The groundwork has been laid to build a vibrant black community in Cochrane.

On Mar. 9, Black Cochrane Community held an open house at the Cochrane Public Library and outlined their objectives and some of their project. They're now reaching out to other families to join.

The aim is to create a vibrant black community where every member feels a strong sense of belonging, has access to equal opportunities, and contributes to a culture of excellence, pride, and mutual support. They want to be a model community, inspiring positive change and breaking down barriers for a more inclusive society.

Its mission is to empower and uplift the black community by fostering unity, providing educational resources, and promoting economic empowerment, ensuring a thriving and resilient future for generations to come. 

black group

Black Cochrane Community started as a conversation between five women initially interested in forming an empowerment group. It became something larger after connecting with the Airdrie Black Community. 

"Based on discussions with them, we realized that this is bigger than just women," says Karlene Meyers, who has resided in Cochrane for 10 years. "It includes everybody and so that's where Black Cochrane Community started because we moved from just focusing on empowering women to actually including the entire black population."

Quickly they discovered there were more black families in Cochrane than they realized, and not all of them had immigrated from overseas. Some have migrated from other parts of Canada. Currently, 38 black families are involved, and they have been told there are over 500 black people here.

"We started to see people coming out of the woodworks and started to realize that there are so many black people in Cochrane that we don't know. So, we're looking to find them. We have become hunters in the supermarket. As soon as we see a black person, we're running up to them and telling them about us."

Teresa Valerie moved to Cochrane 1 1/2 years ago from Quebec. 

"A lot of us are coming from other parts of Canada, and we started realizing that there are many things we didn't know. We thought this would help us to help other people who don't know anything about Alberta."

Chefya Mate came from Zambia with her family nearly 19 years ago. At the time, there were very few black people here. She says she was highly visible and has always found Cochrane friendly and welcoming.

"The biggest reason why I want to belong to the group is to help people settle in because transitioning from wherever can be very unsettling, can be traumatic. No matter how good people are, you sometimes are just on shaky ground, but if you can connect to people that are similar backgrounds it will help you to settle down."

"The families of Cochrane have been so welcoming to us, and that's why we have been here so long."

Bhoomi came from Nigeria and moved to Cochrane about a year ago. She says living here has been awesome.

"When I heard about the group I was really thrilled. You can see a brother or a sister to lean on when you need something, and then it's an opportunity for us to grow as black people within the community, help each other, and lift each other anytime someone is down.

"The major goal of the group is let black people know they are welcome in Cochrane. Cochrane is a beautiful community whereby you can grow as a person, as a family, and as a community." 

She says it helps you to realize you're not an island, and there's support available in the community.

"It's good to come out of hiding and be part of the broader group of what Cochrane is supposed to be. So, the hope is we can enrich the culture of Cochrane, we can enrich each other's lives, we can enrich this community, and who knows to what levels we can take it."

Santhia Locke came to Cochrane from British Columbia about four months ago and quickly realized people are friendlier and more receptive here. 

"If you look at us, you're seeing five people. But if you look behind, our kids are small. We want to make sure they live in a community where they feel welcomed and feel like they belong.

"We are all better together. We can empower people to grow in unity and be able to elevate and flourish together. That's exactly what we were doing here."

Social events are in the works and will start with a summer barbecue.

"For us black people, food is something that brings us together. It helps us to do what we love, and also bring other people who aren't necessarily black to be a part of us and get to know more about us," says Teresa. "So, we're starting with that and then we'll be having a Gold and Black event that's more like a gala during the Christmas holidays."

Those interested in learning more and becoming part of the organization can reach out to them through their Facebook page Black Cochrane Community here

Dr. Magassa

The open house followed a presentation by Dr. Moussa Magassa on finding a home and being part of the community as a black person. It was one of a series of events to celebrate Black History Month organized by the Cochrane Public Library.