What is the Black Youth Design Initiative?

The Black Youth Design Initiative [BYDI] is a five-pillar intergenerational platform whose aim is to build design capacity to Imagine, Make, and Connect with Black communities as part of the fight against anti-Black racism.


The Black Youth Design Initiative [BYDI] is an intergenerational platform that works through the caring interactions between Black youth, design mentors, mentors in-training, and Elders within the design communities in order to build connection and wellbeing.


The BYDI is a non-voluntary engagement as we believe that care work should be compensated. We focus on design capacity because design builds confidence in our ability to Imagine ideas, Make them real in life, and Connect ideas to others in order to have impact.


We focus on Black communities in order to break down the racist institutional barriers that keep communities separated from institutions, such as OCAD University, and enable institutions to isolate themselves from the diverse Black communities.

Anti-Black racism erodes the Black community’s confidence in our ability to Imagine, Make, and Connect a world by us and for us.

the five pillars

1 Blackreach

Blackreach provides 3-hours onsite (or a 40 minutes digital) design Imagine, Make, and Connect workshops to Black youth from ages 8 to 12 years through community partnerships. A team of an Elder, Facilitator, and Assistant visit a wide range of partner institutions, community centres, schools, and places where Black youth gather. The team facilitates youth defining how to Imagine their problems and solutions, Make something to address them, and Connect them to wider issues in order to contribute to their own wellbeing and that of their communities. Each onsite workshop costs $1,800 in care work labor, supplies, and snacks. Email bydi@ocadu.ca with the subject Blackreach to organize a workshop.

2 Summer Design Intensive

The Summer Design Intensive matches 7th and 8th-grade Black youth with design mentors and Elders through a four-week exploration of cultural strength development, introduction to design fields, intensive focus on design making, and entrepreneurship. Mentors and Black youth mentees are paired for one year with a 2-hours commitment to conduct design community explorations every two weeks. We are currently seeking philanthropic funding for the Summer Design Intensive. Email bydi@ocadu.ca with the subject Summer Intensive if you want to donate.

3 STEAM’D Learning Modules

STEAM’D Learning Modules seek to use Black youth’s interest in design to demonstrate core science, technology, engineering and math concepts from 9th to 12th grade levels. Mentors and Elders work with Black youth to find the confidence to maintain academic focus through STEAM’D online learning videos. Black youth might participate in the production of the demo videos. We are seeking partners to help produce the videos. Email bydi@ocadu.ca with the subject STEAM’D to support.

4 Portfolio Clinics

Design mentors, mentors-in-training, and Elders facilitate Portfolio Clinics to prepare Black youth for applications for jobs and post-secondary education. They also train reviewers to understand the diversity of excellence in the African, Caribbean, and North American Black cultural aesthetics of applicants. Youth are shown how to put together a portfolio that builds their confidence to apply for design jobs or post secondary education institutions like OCAD University. Each workshop costs $1,200 in care work and training. Email bydi@ocadu.ca with the subject Portfolios to organize a workshop.

5 Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship consists of four sets of activities: [1] Apprenticeships in Black design businesses through OCAD U’s Design4 Program, [2] Black community + Black business talks and workshops (with potential bridging programs), [3] A Black design incubator, [4] A Black design “agency” to share opportunities with freelance Black designers. Email careerdevelopment@ocadu.ca. to learn more about how to partner with the OCAD U Centre for Emerging Artists and Designers.

Want to support the Black Youth Design Initiative?

If you are a Black leader, you can become a 100 x 100 Black Sparks. This is a special donor group who commits to $100 per month for 12 months (or forever). You would join the Movement to provide mentorship, curriculum advice, and financial sovereignty to Black OCAD U and our outreach to wider Black communities.

If you are a non-Black ally or are not ready to make a monthly commitment, donate directly to the Black Youth Design Initiative Fund. The fund supports activities for the BYDI, Black History Month, Black community outreach, and Black faculty research. Keep updated on our many activities through the Blackocadu.ca website.