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Black History Month: Shining a light on lived experiences – News

Theodocia Quagraine is passionate about sharing her leadership lessons and lived experiences as a Black woman on the prairie.

Quagraine, a University of Saskatchewan (USask) graduate and current USask contributor, is one of 13 contributors to a new book series to be released February 24 during Black History Month. The book, titled Courage, Change, and Faith: Inspirational Narratives from Black Women Leadersdocuments the personal leadership stories of members of the Black Women Leaders Saskatchewan group.

Quagraine said she met most of the women involved in Black Women Leaders Saskatchewan in 2021 during a class led by leadership coach Betty Mutwiri, a USask graduate student at the College of Education, who also wrote the narratives for put together the new book as project manager. Through their writing, the co-authors wanted to inspire their peers and the next generation of Black women leaders and contribute to a diverse and inclusive community by sharing their unique experiences with others.

“We have a very diverse group,” Quagraine said. “Some people have been entrepreneurs for years; some people are just getting started. Some people have recently immigrated to Canada; Some people have been here for a very long time. We are all from different countries, so there is a lot of diversity there.”

The professional backgrounds of the co-authors are diverse, with experience in technology, education, healthcare, business, fashion and more. In addition to Mutwiri and Quagraine, book contributors include Bukola Udefiagbon, USask Graduate Halima Mela (BA’09), USask Graduate Hannah Chukwu (MA’06, CTESL’08), USask College of Medicine PhD student Isabelle Dena, Johaine Thomas – Miranjie, Josephine Rwankuba, Oyin Steve, Paula Collins, Petunia Bolwe, Portia Manzini and Rose Kumbu.

Quagraine said her own narrative in the book focuses on “rising above doubt” and talks about how she overcame challenges related to confidence, self-esteem and bullying to become the leader she is today.

“The main goal of all stories is to inspire people to take leadership, to become more confident and to really challenge themselves,” Quagraine said. “I know of a[theme]that’s similar in a lot of people’s stories, impostor syndrome and how they overcame it and just settled into a different environment — because we all immigrated here to Canada.”

Quagraine, who moved to Canada with her family from Ghana at the age of four, began her studies at USask in 2011 after graduating from Estevan Comprehensive High School. With an interest in technology, Quagraine enrolled in the Interactive Systems Design program offered at USask College of Arts and Science and earned a four-year Bachelor of Arts and Science degree in 2016. After several years working as a user interface developer, she joined USask Digital Strategy Team as UX Content Coordinator in November 2022.

“It’s been really great so far,” Quagraine said of her new role on campus.

Outside of her work at USask, Quagraine is active in the community as a co-founder of BIPOC Coffee Talk Inc., a Saskatoon-based non-profit organization. Through its events, the discussion group connects members and allies of the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) community and provides a platform for educational and enriching discussions on issues centered on anti-racism and lived experiences.

BIPOC Coffee Talk began in 2020 after Quagraine and Dyana Castillo, a graduate student in clinical psychology at the USask College of Arts and Science, had a candid conversation about race and found solace in their shared experiences. After their conversation, Quagraine reflected on how she had enjoyed the conversation and texted Castillo the next day about forming the discussion group.

“We started this because we felt like there wasn’t anything in Saskatoon where we could discuss things that we’ve been through as BIPOC in Saskatoon,” Quagraine said.

The opening event of BIPOC Coffee Talk took place virtually in November 2020. Quagraine said the discussion group helped combat some of the feelings of isolation and loneliness people were experiencing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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