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AROBA: A Room Of Black Artists

AROBA: A Room Of Black Artists

A Black Mental Health Symposium and Action Event

March 1, 2021, 11 AM - 7 PM

See Schedule Below

Black Artists have and continue to play an essential role as leaders in building communities and producing hallmarks of cultural expressions and yet continue to face a plethora of blatant to insidious forms of anti-Black racism and mental health discrimination.

AROBA: A Room Of Black Artists, in association with Workman Arts, brings to you a Black Mental Health Symposium and Action Event. It is the first of an annual symposium that promotes Black mental wellness in the arts community. AROBA advocates wellness in Black communities by increasing awareness and reducing stigma around Black mental health issues. In this first symposium, AROBA will facilitate discussions around anxiety and depression experiences that Black Artists face as they navigate their lives and careers in the arts sector as a whole.

The AROBA panels explore the experiences of Black artists’ creative and mental wellness journeys.  A series of peer-based trauma-informed discussions with Black artists explore critical paths to healthier realities, not limited to:

  • Black artists moving beyond trauma within their art practice and life
  • Discussion about the arts increasing public awareness of anti-Black racism, anxiety and depression.
  • Navigating the ways that microassaults, microaggressions, and microinvalidations lead to anxiety, depression, and impacts work
  • Artists accessing mental health counselling and education to support their wellbeing and creative output
  • Confronting anti-Black racism and its impact on mental wellness within Black communities
  • Black artists’ creation for their community, that reduces the stigmatization of mental illness.

This symposium for Black Artists and Arts Workers is also open to the wider Black community. Non-Black Artists and members of the wider community are welcome to attend but are reminded to be mindful, respectful of the conversations, and the privilege of being able to witness the experiences openly shared by our participants.

We want to thank the following collaborators for making this first annual symposium possible:

Keynote speaker: DR. Araba Chintoh.

Panelists: Apanaki M Temitayo, Mosa McNeilly, Gordon Shadrach, Keosha Love, Victor Stiff, Louis Taylor, Kevin Ormsby, Nicky Lawrence, and Amanda Vil.

Artist Activators: Fimo Mitchell, Kay-Ann Ward, and Yvonne Francis

  • Black Mental Health Day
  • March 1, 2021 11 AM - 7 PM on Zoom




If you have any accessibility requests or questions, please contact Justina Zatzman at ASL interpretation is available by request; if you require ASL interpretation, please let Justina know by Monday, February 22, 2021.

Questions? Contact Kais Padamshi at

Click the button below to receive email updates about AROBA.


The symposium is divided into three sessions, which will each have a separate Zoom link. You may register for all sessions or only specific ones, but you will need to register separately for each session you would like to attend. Click on the plus symbol (+) to expand and view details for each session. Panelist bios are included below the schedule.

We believe it is important to engage in honest, direct discussions about mental health and/or addictions, but acknowledge that this material can be difficult or triggering for some. In line with a commitment to being trauma-informed, active listeners will be available to help provide self-care and emotional support during this event.

11:00 – 11:10 AM

WELCOME:  Lana Lovell

11:10 – 11:40 AM

KEYNOTE SPEAKER: Dr. Araba Chintoh
“Mental Health is Health – that’s the conversation I have with people day in and day out.”

11:40 AM – 12:00 PM

Join a meditation for racialized and marginalized people that offers contemplation, connection and healing.

12:00 – 1:40 PM

PANEL DISCUSSION: Re-claiming and Re-imagining Spaces
The Performers: Panel members share how they re-claim and re-imagine performances and physical spaces to make sense of their craft and enhance their mental wellness in hostile environments.

Panelists: Nicky Lawrence, Kevin Ormsby, Amanda Vil; Moderator: Lana Lovell

1:40 – 2:10 PM


Click the button on the right to register for this session.

2:10 – 2:15 PM

WELCOME: Kais Padamshi

2:15 – 2:35 PM

WORKSHOP: Guided Dance with Kay-Ann Ward
Learn to let go and have fun while dancing in an environment that is safe for everyone.

2:35 – 2:40 PM


2:40 – 3:00 PM

WORKSHOP: Guided Drum Circle with Yvonne Francis
Come to an African polyrhythmic drumming session, the only requirement is the desire to make irresistible music and feel good.

Click the button on the right to register for this session.

3:00 – 3:05 PM

WELCOME: Lana Lovell

3:05 – 4:45 PM

PANEL DISCUSSION: Telling Beyond the Trauma

The Storytellers:  In this panel, you’ll learn the ways artists empower stories, make relevant connections with Black communities, and navigate past mental health issues that impact the creative process.

Panelists: Keosha Love, Victor Stiff, Louis Taylor; Moderator: Kais Padamshi

4:45  – 4:50 PM


4:50 – 6:30 PM

PANEL DISCUSSION: Affirming and Amplifying Visions

The Visual Artists: This panel discusses the pathways that affirm and amplify an artist’s vision and mental wellbeing.

