Black lives have faced many challenges that have rendered our voices silent.
We have been excluded from the tables of decision-making about the things that impact our lives. We have been put on the sidelines and overlooked. Empirical evidence speaks of our discrimination in all spheres of life over the ages and still, no significant change is seen. In 2020, an increase in brutality against Black lives in the US ignited an uprise of response across the world. Amidst this upheaval, Canadians were confronted with the ever existing reality that Black lives were experiencing deep and prevailing racism in all sectors of society.
A call to action required that a group of nurses needed to take a stand for the unheard voices of Black nurses in Canada. Within the healthcare sector, Black nurses historically have been belittled, discriminated against, devalued, passed over, not given credit for their contributions in nursing history and underrepresented at leadership tables. With a feeling that the unique needs of Black nurses were not being met in July 2020, Ovie Onagbeboma birthed the vision of the Canadian Black Nurses Alliance (CBNA) and aligned with five nursing leaders calling an urgent meeting. CBNA was born from the overwhelming and long-standing need for the voices of Black nurses to be heard.
CBNA established its first affiliate in the form of an academic club at McMaster University in August 2020. The chapter caters to McMaster University Black nursing undergraduate students under the leadership of Ezwina Egoi and Abena Owusu.
Federally Incorporated in September of 2020, the Canadian Black Nurses Alliance (CBNA) is a non-profit organization that serves to advance Canadian black nurses through empowerment, mentorship, and advocacy.
The founding leaders of CBNA are Ovie Onagbeboma, Ava Onwudegwu and Karen Pingal. Additional foundational contribution credit is given to Nadine Smith, Shaunattonie Henry and Sarah Musabimana.
Although a membership organization, the CBNA’s programs and activities are for the benefit of Black nurses, nursing students, licensed/practical registered nurses, and retired nurses in Canada. We operate as a platform for Canadian Black nurses. The leaders of the Canadian Black Nurses Alliance recognized that in order to make a difference in the experience and outcome of Canadian Black nurses, that Black nurses had to take the lead.
We are financed by member subscriptions, donations, and fundraising activities.
Ovie Onagbeboma is nationally recognized as a business leader. Lean Six Sigma belt -certified clinical nurse manager, and a consultant and Research Associate at the Diversity Institute at Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson University).
Ovie plays a pivotal role as an advisor to the Chief Nursing Officer of Canada on nursing retention and her collaborative effort with Health Canada in co-development of the National Nursing Retention ToolKit underscores her dedication to addressing crucial challenges in the industry.
As a national leader who identified a problem in healthcare delivery and in response acted to address this problem. Under Ovie’s leadership the Canadian Black Nurses Alliance (CBNA) has evolved into a transformative national organization, profoundly impacting numerous Black nurses, nurses, nursing students and critical allies. The CBNA has expanded its reach, establishing chapters in multiple provinces and attracting both students and practicing members. Today, it stands as the preeminent advocate, amplifying the voices of Black Nurses throughout the nation.
Ovie’s impact extends to driving change as a co-author in nursing curriculum revision with an Ontario nursing school, specializing in Online Educational Resources (OERs) for nursing students. She is poised for other nursing schools to engage the CBNA for comprehensive curriculum change.
Determined to shatter the glass ceiling, Ovie is dedicated to inspiring the next generation, ensuring they become leaders in their community mission. Her commitment is a driving force for positive transformation in the healthcare landscape.
My name is Ava Onwudegwu and I grew up on the beautiful Island of Jamaica, before migrating to Canada at the age of 18. I am currently the Patient Care Manager for the Critical Care Unit at Lakeridge Health – Ajax. I have also held various positions at Unity Health Toronto, from staff nurse on the Resource Team and in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU); as well as, eCare Support, Professional Practice Leader for Nursing Practice and Education, Manager of Nursing Practice and Education, Clinical Educator – Nursing and Assistant Patient Care Manager. I have also had the opportunity to work in academia as a Clinical Instructor and Clinical Advisor. I am also currently an Adjunct Lecturer at the University of Toronto.
In all my leadership experiences I was always the only black person on the team. I didn’t see black representation or mentors. As the Vice President and Director of Academic Relations at CBNA, I am motivated by my desire to empower and build another generation of leaders who will forge the way for the generations to come. I am passionate about seeing black nurses and black nursing students reach their highest heights. I believe we have so much to offer. We must all leave a legacy!
Outside of the world of Health Care, I am passionate about working with young adults, travelling and dancing. I have been part of different planning committees for conferences geared to empower Women and Young Adults. I have also been featured as a speaker and guest performer at many of these events.
