Growing up in Simcoe County, as a young Black person, Shak Edwards did not have access to many safe spaces where she could see people who looked like her. So, she started a community centre called Shak’s World. “Shak” stands for “Stay Humble and Kind”.
It started as a basketball program. “I have played basketball my entire life. And I found that the place where I felt the most secure and strongest was in the gym, playing basketball, playing with my teammates with my friends,” Edwards told Deepak Bidwai during our visit to the community centre located at 59 Maple Avenue in downtown Barrie.
From its earlier days, it now offers a wide range of drop-in programming for youth aged 7 to 17, including art, dance, yoga, chess, and basketball training programs. It also works with community organizations such as New Path and Empower Simcoe to offer drop in programs.
Shak’s mission is to create an inclusive environment where everyone feels part of something bigger and can talk about the difficult topics that matter in the community.
“One of our one of our strengths and almost specialties is that we see dominantly the BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Color) community here. But we work with the entire community,” she said.
Shak told us that the center has a higher percentage of youth from racialized backgrounds, but it also has a large number of youth from white backgrounds. It is a place for everyone.
“It (Shak’s World) really is my passion project because it was created out of passion, pain, perseverance. I have encompassed everything that I’ve lived,“ she said. “I would like to see in my vision, and what I do see regularly is everyone accepting one another.”