It was the summer of 2015 and Toronto born, Dione Mason of Jamaican decent, had just enjoyed her first experience of “playing Mas” at the Toronto Caribbean Carnival (formerly known as Caribana).
Shortly after the event, Ms. Mason heard on the radio a discussion which addressed concerns about the organization and management of the Toronto Caribbean Carnival. In the radio discussion, it was revealed that although this and other similar cultural events had existed for decades, there was no permanent representation of African and Caribbean culture in the Greater Toronto Area. This radio program motivated her to do more research on the topic and seek ways to uplift her community.
Although Black people have been in Canada since the early 1600’s, she was shocked to discover that few had ownership of the properties on which they operated their initiatives and/or businesses. Therefore, not giving them complete control over their businesses, nor the ability to provide generational wealth like other communities who have migrated to Canada. She also discovered, there were few permanent structures in Canada that spoke to the African diaspora.
After reaching out to several Not-For-Profit Organizations, Community Leaders, Businesses, and Cultural Event Organizers from the Black community, she found there were no current proposals or projects for a museum or cultural space to create permanency to celebrate people of African and Caribbean descent.
Ms. Mason knew this was the universe telling her she was chosen to complete this task, and thus The Simunye Foundation was born.
Her main objective would be to build a cultural centre that would honour the history and legacy of Black Canadians, while celebrating African and Caribbean culture. However, this space would not just be a museum or historical site, but a hub for Black culture, community, commerce and personal development.
The word 'Simunye' is an African Zulu word meaning "we are one" or "unity is strength”.
An appropriate name to reflect her goal to uplift and unite the Black community in creating a space to preserve African and Caribbean culture, legacy, and support future generations.
From Mathieu da Costa, the first recorded black person to set foot on land now known as Canada, to modern day Canadians of African and Caribbean descent who have made great contributions to this country, it is overdue that a permanent structure be created to honour and grow these traditions.
Due to the enormity of this building project, immense funds would be needed to be raised to get this project off the ground. In addition to seeking community support and donations, Ms. Mason created the Toronto Carnival Run®, a Caribbean inspired running event, in hopes of generating funds to support this initiative while encouraging physical activity and wellness.
Simunye is an African Zulu word meaning
"we are one" or "unity is strength”.
To create a cultural centre that is Canada’s premier source of African-Canadian history, knowledge, business development, arts/entertainment support, health and wellness support and preservation of the legacy of Canadians from African descent.
To unite, empower and enlighten the Afro-Caribbean community toward positive lifestyle changes through individual health and wellness promotion, career and business development, and arts and cultural support.