Registed Nurses' Association of Ontario


RNAO celebrates Black History Month 2021

Black History Month 2021, RNAO

February marks Black History Month – a month dedicated to honouring our Black sisters and brothers, their past and the steps toward allyship. 

RNAO recognizes the continued importance of sharing Black stories and perspectives, especially given the most recent movement to end anti-Black racism and discrimination. In the past year, RNAO launched a task force dedicated to tackling anti-Black racism within the nursing profession, as well as an internal task force to ensure the association practises inclusivity and diversity in all aspects of its work.

During Black History Month, RNAO is committed to celebrating the accomplishments of Black nurses, as well as highlighting the work of its Black Nurses Task Force.  

On this page:

Messages from the co-chairs of RNAO's Black Nurses Task Force

Immediate-Past President Dr. Angela Cooper Brathwaite, RN:

Corsita Garraway, NP:

Messages from Black Nurses Task Force panelists

"Black History Month symbolizes a period of deep appreciation for all Black leaders who have worked relentlessly to pave the way for us. As a Black nursing student, I am opportune to be a member of RNAO's Black Nurses Task Force, which has given me the platform to engage with other Black nurses and nursing students. The Black Nurses Task Force is a big welcoming family for all Black nurses and nursing students, and is driven to tackle systemic racism in the Ontario’s health-care system and academia.

The theme for this year’s celebration, Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity, clearly defines the role of the Black Nurses Task Force in my life. For me, being in the midst of accomplished Black nurses represents greatness, ambition, achievements, boldness and empowerment. I celebrate all Black nurses and nursing students. I appreciate your determination and the excellence you uphold while serving humanity." - Ola A Thomas Obewu, nursing student 

Claudette Holloway, RN:

Dania Versailles, RN (english version):

French version:

Statement: RNAO stands together with our Black sisters and brothers

In June 2020, RNAO issued a statement in response to the protest marches and rallies organized to honour George Floyd's life and the many other Black lives that matter. RNAO stands together with sisters and brothers who continue to suffer the scourge of anti-Black racism and discrimination everywhere. RNAO unequivocally condemns racism, oppression and discrimination in all forms.


Black Nurses Task Force: Let's Talk about Anti-Black Racism and Discrimination in Nursing webinar series

RNAO recognizes that racism is systemic in our society and endemic in our institutions. That’s why the association launched a task force to tackle anti-Black racism within the nursing profession. The task force is co-chaired by RNAO immediate past-president Angela Cooper Brathwaite and NP Corsita Garraway.

The Task Force hosts a free monthly webinar series designed for members of the public interested in receiving updates on the Black Nurses Task Force and to engage them in meaningful conversations that will inform the work of the Task Force. The webinar series covers a wide range of topics, from the power of mentorship in nursing education to exploring the impact of systemic racism and discrimination in health care on career development for Black nurses.


Black Nurses Task Force's mandate: To actively tackle anti-Black racism and discrimination within the nursing profession – its organizations, regulatory body, associations and the broader health system targeted towards and experienced by Black nurses. 


RNAO's Black Nurses Task Force was also featured in Breanna Xavier-Carter's story in Toronto Star: "Told they didn’t ‘fit the look,’ called the n-word: Now, the Black Nurses Task Force at RNAO helps deconstruct racism in nursing"

RNAO's history and facts

RNAO marked a milestone when Dr. Jocelyn Hezekiah, a leader in nursing education, became RNAO’s first Black president (1979-1981). In 2003, she authored Breaking the Glass Ceiling: The Stories of Three Caribbean Nurses, a book showcasing how these nursing leaders paved the way for Black nurses to be recognized in their own right in the Caribbean and internationally.

RNAO has had three Black presidents in its history (pictured below left to right): Hezekiah, the late Dr. Joan Lesmond who led RNAO from 2004-2006 and Angela Cooper Brathwaite from 2018-2020.

The late Dr. Joan Lesmond launched the Embracing Diversity Project during the first year of her RNAO presidency, which built on policies that give nurses of all cultural background the opportunity to participate fully in the nursing profession. 

Immediate-Past President Angela Cooper Brathwaite has published numerous research studies on cultural competence in nursing, and now co-chairs RNAO's Black Nurses Task Force to tackle anti-Black racism and discrimination in the nursing profession. 



RNAO highlights the accomplishments of Black nurses in RNJ digital, the association's online magazine exclusive to members. Past articles related to Black History Month and diversity include:

I remind Black nurses of the challenges of our predecessors, and urge them to celebrate the contributions of Black nurses every minute, every hour, and every day.

- the late Dr. Joan Lesmond, past president
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