In recognition of the enrichment brought by Hamilton’s multicultural population, a group of senior students spent the fall 2021 semester discovering how the city can better serve local BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour) entrepreneurs.
“The project included two steps,” explains student Andrene Gregory. “First, we had to do primary research, which included analyzing the BIPOC community demographics and then engaging directly with its members. The second aspect involved doing secondary research through books, online platforms and collaboration with other stakeholders.”
The group’s efforts contributed to a larger three-part initiative. Another group of Redeemer students conducted additional background research on BIPOC support programs in other Canadian cities. Their findings, along with the findings from Gregory’s group, were given to McMaster University and compiled into a report for the City of Hamilton’s Economic Development Office. This will hopefully lead to the establishment of support services that address BIPOC entrepreneurs’ specific needs and challenges.
“We were able to interact with community members instead of just doing research,” says student Rachel Drouin, Gregory’s group member. “I was interested in talking to people and making connections.”
“As a member of the BIPOC community myself, I was very excited to jump in,” says Gregory. “In particular, I wanted to learn more about the Black community because, even though I’m part of it, I didn’t know a lot about what Black entrepreneurs are accomplishing in Hamilton. I hoped to help people understand where [Black entrepreneurs] come from, where they’re headed and how this program that’s being created by the City of Hamilton is going to pivot them forward into greater work.”
I think we played a big part in starting these conversations just by hearing the BIPOC community’s stories and learning about the amazing businesses that exist.
Now that the project’s final stage is in motion, they can reflect on their efforts with a well-earned sense of accomplishment.
“I think we played a big part in starting these conversations just by hearing the BIPOC community’s stories and learning about the amazing businesses that exist,” says Drouin. “Having a place where that data is collected and shared is a great place to begin.”
We’re all made in God’s likeness, and no one has the right to demean that fact.
Drouin and Gregory’s faith was deepened through the process.
“We’re much more than the colour of our skin, the texture of our hair or our gender or age,” says Gregory. “Redeemer has helped me focus on the ‘imago Dei’. We’re all made in God’s likeness, and no one has the right to demean that fact. Until we recognize this, we’ll continue to tear each other apart.”
“Seeing the support BIPOC businesses lend each other and the hope they have to see one another succeed, whether that’s through financial programs or other community assistance, showed me the diversity of our brothers and sisters in Christ and how they make Hamilton such a beautiful place to be,” adds Drouin.
Because of the experiences and insights gained, both students feel more prepared and invigorated for life post-Redeemer.
“Learning how to have important conversations, while being socially and culturally sensitive of the deep history that runs through people’s lives, is an important tool to have in any workforce and community I’m part of in the future,” says Drouin.
“The project got me fired up and thinking about how racism and classism play a role in the greater community,” says Gregory. “I want to dive deeper into Black history, theology and philosophy and maybe even come back and teach them at Redeemer. I never had this passion before, but now I have an insatiable thirst to learn more about how BIPOC communities can strengthen each other and share my knowledge with whoever’s willing to listen.”