February 2023 marks 15 years since Black History Month became recognized as a nation-wide celebration. With such a short period of recognition, it's important to continue our learning and understanding of Black history and inclusion in our country, as well as here at the University of Lethbridge (ULethbridge). What better way to learn and grow than from one of our very own Dhillon School of Business (Dhillon) alum. Bachelor of Management (BMgt '20) graduate Olalere Adepoju shares his journey and hope for the future.
Always choose kindness
Meet one of ULethbridge's kindest alums — Olalere Adepoju. The Dhillon graduate was recognized as one of the Top 10 Kindest Canadians by Go Fund Me in 2021 for showing outstanding kindness to those in need.
"Kindness is free and all it takes is a smile, saying hi when someone walks by, or giving a compliment," says Olalere.
The 25-year-old believes in showing kindness to all, no matter their age, gender, background, or skin colour. "Being truly invested in the person and looking past their skin colour to understand who they are past the superficial layer," is not only kind, it's Olalere's definition of authentic Black inclusion. Olalere says you've got to get to know the person and their experiences to really understand them.
A little understanding goes a long way
As we celebrate Black History Month at ULethbridge and across the country, it's our responsibility to learn what Black history truly means to those closest to it. To Olalere, it's a chance to highlight the great achievements of those who were muted by society.
"It's a time to reflect on our past collections and the great and powerful leaders that came before us, although many have passed, they are recognized and still live on in our hearts and society," he says.
Olalere says it's also a chance to learn from the past. "It seems there is always a debate about what is right and what is wrong," he says. Olalere hopes people learn the ability to be more understanding of what people go through.
Never give up
Olalere admits his own journey has had some bumps along the way. When the Calgary resident first moved to Canada from Nigeria over 10 years ago, he had a hard time fitting in. "I got made fun of all the time," he says. Olalere didn't let it get to him; instead of shutting himself off to his peers, he just kept trying and eventually got it right.
"It's not about how many times you fail, but instead how many times you continue to make the choice not to give up," he says.
Olalere says criticizing, condemning and dwelling on the past is no way to move forward. Instead, he advises others to look at their situation from another perspective and try to understand. "That's where you will find the answers you are looking for," says Olalere.
Olalere has his sights set on some big goals in the future. Realizing it will take some time, the Dhillon alumnus hopes to own an airline called Loyal Airways where he plans to revolutionize the Canadian airline industry. Olalere also has high hopes when it comes to the future of Black inclusion in our society. "Truthfully, if we were more understanding as a society, we would see the pain that the history of racism has had on Black people," he says. It all starts with taking the time to really listen to others. Olalere says if we can start there, he hopes we can all learn to appreciate the differences people bring to the table moving forward.
Black History Month celebrates the resiliency, flourishing, and determination to work towards a more equitable, inclusive and diverse country. The University of Lethbridge celebrates Black History Month: Building a Culture of Authentic Black Inclusion: Moving from resistance to change. Learn more about what Black History Month means, why we celebrate, ways to get involved and access learning resources.