Article Patrimoine Noir

As part of Black History Month, SDÉCB is giving the floor to three francophone members of our economic community to share their experiences: Yannick Lolinga, our dedicated Employment Services Officer, Sandrine Bunch, Canadian immigration consultant and founder of Cerise Immigration, and Oyeta Kokoroko, natural cosmetics expert and founder of Okoko Cosmetiques.

In this article, find out more about the different issues that punctuate their experience in British Columbia: inclusion, professional challenges and black heritage.

Yannick Lolinga : the quest for acceptance and inclusion

Yannick Lolinga, a first-generation immigrant to Canada, defines himself as French and Afro-descendant. His daily challenges as a black person lie in combating stereotypes, both personally and professionally.

“Professionally, I’m sometimes confronted with prejudices that can influence the way my skills and abilities are perceived. To mitigate this, I am committed on a daily basis to raising awareness among the people I meet by sharing my culture, and thus fostering better understanding and mutual respect.”

In Canada, Yannick feels a more respectful and tolerant atmosphere, contrasting with the prejudices he may have encountered in France. He recounts: The interactions I have here often seem less marked by prejudice or stereotypes linked to my nationality or ethnic origin. This creates an environment where I generally feel more accepted and included, which contributes to my well-being and sense of belonging in this new country.”

To promote his Afro-descendant heritage, Yannick is actively involved in promoting African culture through community events and sharing his traditions on a daily basis: “I take the time to learn more about my origins and culture, whether through music, cooking, literature or history. ”

He draws his inspiration from his diverse entourage, stressing the importance of positive role models: “I’m inspired by many people in my direct circle. Each of these people brings something unique to my life and encourages me to become the best version of myself. Their actions, values and achievements inspire me to pursue my own goals and meet challenges with determination and resilience.”

Sandrine Bunch : a global career and identity

Sandrine Bunch is a regulated Canadian immigration consultant-CISR and founder of Cerise Immigration Consulting Inc. based in Vancouver and Montreal.

“I’m originally from French Guiana and of mixed Afro-Indonesian heritage, with roots in Guyana (formerly British Guiana) and Surinam (formerly Dutch Guiana). Because of my diverse origins, I’m proud to be French and very soon also Canadian.”

Drawing on her heritage and studies in mainland France as well as her career in Africa, she offers a unique perspective on the cultural and linguistic changes she has faced throughout her life. She uses her mixed race and international experience as assets in her immigration career.

Sandrine approaches her challenges in a very philosophical way: “As a black person, my daily challenges, both professionally and personally, are essentially to always try to take the first step towards the other, to listen to and learn from every people and culture I interact with.

To refer to Plato and Socrates, being aware that we know practically nothing opens up infinite possibilities for lifelong learning. Giving the best of myself and having the courage to always move forward and get back up despite setbacks is a strength I surely draw from my black heritage.”

When asked about her identity, Sandrine explains that she enjoys and is enriched by the exchanges they evoke: “In my native Guyana, I juggled between French, Creole, Dutch and Sranan Tongo*. Languages have always been a pet peeve of mine, including English, which is why I moved to Vancouver.

In Africa, on the French island of Mayotte, where I founded my family and lived for 16 years, I was also confronted with the local vernacular languages, Shimaoré (from Swahili) and Shi Bushi (from Malagasy), as well as the warm and welcoming Mahorais Muslim population, 95% of whom practice moderate Islam.

The people I speak with are always amazed at the many cultural references I make in our discussions. The funny thing is that my mixed race is deceptive and blurs the lines of my Amazonian origins.” According to Sandrine, this multicultural identity has helped her to integrate in Vancouver.

For Sandrine, Canada is a place where all her origins converge, enhancing her identity professionally and personally: “For the first time, all my origins came together at the same intersection, multiplying tenfold the interactions I was used to having until then.”

She is actively involved in the Black Business Association of BC, promoting the visibility of black entrepreneurs. At home, African, Caribbean and West Indian music punctuate her daily routine, and her cuisine is tinged with the flavors of the countries that have welcomed her. When asked who inspires her, Sandrine mentions her nanny, the mentor of a lifetime: “I always put her teachings into practice. You have to work hard in life if you want to succeed, take one step at a time, never fear failure and dream big. What life has taught me is that it’s never too late to start again.”

During the interview, Sandrine concludes:

“If your dreams don’t scare you, it’s because they’re not big enough.” Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, first woman elected president in Africa.”

Cerise Immigration :

* A set of Creoles, bringing together two languages with lexical bases borrowed from English and Portuguese.

Oyeta Kokoroko : entrepreneurship, challenges and the togolese heritage

Togolese-born Quebec entrepreneur Oyeta Kokoroko shares her journey as a black woman entrepreneur in Canada. She sees challenges as opportunities to change perceptions, becoming an inspiring voice in the natural cosmetics industry and entrepreneurship in Canada, “where the representation of black women is still not sufficiently recognized”.

“Being of African origin and having grown up in Montreal, my Quebecois and multicultural culture has shaped my personality, my way of thinking and my open-mindedness. This enables me to adapt easily to different groups, regions and cultures.”

“Despite the difficulties, I have to maintain a professional image and surpass myself to gain credibility equivalent to that of others. Surrounding myself well with supportive people and having strong mentors are essential. These challenges have motivated me to create a brand that promotes diversity and inclusion. Professionally, I’m proud to help change that and inspire future entrepreneurs who want to get started.”

It’s through her brand OKOKO Cosmétique that Oyeta promotes her Afro-descendant heritage: “[Through my business], I strive to promote my heritage as a bold black woman entrepreneur who offers high-end natural cosmetics, using authentic African ingredients such as shea butter, argan oil, marula oil, yangu oil and moringa. Our packaging also tells a story, that of a visionary who travels across different continents. By expressing my passion through my products, I share my Afro-descendant culture while promoting sustainable and ethical practices in the cosmetics industry.

As for her inspirations and mentors, Oyeta remains mysterious: “I have several, but I prefer to let you discover them by following me on social networks. You’ll also find out more in my upcoming podcast, where I’ll be interviewing people from different backgrounds about their empowering stories.”

Oyeta sur Instagram :

Okoko Cosmetiques :