean, Europe, The Continent of Africa and the United States of America. His areas of expertise, while residing in the Provinces of Quebec and Ontario, are: Systemic Change Management, Professional Learning, Equity and Inclusive Education, Culturally Relevant and Responsive Pedagogy, Student-Athletic Development, Parent and Community Capacity Development. Mr. Mark has presented his work, as an author and educationalist, to local, national and international audiences such as: the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity (NCORE), Cheikh Anta Diop Conference, and The University of Toronto’s DeColonizing the Spirit Conference, and various boards of education. As a community volunteer, he shares his expertise as a Board of Director and Past-President of The Canadian Alliance of Black Educators, The Urban Alliance on Race Relations, The City of Pickering Committee on Diversity and The Toronto Basketball Association to name a few. In addition to being listing in Who’s Who in Black Canada (2002, 2006, 2010 Editions), as well as receiving numerous accolades, a few of his awards include: The African Canadian Achievement Award for Excellence in Education, The National Alliance of Black School Educators Ft. Worth Chapter Education Award, The UMOJA Award for Outstanding Community Service (Quebec), The Human Rights and Race Relations Centre Gold Medal Award (Ontario), The Hispanic Canadian Alliance of Ontario Appreciation Award, and The Toronto Basketball Association Award of Excellence.
Nora Hindy, OCT, is a public school teacher with the Peel District School Board. She holds a Masters degree in Public Policy. As a Board of Director of Urban Alliance on Race Relations, Nora has worked with unions and advocacy groups to help bring the voices of racialized communities to the forefront. Nora has spent many years working and advocating for Special Education students. She is involved with the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, where she sits on the Anti-Racism and Equity Committee at the local level. Nora has also volunteered with DawaNet, where she led and organized a nationwide federal election debate for racialized youth aimed at improving the strength of democracy in Canada.
Ainsworth is a dynamic trade unionist, currently serving a 3 -year term as Co-Vice President at the Canadian Labour Congress representing Workers of Colour. He has a passion for defending workers’ rights and the promotion of fairness, and a strong advocate on equity issues in making the labour movement more inclusive and diverse. His vision is to see more workers of colour and those from the marginalized and disenfranchised community attain more leadership roles.
As a leader and an activist on many fronts, such as the Toronto and York Region Labour Council Equity Committee, and executive board member of SEIU Healthcare – one of Canada’s largest Healthcare Union’s. Ainsworth continues to educate and raise awareness on issues of human rights and equity for the betterment of our workplaces, labour movement, and society as a whole. He see’s himself as an emerging political activist after working along-side other team-members on the 2014 NDP provincial campaign in the Ajax-Pickering riding. His growing interest in politics has led him into his current role as President of King-Vaughan riding association for the Provincial NDP party.
On most days, you can find Ainsworth at Sunnybrook Health Science Centre in Toronto, working in the administration department. During his spare time, he is an entrepreneur in the financial industry.
Brittany Andrew-Amofah is the Senior Policy and Research Analyst at the Broadbent Institute where she is responsible for setting the research and policy direction ofthe organization, and for managing the Broadbent Institute’s Fellow Program. She also provides regular political commentary to CBC News and other media outlets. Brittany’s work focuses on engaging those who’ve been excluded and disenfranchised from the Canadian political systemdue to system racism, colonization and the concentration of power. Most recently, she was on the policy team at the Maytree Foundation where her work focused on researching various pov- erty reduction strategies. A former Program Manager at Harmony Movement, she also served as a constituency assistant to Councillor Janet Davis, and worked six years in Toronto’s homelessness and housing sector. Brittany holds a BA with honours in Social Policy and Equity from York Univer-sity and a Master’s in Political Management from Carleton University.
Mohammed is a senior organizer for Toronto’s Labour movement and active leader in Muslim community advocacy. A graduate of the University of Toronto, he has been involved with many of the campaigns that have promoted equity and pushed back against Islamophobia. His work with the York and Peel District School Boards helped shape a greater understanding of Islamophobia and deepened commitments to strive for greater equity. Mohammed’s commitment strengthening democracy and inclusion led to hosting the first Iftar at Toronto City Council Chambers.
He also helped create the first fellowship for Muslim youth to deepen their commitment of public service by building bridges for access to working at Toronto City Hall. His work in politics and labour has been well recognized and he has played leading roles in many campaigns that protect public services and help get progressive city builders elected.