Not only do I give back to my immediate community but on a larger scale, I have travelled to Israel, the Philippines, Trinidad and Tobago, and other areas within Canada doing humanitarian work.
Karen Pingal is a Registered Nurse currently working within the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services and the Scarborough Health Network. Karen completed her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BScN) through Ryerson University and has had the privilege of working in a variety of health care settings including acute mental health, street outreach and long-term care.
The Director of Quality at CBNA headquaters, Karen not only seeks to empower Black Nurses to let their excellence shine, but also to advocate for patients, specifically black patients who are often overlooked and dismissed. Outside of her nursing career, Karen enjoys spending time with her husband and daughters, working on DIY projects and traveling.
Safeyyah Raji is a certified psychiatric and mental health registered nurse who currently serves as a lecturer at the Arthur Labatt Family School of Nursing, Western University. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BScN) and Master of Nursing (MN) degrees from Western University, where her passion for nursing education and commitment to lifelong learning flourished. As an educator, Safeyyah recognizes that equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) principles are essential components to ensure nursing students have exceptional learning experiences and to prepare compassionate and anti-racist nurses who can provide quality care to diverse populations. Safeyyah is dedicated to empowering students, instilling a belief in their ability to deliver nursing excellence, and inspiring them to become catalysts for positive change in the nursing profession and the broader healthcare system.
With a profound commitment to leadership and the advancement of the nursing profession, Safeyyah has contributed as an executive member to various local, provincial, and international nursing associations, including the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) and Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing (Sigma Nursing).
In her role as the Lead Secretary at the CBNA, Safeyyah leverages her extensive professional skill set to support the growth and success of the organization. Committed to fostering a supportive and empowered community for Black nurses, Safeyyah advocates for their representation and advancement, aiming to make a lasting positive impact on the healthcare landscape in Canada.
Karen Fleming has been a nurse for 20 years and started her career at The Hospital for Sick Children on the Haematology/Oncology unit. She has a passion for excellence in nursing, education, anti-racist health practices and patient care, experience, and outcomes. Her work for 2 years with new immigrants and refugees aiding in the identification and dismantling of barriers to care, creating and delivering cultural competence education to learners of all professions from a health equity/social justice lens is what started her flame for delivery of equitable care for all.
Karen has a Master of Science in Nursing and a Master of Science in Healthcare Simulation. Her belief in lifelong learning is evident in her certifications and credentials, but also in the ways that she tries to ignite this love for learning in other nurses, nursing students, and healthcare professionals. She wants to help other Black nurses and nurses of colour to see Black Excellence in Nursing and Simulation.
Karen is the Interim Director for the Professional Mentorship Program and is the Program Lead for the Academic Mentorship Program. As she transitions into the Director role she will work to launch the 2nd cohort of the professional mentorship program and in January launched the academic mentorship program at CBNA MAC. She is excited about launching mentorship programs in other chapters. She is also one of the professional and academic mentors for CBNA.
Co-Founder and President of CBNA-McMaster. Now the newly appointed Academic support for CBNA. As the academic support of CBNA, I aspire to equip and enable black nursing students in various universities and colleges to establish a positive space in their school community. As a former student nurse, I benefited from the events and network provided by CBNA-McMaster, in return as navigating my role in CBNA my mainstay is to always give back to students. As I begin my professional career as a nurse, I hope to grow in nursing leadership from the bedside to education and even policy.
I want to inspire nurses to take up space regardless of background, race, or disability, and strive to achieve the things they truly want even when it seems impossible.
Provincial/Territory Circle of Leaders
Jennifer Philogène is a Registered Nurse who has 6+ years of critical care experience and 3+ years of clinical teaching experience. She completed her Bachelor’s at McGill University. She recently left the bedside in the public system and is advocating for Quebec nurses. She also offers tutoring and mentoring services. Jennifer is now doing travel nursing around the country.
Deka Egeh is a women’s health RN specializing in high risk labour and delivery and antepartum. She has a background both in nursing and an HBSc in cell physiology from the University of Toronto.
In her experience in a provincial healthcare system lacking in ethnic diversity, Deka has recognized the need for a safe space for the experiences of Black nurses in Alberta. She is a founding member of the CBNA Alberta chapter and is optimistic about the positive change that is possible for Black nurses and patients in Alberta.
Asha Farah is an NP in maternal and newborn care with a 10-year background as a labour and delivery nurse. She received her BSN degree from the University of Washington in Seattle, WA and an MN-FAANP at the University of Alberta.
Asha has witnessed the power of representation and believes in order to make the essential changes in our health systems to improve health equity and break down barriers, more Black leaders and nurses need to be a part of the decision making tables. It’s not an easy road for Black nurses and she is excited to continue the work to support Black nurses and improve healthcare experience for Black patients.
