Our Story

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.

Leadership Team

Ovie Onagbeboma

Ovie Onagbeboma is nationally recognized as a nurse and business leader. She is Lean Six belt certified and is a clinical nurse manager in Toronto, Ontario. Ovie is a sought-after consultant to many national organizations. She is an advisor member to the Chief Nursing Officer of Canada on nursing retention.

A transformative leader who identified a serious problem in healthcare and acted quickly to form a national organization and initiative to address this problem. The Canadian Black Nurses Alliance (CBNA). Under Ovie’s leadership and in a short period of time, CBNA has become a phenomenal national organization that is life-changing for many Black Nurses. Already, the CBNA has grown to include students and practicing members in multiple provinces as CBNA chapters across the country and has become the most influential voice for Black Nurses across the nation. Ovie has had opportunity to drive change as a co-author in nursing curriculum revision with a nursing school in Ontario that develops Online Educational Resources (OERs) for nursing students. She is hopefully other nursing school will engage the CBNA for curriculum change. 

Ovie sees the future of nursing through an African proverb Ubuntu and embodies the understanding that “I am because we are” as a motivation to strive for a society where all can grow and flourish. Ovie has broken the glass ceiling to inspire the next generation.

Ava Onwudegwu

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 

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.

Karen Fleming 

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.

Ezinwa Agokei 

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

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

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 

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.


Coordinator Circle of Leaders

Maya Leatham

Maya Leatham is the CBNA Program Development Coordinator. 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.”

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.


Abi Olayinka

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!


Canadian Black Nurses Alliance
Canadian Black Nurses Alliance
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