Studying and celebrating strong, diverse communities
Island entrepreneur Daniel Ikechukwu Ohaegbu is working hard to build the Island’s multicultural community while researching some of the barriers that make it difficult for newcomers.
Ikechukwu Ohaegbu immigrated from Nigeria five years ago to study psychology at UPEI. After graduation he began working on an honours thesis with Dr. Colleen MacQuarrie, entitled How African men thrive despite racism in Canadian post secondary institutions.
He’s reluctant to reveal too much information about his findings yet but does say it’s been fascinating to study liberation psychology and the dismantling of systems of oppression.
When he’s not buried in psychology books he and his business partner Jonah Chininga can be found running Overtime Entertainment out of the StartUp Zone in Charlottetown.
“It’s been so helpful and good,” he says of the community space for burgeoning businesses.
Overtime Entertainment is an entertainment and event management group working to create a platform for international students to feel at home and integrate into the community.
"We want to help foster connections," he said. "It’s growing slowly. We are promoting and advocating for diversity and inclusion.”
The Overtime Entertainment team – including Oniel Kuku, Joshua Daniels, Eko-hokpoma Ambrose, Jiaru Li and Foyinsayemi Senbanjo – hosted their first party in a Browns Court apartment during the Christmas break of 2015. It was for international students who couldn’t go home.
They have also worked with local businesses with the same goals, and organized a mental wellness and youth development week program and a panel discussion on black community growth during Black History Month.
Reflecting on his personal experiences as a new Canadian during Black History Month reminds Daniel that he has landed in a good place.
“Canada is a safe country; racism here is not overt as it is in the USA. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, but it’s more contemporary racism,” he said. “It’s not as overt as a KKK mask.”
Ikechukwu Ohaegbu suggests a post graduate entrepreneurship program would be a great incentive to keep international students here after graduation.
“That way you’re not just telling them to get a job, but supporting their ventures,” he explains. “Action on diversity, I don’t think enough is done to empower individuals. It’s about filling the gap in the off seasons on PEI.”
Daniel says Nigeria, where he and his brother grew up with their single mother, is where his heart will always be. His only sibling ended up in the United States and his mother visits them both.
Even though PEI’s black community numbers more than a thousand -- and is growing -- Daniel says there is still work to do.
“The black community is not as empowered as it should be compared to Nova Scotia and Ontario. It starts with empowering individuals and attracting more young people to stay.
It’s easy to love PEI. As much as I want to stay here, it has to make me want to stay -- it has to be a love story.”
The province agrees. Through the population action plan, and in collaboration with business and community partners, the government of Prince Edward Island is working to build a resilient, diverse and growing population.
Overtime Entertainment is planning a Masquerade Ball at Confederation Centre of the Arts next month. The event is designed to promote diversity in creative industries and will feature fashion, music, art, poetry and dance from around the world. Last year the event had 150 spectators and 30 artists.
Ikechukwu Ohaegbu and Chininga are looking for partnerships and sponsorships to make this year’s event even bigger.
“We want to make this happen.”