Circle of Leaders
Maya Leatham is the CBNA Program Development Lead. As a result of my professional and academic experiences, I have obtained a broad scope of knowledge and a passion for program development. My professional goal is to empower those systematically neglected through holistic policy and program development.
Nurses play an essential and foundational role in the medical system. Throughout my lifetime, I have been surrounded by Black nurses, including my mother, aunts, and other community members. I respect and value their contributions to building a better future for all, a mission shared by CNBA. I am grateful for the opportunity to support CBNA’s efforts of providing high-quality and responsive community services and programs to the various communities that call Canada home.”
Natalie Madramootoo is a nurse administrator at the University Health Network (UHN) in Toronto and an entrepreneur. She is an alumni of McMaster University and University of Toronto where she completed her undergraduate and graduate degrees in Nursing science and nursing leadership respectively. At the CBNA Natalie is the program coordinator.
She is keen on nursing research and was the 2017-2018 CAP/TAHSNp Fellow representing the Schulich Heart Program at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. She volunteers for the UHN STEAM collaboration with the University of Toronto and Toronto School Boards to spread the science and art of nursing to Ontario’s high schoolers. She currently sits on the Executive/ Governing Boards of the Nursing Leadership Network of Ontario and The Women’s Health in Women’s Hands Community Health Centre. Natalie is pursuing her Master of Business Administration with the realization that health exists in all fields and policies.
Natalie hopes that the nursing profession truly grasps the importance of the dynamic platform which it holds and rallies for advancement as bonafide clinicians within the healthcare system. She continues her professional practice in ICUs across the GTA while continuously learning, mentoring and engaging in self-development.
She is a devoted mother of two teenagers and has a great appreciation for the creative arts, fashion, music and currently produces a lifestyle blog.
I am currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree at McMaster University, hoping to specialize in Paediatrics or Cardiology with an interest in research.
As the Events Lead for CBNA, I am passionate about advocacy for all underrepresented groups in the field of healthcare, and I am grateful for the opportunity and space to promote equity, and address the specific needs and challenges faced by Black Nurses across Canada. Alongside the leadership team, my goal is to contribute my skills, passion, and insights in putting together a strategic vision to elevate the events hosted by CBNA, and to foster an environment where there is a celebration of diversity, professional development, and achievements.
In my free time, I like to paint, sing, dance, play the piano, travel, bake new recipes, and spend quality time with friends and family.
Ola Abanta Thomas Obewu
Ola Abanta Thomas Obewu is a new nurse graduate from York University. Ola is the Events Coordinator for the Canadian Black Nurses Alliance and a co-founder of the CBNA-York University academic chapter. Ola’s passion and interests lie in social activism, advocacy, research, mentorship, and lifelong learning. Ola is interested in emergency and critical care nursing and is open to exploring other areas in nursing.
As a student, Ola was actively involved in extracurricular activities where she served as the program representative, course representative, peer mentor, peer tutor, skills lab facilitator, and club lead. Ola is also a panel member of the Black Nurses Task Force of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario (RNAO) and has done numerous works with the Task Force and RNAO.
As she begins her journey as a new nurse, she looks forward to continuing to engage in social justice and advocacy movements that amplify the voices and improve the culturally sensitive care of marginalized communities or groups across the nation.
Keithtian Green is a dedicated and skilled nurse with a profound commitment to providing high-quality patient care and social justice. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of New Brunswick and a Graduate Certificate in Critical Care Nursing from Mohawk College. Beyond her formal education, she actively seeks continuous learning, participating in courses such as Phlebotomy Clinical Research and Coronary Care.
Throughout her professional journey, Keithtian has accumulated valuable experience in diverse healthcare settings, including emergency medicine, acute care, and rural nursing. Her unwavering commitment to ongoing professional development is exemplified by her active engagement in health volunteer initiatives. Keithtian is not only passionate about contributing to education, health equity, and advocacy but also about advancing the nursing profession.
In her new role as a Secretary at CBNA, she is poised to leverage her skills and dedication to further the organization’s mission, promoting excellence in nursing care and empowering the Canadian Black Nursing community.
Hello! My name is Abi Olayinka, and I am the graphic designer for CBNA. I study Global Business and Digital Arts at the University of Waterloo and I serve as the graphic designer for the Black Association for Student Expression at the university.
The world of digital art has provided me with a safe space to express my ideas in an endless possibility of ways. When I am not designing, I like to play basketball, spend time with my family, and indulge in my favourite dish and its many variations, pasta. I love experiencing the joys of life with friends and family around me!