Panelists: Mosa McNeilly, Gordon Shadrach, Apanaki Temitayo M; Moderator: Lana Lovell

6:30 – 6:40 PM


6:40 – 7:00 PM

Join a meditation for racialized and marginalized people that offers contemplation, connection and healing.

Click the button on the right to register for this session.



Dr. Araba
Keynote Speaker

Dr. Araba Chintoh is a psychiatrist with clinical roles at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Inner City Health Associates, Across Boundaries – Mental Health Services for Racialized People and the University of Toronto, Scarborough Campus. Her clinical and research interests focus on schizophrenia and include psychopharmacology, metabolic dysfunction and ways to improve the health and care for patients with chronic brain illnesses. She has an honours Bachelor of Science from the University of Toronto, a Masters of Science from McGill University and a PhD from the Institute of Medical Sciences at the University of Toronto. She attended medical school at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, and returned to University of Toronto to complete her specialty training and a Fellowship in the Department of Psychiatry. Her education continues every day while navigating what it means to be a racialized woman in mainstream spaces. Away from work, she is developing her leadership skill set in not-for-profit and corporate governance as well as consulting on player welfare issues for international sports federations.


AROBA Event Producer & Moderator

AROBA creator and producer, Lana Lovell is a writer, producer and director whose career has spanned three decades. Some of her projects include: the CBC series The George Stroumboulopoulos Hour, the Omni television documentary Resilience, the Bravo musical documentary The Incomparable Jackie Richardson, the award-winning documentary Underground, and the Bravo documentary series Caribbean Tales. More recently Lana wrote and produced the theatrical play Elbow Room and wrote the digital media theatre production of The Sophia Pooley Years.

Workman Arts Staff & Moderator

Kais Padamshi (He/Him) is the interim Public Programming & Partnerships Manager at Workman Arts. He is a Black East African settler living in Toronto and a practicing artist, writer and yoga instructor. His personal and professional practices are centred on exploring and reclaiming identity or creating a sense of belonging, using visual art, writing, yoga and reiki as tools of healing. His community work focuses on mental health awareness and advocacy, emphasizing BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) communities through programming creation and art exhibitions.




Nicky Lawrence is a moody, tender, tour de force of a performer and vocal artist. Moved to sing by the black women who sang before her and who continue to sing within her, Lawrence’s voice will grab you by the throat with the force of its pain, beauty, rage and ultimately—love. The writer and creator of two original works Key Change (Globe Theatre, Regina) and Ugly Black Woman (Hart House, Paradise on Bloor) Nicky has performed on national theatre stages in countless productions to critical acclaim. With several television and movie credits to her name; Anne with an E, Workin’ Moms, Schitts Creek, Killjoys , In the Shadow of the Moon, she continues to advocate for better treatment of Black actors working in the field.


Artistic Director of KasheDance and Program Manager at Cultural Pluralism in the Arts Movement Ontario (CPAMO), Kevin A. Ormsby has performed with companies in Canada, USA and the Caribbean. The Canada Council for the Arts’ Victor Martyn Lynch – Staunton Award recipient and TAC Cultural Leaders Fellow, has been a Guest Artist at the University of the West Indies (Mona),  Philip  Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts,  University of Wisconsin – Madison and Northwestern University.  Kevin’s research and creative practice through his company’s technical approach to dance exists in a space of constant interrogation and navigation of Caribbean cultural nuances towards, a methodology of understanding space in creation, research, and presentation. He is on the Boards of Dance Collection Danse, Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts and has served on the Boards of Canadian Dance Assembly, Prologue to the Performing Arts and Nia Centre for the Arts.


Amanda Vil is a social service worker with a background in somatic trauma therapy, and a passion for emotional and mental health. She is an influential creative innovator with a flair for the arts. Amanda mainly operates from the art form of dance/movement. For over six years, Amanda has used her dance/healing movement gift to uplift, encourage, and bring healing. Not only is she a dancer, but an Emotional Health movement coach under her business Amanda’s Healing Services. She helps black women learn how to process and express emotions, heal holistically, and optimize their full potential through movement and coaching.



Keosha is a multi-disciplinary artist, activist and educator that intersects art & wellness to promote positive health & mental wellness in BIPOC communities and empower women. As a writer and film director, Keosha is notable for promoting healing, social justice and social change in her work by exploring the diverse narratives and identities of Black folk and people of colour. Keosha has graced many stages as a public speaker, host and spoken word poet to tell vulnerable stories, empower communities & bring them together. Keosha is also a trauma-informed educator that has facilitated several creative writing & wellness workshops using a holistic approach for radical care & healing. Her passion for art & advocating for accessible and inclusive health-care in her communities has led her to work with diverse companies such as Nike, Converse AllStars, Knixwear, Art Gallery of York University, CBC Arts and more. In 2016, Keosha founded Our Women’s Voices, a non-for-profit based in Toronto focused on amplifying marginalized voices and making social change with and for women using community, arts & education. Keosha is a storyteller and driven change-maker who has become a well-recognized voice that inspires others to use theirs.


