Black History Month—Catching Up with Mako

February is Black History Month. It’s a time to honour the legacy of Black people in Canada and celebrate their contributions and accomplishments.

Did You Know?

  • Black Canadians have been a part of Canada’s heritage and identity since the arrival of Mathieu Da Costa, back in the early 1600s
  • After the American Revolution, people of African descent settled in the Maritimes
  • Many soldiers of African descent sacrificed their lives for Canada since the War of 1812
  • African people were once enslaved in the territory that is now known as Canada
  • The Honourable Dr. Jean Augustine is the first African-Canadian woman to be elected to Canada’s House of Commons as a Member of Parliament and in 1995, her motion was passed unanimously to recognize February as Black History Month.

Catching up with Mako

Mako came to Vancouver from Alberta in January of 2019. She had no place to go to, and through a friend, found out about Covenant House. To Mako, CHV was a safe place where she was heard and appreciated. “CHV helped me with everything. They helped me get a job, get my ID, provided me with clothes, they helped me enroll in school, helped me prepare for interviews, and look into scholarships.” 

Mako began in the Crisis Program and eventually transitioned to the Rights of Passage program. She worked with her social worker on her plans and goals, as well as working with a counsellor. Mako was at CHV for about a year.

After her stay at CHV, Mako shared her passion for music and her gratitude for all that CHV did for her, by producing her first music video. “The video shows the struggle and the loneliness of those specifically dealing with homelessness.” Makia hired the videographer, found the locations and “found a special person to be in the video with me.”

Mako revealed that she wrote the song while in the Rights of Passage program. “There was a piano in the hallway, and I came from meditation that day and I just felt some sort of sadness. I wrote that song in the hallway of Covenant House.”

In 2020, COVID hit and Mako went back to Alberta. Eventually she came back and her social worker connected her to someone who had a laneway home to rent for a reasonable price. “They [the landlords] had everything in the house and it was a really great way to experience independence.”

After a year, Mako’s lease expired, and she had to move out.

Mako works in the film industry as an actor. She is currently staying with a friend, because the film unions had been on strike so there was no work, and now it’s just a slow time of year for film. Mako is planning to get back to creating more music and mentioned that she will share what she’s done. We are all looking forward to that.

When asked about Black History Month, Mako said, “To me, it’s a special month; it unites people, and it sheds light on minority groups. It’s about being proud of yourself and share your experiences with others and to educate yourself about Black history in the West. I’m a first-generation immigrant. I moved here from Ethiopia 15 years ago, so I’m still learning. But to me it’s an important month that also includes Valentine’s Day. It’s blended with love. I think it’s a fun month to celebrate with everybody and learn.”

Mako celebrates through enjoying videos on TikTok and engaging with the creators. She recently watched the movie Precious that she said had her in tears, because it was so beautifully done. Mako hopes that during this month, people will learn more about Black History and celebrate the contributions and achievements by those from this community.

 Mako enjoys the music of Beyonce who recently toured and celebrated the Black queer community and their experiences in Black America. Mako is also inspired by her friend Roy, who shared his journey as a Black queer person and how he overcame trauma in his life.

Mako wanted to share some advice to the youth who use CHV’s programs and services in the hopes of inspiring them and to help them get through any struggles that they may have. “I would say trust the path that you are on. Support is there, take advantage of everything. There is a promising future ahead, so whatever you are working towards right now, will pay off. It may seem like there’s a lot of rules that you have to follow, but it pays off. Just stick it through and you won’t regret it.”

“I think that you have to want to work towards the future that you see for yourself. Covenant House is there to help you, but they can’t force you, you have to want it. They’ll try their best to help you, but it’s up to you to go through it. And there’s a lot of people that I know, like me, who just went there for that little time where they felt down, and they just used CHV to help pick them back up and then they would leave. Use the programs to their fullest! You may think that you have it together when you get a job and a little bit of money and feel like you’re independent — yes, you are, but I think if you go through the whole program, you will be even more complete. You will save even more, and you will have more experience. And through counselling, your mental health will be so much better. I just want you to come out [of the programs] successfully and not fall through and struggle. To be honest, there is no other shelter like Covenant House.”

Thank you Mako for sharing your story and inspiring others. We look forward to hearing more from you.

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