Feb 1, 2024

February marks Black History Month in Canada, a dedicated time to honour the remarkable contributions and achievements of Black Canadians. This month serves as a vital platform to shed light on the triumphs, struggles, and the rich tapestry of Black history and culture.  

In exploring the landscape of Black employment, it’s clear that higher educational attainment hasn’t translated into equal opportunities. Despite 42.8% of Black Canadians aged 25 to 54 holding a bachelor’s degree or higher (compared to their non-visible minority counterparts at 33.6%), their employment rates stand at 86.1%, lower than their non-visible minority counterparts at 91.1%. This disconcerting disparity challenges the assumption that educational achievements universally ensure comparable employment rates. 

Historically, Black entrepreneurs have confronted multifaceted challenges. Limited access to capital from both traditional and venture capital firms, coupled with a lack of generational wealth, has posed obstacles. Additionally, pervasive stereotypes, biases, and discrimination have been prevalent hurdles in their entrepreneurial journeys. 

Nevertheless, amidst these challenges, Black entrepreneurs have not only persevered but thrived. One such trailblazer was Elijah McCoy, born in 1844 in Colchester, Ontario, to parents who had escaped enslavement. His journey took him to Edinburgh, Scotland, where he became a certified mechanical engineer at the age of 20.  

Upon returning to North America, McCoy faced difficulties in securing work and ended up as a fireman for the Michigan Central Railroad. Recognizing the mechanical challenges of steam-powered engines, McCoy innovated the lubricating process by developing the “oil-drip cup.” This invention allowed trains to run faster with fewer maintenance stops. At 72, McCoy continued his legacy, designing a graphite lubricator. The engine, combined with the lubricator, drastically reduced the quantity of coal and oil used in train travel. 

Elijah McCoy’s story resonates as a testament to resilience and innovation against all odds, making him one of the most influential Black entrepreneurs and inventors to date. As we celebrate Black History month, let’s actively support Black-led organizations and business. Find out more here: https://www.blackottawaconnect.ca/ 





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