SKETCH Working Arts February 24, 2023

Black Voices in Leadership Part 1: A Conversation with Sharon Tindyebwa

By Paulina O'Kieffe-Anthony

Across many sectors there continues to be a push to make room for diverse leaders to step into roles that give them the power to shift the status quo, make real change and truly reflect the community they serve. SKETCH is on a mission to highlight the stories of those leaders and how they step up to create the change we have been waiting for across the non profit and arts and culture sectors.

With Black History month upon us, we’re highlighting the voices and stories of Black leaders in the community, starting with our very own board members. In Part 1 we speak with SKETCH Board Member Sharon Tindyebwa about the importance of Black leadership in organizations and her own personal journey in leadership at SKETCH. 

Sharon is a Senior Communications Officer at CBC/Radio-Canada. She sits on the SKETCH board of directors offering her unique skills as a creative storyteller and helps SKETCH tell our story in creative and compelling ways

Tell us about yourself 

I am a communications and development professional who is passionate about storytelling in its many forms, amplifying the voices and stories of people who have traditionally not been given a platform, building meaningful relationships with a diverse range of communities, and helping to create truly inclusive spaces.

What made you want to serve on the SKETCH board of Directors?

I really connected with SKETCH’s mission of engaging young people who are experiencing homelessness or navigating poverty with the arts. I have worked for a couple of arts organizations and have seen first-hand how the arts can inspire and provide hope; how they can soothe and heal; and how they can actually be a source of stability and income. At the time that I applied to join the board, I was working for an organization that advances the right to housing and provides support to people who are experiencing challenges in their housing. I was regularly seeing how homelessness can happen to anyone and the immense negative impact that housing precarity can have on a person. I was interested in how SKETCH works in a similar space but is looking at poverty and homelessness through another lens.

 Why do you think Black leadership in organizations like SKETCH is important?

I think it is really important for leadership at non-profits to be reflective of the communities that the non-profit serves, and unfortunately, that is often not the case.  When an organization’s leadership doesn’t reflect the diversity of experiences of the people that an organization’s mandate purports to support and advance, it puts the organization at a disadvantage. Because you can have staff doing tons of community engagement to inform program design and execution, but ultimately,  it is up to leadership to approve budgets and other major decisions, so if they don’t have that lived experience, it is harder for them to understand why certain recommendations are being made by staff.

 So, if an organization primarily serves Black folks, it’s not enough to just have a Black Executive Director, or a Black senior staff member, there needs to be Black people on the board, as well. Because of course, we are not a monolith, there needs to be a diversity of Black voices, of other racialized voices, and for an organization like SKETCH, it is important to also have people of various economic and professional backgrounds serving on the board.  

 Who are some Black leaders you look up to (in any sector)?

There are a lot! There are so many amazing Black women who are constantly inspiring me, including SKETCH’s own ED, Paulina O’Kieffe-Anthony. In the fundraising/non-profit field, Tanya Rumble is an amazing fundraising professional who I would say is disrupting the field by questioning standard fundraising practices in an effort to make fundraising more inclusive. Kemi Jacobs, the ED of Delta Family Resource Centre, is a powerhouse (I also sit on their board). And every day, my sisters inspire me.