A resident of Toronto, Cynthia Levine-Rasky is an Associate Professor at the Department of Sociology at Queen’s University in Kingston. Author of Writing the Roma: Histories, Policies, and Communities in Canada (Fernwood 2016), she has also authored, Whiteness Fractured (Ashgate/Routledge 2012), and co-edited We Resist: Defending the Public Good in Hostile Times (McGill–Queen’s University Press, 2020), a collection of original essays by forty-two notable scholars, community leaders, and activists. Cynthia’s writing also appears in The Conversation, Canadian Dimension, National Observer, NOW, Canada’s History, and the Globe and Mail. Her writing usually focuses on anti-racism from a critical whiteness perspec- tive, and on building an inter-sectoral social movement. Cynthia’s engagement with community organizations began in 2011 at the Toronto Roma Community Centre where she worked as a vol- unteer grant-writer and general assistant to the Board of Directors.
Today, she continues her com- munity engagement in solidarity with groups fighting the rise of white nationalism. In 2017, she co- founded the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom–Toronto, a grassroots interfaith group for Muslim and Jewish women.
Muhanad Ali is a public health researcher and a MA candidate at the School of Health Policy and Equity, York University. He received his Honours Bachelors of Science from the University of Toronto Scarborough in Population Health, Critical International Development Studies, and Anthropology (minor). He previously served in the Youth Health Action Network; a Toronto Tobacco Control Area Network (TCAN) initiative incollaboration with the City of Toronto’s Public Health Unit, and as a Research Associate withUrban Alliance on Race Relations.
J. S-QUIRE JOHNSON
S-Quire has been developing and implementing social justice focused pro- grams and initiatives within community agencies, for-profit businesses and educational institutions since 2012. Sourcing anti-racism/oppression frameworks, popular education techniques and multi- media resources, his work showcases his passion for diversity and inclusion, cultural identity aware- ness, empowering youth voices, and strengthening healthy families. He has conducted numerous anti-oppression and anti-racism presentations for the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto, where healso serves as Community Advisory Committee Co-Chair. As a facilitator at Harmony Movement, a diversity education organization, S-Quire has developed and delivered engaging programs for stu- dents, teachers and administrators in the education sector focused on equity, anti-racism and healing through storytelling, and has traveled extensively to deliver workshops and has also trained private and public sector professionals. S-Quire has served as the Program Coordinator at Young and Potential Fathers, a culturally responsive family service agency that operates Ujima House, the first and only father-focused family resource centre in Canada. He has studied Administration and Information Management at Ryerson University, and holds a Certificate of Facilitation.
Christine is the Human Rights Director for Unifor and the first Vice President of Unifor Local 195. In addition to organizing multiple roundtable discussions on Islamophobia and ra- cism, she has coordinated many campaigns on temporary foreign workers, gender, employment equity, challenging racism, and homophobia. This followed her earlier position at FCA (Fiat ChryslerAutomobiles) Windsor where she assumed responsibility as Women’s Advocate, human rights in-vestigator, local executive board member, facilitator for the national education department, and ultimately as one of two equity coordinators. In 2015, Christine was one of 250 leaders selected for the Governor General Leadership Conference. She is currently working with unions in the United States to create programs to challenge supporters of white nationalism.
Naseem Mithoowani is a passionate advocate of refugee and newcomer rights. She graduated from Osgoode Hall Law School in 2007, and has been practicing law exclu- sively in the areas of immigration, refugee and human rights with Waldman & Associates since 2010. In this role, Naseem has defended the rights of women to wear religious coverings at citizen- ship oath ceremonies, and the rights of Muslim men held under draconian security certificate re- gimes. Naseem is a 2018 DiverseCity Fellow and is currently involved in pilot project to create a le- gal clinic focusing on the needs of Muslim-Canadians in the GTA.
Sanaa Ali-Mohammed is the daughter of first-generation immigrant settlers to Dish with One Spoon Treaty Territory with several years of experience as a community organizer challenging systemic Islamophobia. She works in the philanthropic sector, at the Inspirit Foundation, spearheading granting which supports Indigenous and racialized young leaders across the country. Prior to this, Sanaa worked as a political staffer at Toronto City Hall, where she was instrumental in a policy designating a Day of Remembrance and Action on Islamophobia. She also coordinated the first phase of OCASI’s province-wide refugee mental health promotion strategy, which trained over 700 settlement workers across Ontario. Sanaa’s journey as an organizer began during the 2015 federal election, when her project, aimed at shifting how young Muslims interact with electoral politics, planted the seeds for the Muslim Youth Fellowship, and earned her a nomination to the Samara Canada Everyday Political Citizen Shortlist. She remains a member of the team producing the Muslim Youth Fellowship. Sanaa holds an MA in International Development Studies from York University, and an HBA from the University of Toronto.