Lilia Esi Shillingford

Country of Origin:



Immigration, Black History/African Heritage, Racism/Discrimination, Identity & Heritage, Multiculturalism & Diversity, Adjusting to Life in Canada


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In 1993 with the YMCA Job’s Ontario Youth Summer Program as coordinator I assisted youth from a low income community with pre-employment counseling and Life Skills development. As a result, 350 youth from this specific community were placed in summer employment opportunities. In 2000, recognizing the growing need for effective programs geared specifically toward African-Canadian youth, I joined the YMCA Black Achievers Program as Program Coordinator, providing leadership for social, career and cultural identity initiatives for youth in the program including historical trips to the Underground railroad in Ontario, Nova Scotia and USA.

In 2002, I co-founded a non-profit organization, CommAct Community Services, which worked in partnership with the signature event, The Amali Gala, which raised funds for children living with the Sickle Cell Disease.

Also in 2002, as Mentorship Program Development Coordinator at Eva’s Initiatives for Homeless Youth, I developed and implemented mentorship programs designed to support the personal, employment and career goals of homeless youth. I spearheaded the Eva’s Phoenix Project Based Film Mentorship Project to assist street-involved youth to express their stories on film creating awareness of the plight of youth homelessness. The program completed three short films, which have been featured in several film festivals throughout Canada and the USA. As testament to the success of the program, one of the films, Sheltered Life, won the Emerging Youth Filmmaking Award at the Harlem International Film Festival in 2006.

In 2003 due to my commitment for promoting an Anti-Oppression framework and approach within organizations, I was awarded the Eva’s Initiatives Award of Distinction for my role as Chair of the organizations Anti-Oppression Committee. In 2004 I was awarded with the organizations Diversity Award. In addition to supporting the Diversity and Anti Oppression work within several organizations. In addition, I have also taught Diversity –Prejudice Awareness & Reduction at Seneca College for Applied Arts & Technology in Toronto, Ontario Canada.

In 2006 as Project Coordinator with the Tropicana Community Services for Involve Youth I led a project serving six priority/underserved neighbourhoods. African-Canadian and other racialized youth were supported over a three-year term to develop the civic engagement, self-governance skills, confidence and strategies to connect neighbourhood-specific youth concerns and initiatives to various decision-makers. Involve Youth helped reduce barriers faced by African-Canadian and other racialized youth to meaningfully participate in community service planning, social action and organization and government decision-making. In addition, youth developed community based businesses based within the principles of Community Economic Development.

In April 2011 I joined the Ontario Energy Board providing leadership to develop and lead a community engagement program to steward a relationship with the Board and the Province of Ontario’s energy consumers. I have successfully identified potential sources, built partnerships and relationships among consumer groups, local government representatives, community associations/groups and stakeholders.

I am a 2006 initiate of the Yensomu Rites of Passage and have since assisted with various Rites of Passage programs in the City of Toronto. In 2007 I joined the Board of Directors of Yensomu Youth and Community Development. Yensomu aims to: Support the social, cultural, education, health and economic development African-Canadians.

In 2007, I joined a planning committee which organized an excursion to Ghana for a group of over 20 community members. Since 2007, three other groups have had the opportunity to travel to the home of their ancestral roots.

In 2012 I initiated the Manhood Mentorship Initiative bringing adult males and younger males together to discuss issues related to manhood. In 2013 a Womanhood Mentorship Initiative was added.

I am also part of the Leadership Circle of Tabono Institute which was founded in 2012 our mission is to support and advance the collective interests and priorities of the Afrikan community in Canada and internationally by increasing awareness and building community capacity through research and community programming. I am one of the supporting facilitators of an Adult African Centered Rites of Passage.

As a trained Life Skills Trainer and Life Coach in 2012 I officially launched AndStilliRise providing Transformational Life Coaching for Women. My mission is to Empower Women to live a life of passion & purpose through coaching and personal development activities.

As co-founder of Akuesi Consulting Services the program Nana Yaa's Girls was developed to provide young women with opportunities for Transformation and Growth in all areas of their lives,


"In 1978, at age 11, my family and I immigrated to Canada. I was immediately jarred by the changes in culture, climate and social environment. Having been socialized in Dominica, an island whose people are predominantly African descendants, I became immediately aware of issues related to race. For the years following my migration to Canada I struggled and yearned for a deeper connection to community and culture. For the first time I was aware of my color and it sparked the question, why am I here?”

An excerpt from my story featured in a recently published book "Love + Lifestyle, Inspiration for Women." The book features stories of 12 women and speaks of courage and adversity.