Victor Stiff is a Toronto-based film critic who has written for POV Magazine, The Playlist, Film School Rejects, Screen Rant, and the Canadian Academy. He hosts the YouTube series Dope Black Movies, is the current news editor and senior critic at That Shelf, where he has covered TIFF, Sundance, and Hot Docs. In 2020, Victor received the Toronto Film Critics Association’s Emerging Critic award.


Louis Taylor’s career in the arts and entertainment field has spanned over 40 years. He has worked as a producer, actor, acting coach, dancer, writer, director (both in theatre and film), assistant director, casting director, outreach coordinator and script consultant. His award-winning short films have screened at over twenty-five film festivals world-wide. In 2020 he and his kid, Altair Pflug-Taylor completed their first web series, Spawn and Geezer. It will launch February 2021 on Seeka TV. The two are planning a second season and are developing a slate of projects through their production company, Shining Trauma Pictures.



Mosa McNeilly is an interdisciplinary artist, working in Canada for thirty years. She sees her work as part of a canon of Black women artists, scholars, and activists concerned with social justice and freedom. In her visual art and performance work, she centres the Black female subject, working through hybrid iconographies, and exploring themes of memory and memorialization. In her Black healing and wellness work she leads webinars, workshops, and ceremonies fostering African cultural literacy and Black selflove. A recipient of the 2019 Toronto Acker Award and a 100 Accomplished Black Canadian Women 2020 Honouree, Mosa holds a Master’s degree from York University.


Toronto-based artist Gordon Shadrach was born and raised in Brampton, Ontario in 1966. Gordon started painting in 2013 and paints in oil and acrylic on wood. He has exhibited in solo and group art shows in Canada and the United States. He works from photographs at his in-home studio. He received his B. Des. (MAAD) from OCAD University and has a Master of Education degree from Niagara University. In the Spring of 2018, Gordon’s painting, “In Conversation”, was included in an exhibit developed by the Royal Ontario Museum titled, “Here We Are Here: Black Canadian Contemporary Art”. Later in 2018 the exhibit went on tour and was presented at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in 2019. Aside from his portraits, Gordon is known for his insightful artist’s talks and has appeared as a panelist on TVO’s the Agenda and CBC Radio’s Metro Morning.

Temitayo M

Apanaki Temitayo M is a Toronto-based multi-disciplinary artist. She is the 1st Artist-In- Wellness for CAMH. Was the 2017/2018 Workman Arts Artist-In-Residence. As part of Workman Arts Art Cart Program at CAMH, she teaches participants with mental health and drug addiction.  She has pieces featured at Workman Arts, Being Scene 18th Annual Juried Exhibition 2019 at the TMAC Gallery. Oju Olurun: Eye of God I is currently a part of CAMH Corporate Collection. The Amazing Nina Simone Documentary Film by Jeff Lieberman, with her piece Nina Simone Fragmented.  The first woman of colour to be in Room Magazine: Woman of Color Issue for 2016. Oshun Blooming was the face of Grow Room Feminist Literary Festival 2018 in Vancouver, which is part of the private collection of Donna Slaight.


Guided Drumming Activator

Yvonne Francis is an independent freelance musician who delights in exploring her talents in a variety of artistic arenas. This multi-talented musician performs music, which encompasses African derived idioms from classical, contemporary, jazz through to new wave. Yvonne obtained a musical education with the Royal Conservatory of Music and a Specialized Honors B.F.A in Music from York University. Yvonne’s virtuosity on the saxophone, trumpet, steel drums, African drums and other percussive instruments enables her to perform with a variety of groups and teach music within the education system of the GTA. She has performed in West Africa, Caribbean and the USA.

Opening & Closing Meditations

Fimo Mitchell is a meditation guide, a writer and a podcast host. He began meditating in 2009 during his first trip to India. Since then, he has spent thousands of hours in meditation and completed two mindfulness courses. Last summer he founded When The Village Meditates, a nonprofit dedicated to offering meditation programs to members of racialized and marginalized communities. In March, Fimo will release a collection of short stories titled Pastel Remembrances. Every Tuesday, he hosts the “We Are Home” podcast featuring ten minutes of meditation followed by five minutes of insightful speech. He lives in Tio’tia:ke (Montréal), but remains on the lookout for a home far away from the oligarchs, plutocrats, and all their eager supporters.

Guided Dance Activator

For well over a decade Kay-Ann has been shaping the lives of individuals throughout the Dance, Wellness and Social Services Industries.  She is well known for her creativity, energy, knowledge of her craft and the nurturing space she provides for individuals to flourish. She has performed on many stages with top artists and has coached 200+ men and women helping them to embody the fullest expression of themselves. She has worked with both small and large social services organizations ranging from The City of Toronto, Tropicana Community Services, The Healing Project, Harbourfront Centre and Nia Centre for the Arts just to name a few.


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