The Power of Sharing Access: In Conversation with Amoye Henry, Claudette McGowan, and Danielle Graham
Between a global pandemic and a global movement to end racist violence against Black people, it can be difficult to figure out where you can help. The massive nature of these problems make it feel all but impossible to start. Or, more specifically, you don’t know where to start.
The key when fighting to change systems is to not forget about the individual. And that’s one of the things Joyful Sundays is all about. In this conversation with Amoye Henry, Claudette McGowan, and Danielle Graham, we spoke about how to help individuals while pushing for larger changes.
The kindling of change
Certain events – like pandemics and social movements – can reach such a scale that change is inevitable. It’s simply a fact that the world will change in response to both the COVID pandemic and the global Black Lives Matter movement in that rose up after the murder of George Floyd and others in the Black community. The floodgates of change have been opened. The question that remains is to see what kind of change actually happens.
For Amoye, Claudette, and Danielle, the pandemic brought about moments of gratitude but also a call to action. Each leader recognized the privilege they have, which the pandemic made very clear based on how certain groups, like working class people of colour, were significantly more impacted by work from home orders and mass layoffs. At the same time, though, recognizing their privilege ignited a fire to take action. Each woman is involved, in the ways that they can, in different social movements and individual-level work to help people impacted by the pandemic.
Pandemics and community-wide issues have a way of centering human pain. They make it real – and impossible to ignore.
Moving the dial one person at a time
Amoye has been helping women of colour for over a decade with her organization AfroChic. The Toronto-based cultural festival celebrates the creations and entrepreneurial spirit of Black women. She is also working with the City of Toronto as a coach and mentor to Black women entrepreneurs, helping them get their businesses off the ground and in front of the right customers or investors. From there, she’s building a network of media, investors, and mentors to help accelerate Black women-owned businesses.
Claudette McGowan’s day job is as the Global Executive Officer, Protect Fusion & Cyber Experience at TD Bank. In that role, she champions diversity at TD, one of Canada’s largest employers. On top of that, she is an avid supporter of Black North, an initiative dedicated to removing anti-Black racism from workplaces and other spaces across Canada.
Danielle Graham is the founding principal of Sandpiper Ventures, a venture capital network of women investors who actively want to support women’s entrepreneurship. The network started initially as the Atlantic Women’s Venture Fund, but Danielle helped to expand it into a full fledged VC firm dedicated to removing funding barriers for women, who still only receive a small fraction of VC funding despite participating at a much higher level in the economy.
A north star shift
Massive global changes have a way of making people re-evaluate what really matters in life, and that’s what happened for Amoye, Claudette, and Danielle.
Amoye realized just how much we take for granted as a society. From seeing family to spending time at restaurants, so many of our privileges are easily lost. In this, it’s essential to be grateful for whatever you can be while also pushing to afford the privileges you value so much to other people who perhaps never even had them to begin with.
Claudette saw the fragility of society. Looking at data about violence against Black people, the after effects of the pandemic shock, and the transition from people spending to saving for the first time in a generation, she’s seeing fear and concern. However, within that fear and concern is opportunity, because people are taking action – and she wants to be part of the action.
Danielle noticed a reaffirmation that we have to work on important things before they become critical issues. Looking at what we focused on as a society before the pandemic versus what the pandemic uncovered as the real issues in society made it clear that inaction because things are good is simply not an option anymore. We have to continue to push for progress even when things seem pleasant and nice.