Omari Newton, BA 06 (comm. studies), a Vancouver-based actor, thoughtful op-ed writer and playwright (his musical Black and Blue Matters will premiere at Montreal’s Black Theatre Workshop in 2020), co-hosted the annual talent extravaganzas at Batshaw with his mother.
Her work ethic, whether at Batshaw or McGill University, where she completed her Master of Social Work in 1997, had an impact on him as a boy.
“My mom’s an incredible role model,” he says. “I just remember her constantly working. She encouraged us to dream big.”
Omari says his parents made education paramount and supported his passion for activism and the arts.
“Our family library was basically a historical [survey] of black civil rights books. I grew up with Eldridge Cleaver’s Soul on Ice, The Autobiography of Malcolm X.”
Akilah Newton graduated from the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, a school co-founded by Paul McCartney in the U.K. As the founder and executive director of the non-profit Overture with the Arts, she helps ensure access to arts education for children.
She also co-authored Big Dreamers: The Canadian Black History Activity Book for Kids and, with Omari, talks to schoolchildren for Black History Month about topics such as systemic racism and the accomplishments of remarkable Black Canadians.
Clifton-Newton, who hopes to complete and publish a memoir entitled A House Divided: Social Work in Black and White, is resolute when she reflects on her own family’s accomplishments.
“Had it not been for Concordia, I would not have achieved as much as I did. It cemented my family’s legacy. You plant a seed and you never know what it will lead to.”