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New Image of Supermassive Black Hole Reveals Swirling Magnetic Fields

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Black holes push our understanding of physics to the very edge. There are plenty of theories about how the universe works near the event horizon of these massive collapsed stars, and the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) project could tell us which ones are right. The EHT gave us the iconic 2019 image of a black hole, the first one ever produced. Now, the team has conducted new observations of the supermassive black hole at the center of galaxy M87, revealing magnetic field lines around the void. 

The Event Horizon Telescope is not a single instrument, but rather a network of radio telescopes spanning the globe. It includes famed facilities like the MIT Haystack Observatory, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, and the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy. By combining all these ultra-sensitive radio receivers, the EHT managed to image the supermassive black hole at the center of M87 in 2019. It was an amazing moment for science, as the image confirmed the previously only theoretical appearance of light swirling around the event horizon. 

That wasn’t the end of the project, though. The team has continued to scan M87, which sits some 53 million light-years away, to gather more data. In the latest update, the EHT project has created a new version of the image that shows polarized light around the event horizon. These whirlpool-like lines describe the magnetic field surrounding the black hole, giving scientists another chance to test the latest hypotheses.

Most of the matter and energy spiraling around a black hole falls into the event horizon, never to be seen again. However, some of it gets flung outward. Some of that is the energy that makes up the famous EHT images. More dramatically, some of it forms a relativistic jet that extends thousands of light-years from the plane of the galaxy. Astronomers are still trying to work out how a black hole can create jets larger than the galaxy itself. Understanding how the magnetic field lines behave around the event horizon is an important piece of the puzzle, according to researchers. 

With the new data, scientists are focusing on the role of ultra-hot magnetized gas. The polarized light indicates extremely strong magnetic fields around the event horizon help to push the gas away and keep it from falling into the event horizon. This is possible around a supermassive black hole like the one in M87 because the gravitational tidal forces are less intense than they would be around stellar-mass black holes. As physics tells us, gravity decreases with the square of the radius, so the spaghettification point is inside the event horizon of very large black holes. That’s just one of the many unintuitive things that make studying black holes so fascinating.

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Astronomers Find Supermassive Black Hole Wandering Around Distant Galaxy

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Can a supermassive black hole have wanderlust? That’s something astronomers have been wondering about for years, and a new study from the Harvard and Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics might have arrived at an answer: yep. By comparing the movement of black holes and their surrounding home galaxies, the researchers discovered one that appears to drift around. This could resolve some long-standing questions about the nature of these enormous dead stars. 

Supermassive black holes are usually found in the centers of galaxies, and they don’t have a reputation for moving around much. After all, they weigh as much as millions or billions of suns! It takes a lot of energy to get something that big moving, but the monster black hole in spiral galaxy J0437+2456, some 228 million light-years away, is almost definitely mobile. 

To spy on black holes, the team used a technique called very long baseline interferometry that relies on networks of radio telescopes. This technique allows scientists to measure the velocity of distant objects, but black holes don’t emit detectable radiation. That’s why the team focused its efforts on a class of active galactic nuclei known as megamaser — supermassive black holes with an accretion disk of material swirling around them. There are several molecules in megamasers that can be measured with high accuracy, including water. 

The M87 supermassive black hole imaged in 2019.

The analysis included 10 megamaser-type galaxies, and nine of them came up normal — the galaxy and the black hole are moving at the same velocity. However, J0437+2456 (top) showed a ton of variation. The neutral hydrogen floating around in the galaxy was moving away at 4,910 kilometers per second, but the water molecules in the black hole’s disk were only moving at 4,810 kilometers per second. What’s more, the inner part of the galaxy is moving at 4,860 kilometers per second. All those different velocities make for a very wobbly galaxy. 

There are several possible explanations for this wobble, including a past collision with another supermassive black hole. It’s also possible the varying velocity is due to another unseen supermassive black hole in a binary system. Scientists believe binary systems like this should exist, but there’s very little observational evidence. In either case, this galaxy could teach us a lot about black holes. It’s also feasible that the galaxy has been disrupted by a nearby massive object like another galaxy. That would be less interesting, but it would still show that central black holes can be nudged off course. The team plans to conduct more observations of J0437+2456 in hopes of figuring out which it is. 

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‘Build it and they will come:’ How a Black Canadian coach inspired a generation of hockey players

Cyril Bollers’ ultimate goal in coaching is to reach the NHL. But for now, he’s happy leading Team Jamaica. 

“I think there’s been a lot of frustration in the past with me that I have all the certifications … I just don’t know why I haven’t been given that opportunity,” Bollers said. “But there’s other coaches that are in the same boat of colour that haven’t been given that opportunity either. So I’m not going to say it’s just me, but for me, my goal is to one day coach for Team Canada.”

The 52-year-old doesn’t expect to make a jump straight to the NHL or Olympics, and speculates that the reason he hasn’t advanced much, despite recommendations from the likes of Hockey Hall of Famer Paul Coffey, is a lack of connections at the next level.

“I don’t want to say it’s colour, especially with hockey being for everyone. Other people may — I don’t. I just want to say that the opportunity hasn’t arisen yet and I’m hoping it does. So based on that, I’m continuing to network,” Bollers said.

Bollers is the president of Skillz Black Aces, a Toronto-based program that helps bring hockey to underprivileged and BIPOC youth. It has produced NHLers such as Anson Carter, Wayne Simmonds and brothers Anthony and Chris Stewart.

Born in Guyana, Bollers now lives in Scarborough, Ont., after moving to Canada when he was four. He was inspired to become a coach when his son was six and playing house-league hockey for a coach who heavily favoured his own son.

Soon, coaching became a passion. He’s since worked with the Toronto Red Wings and Marlboros of the GTHL and the Pickering Panthers of the OJHL.

“I was told that I couldn’t because of the colour of my skin, which fuelled the fire, which promoted the education in regards to quality certificates, which gave me the opportunity to prove others wrong,” Bollers said.

In addition to his work with the Black Aces, Bollers has also served for the past four years as head coach and general manager of Team Jamaica — a country that doesn’t contain so much as a single ice rink.

Bollers also works with the Black Canadian Coaches Association in hopes of reaching a broader base of BIPOC coaches throughout the country to serve as a mentor and to help create a network between coaches and sports organizations.

Legacy with Black Aces

But it was with the Black Aces where Bollers helped inspire a generation of BIPOC players, many of whom followed him to Team Jamaica.

“I guess when they say build it and they will come, that’s what it was. Everybody wanted to become a Skillz Black Ace,” Bollers said.

The program began around 20 years ago, partially the brainchild of former NHL goalie Kevin Weekes, as a camp that would run a few times per year. Bollers helped build it into more of a team that would enter — and quickly dominate — tournaments against top competition.


A Skillz Black Aces team is seen above at a tournament. (Courtesy Cyril Bollers)

In addition to a heavy majority of BIPOC players, Bollers led a group of five Black coaches on the bench. The team consistently stunned its opponents with blazing speed and won way more often than it lost.

For parents of colour, the Black Aces was an opportunity to show their children there are other hockey players who look like them.

“And that was the main thing was he was not an outsider or ‘that one kid’ with this group,” said Mark Francis, whose son Peyton played for the Aces and now plays centre for the University of Alabama-Huntsville Chargers.

Loren Francis heard racist comments from the stands when she watched her son play on predominantly white teams. Since Loren is white, other parents did not realize she was Peyton’s mom. When the Black Aces opportunity arose, Mark and Loren were intrigued.

“I thought this was going to be more like a how-to-play hockey type of thing,” Mark said. “And then we went out and I was shocked because not only were the kids very highly skilled, but [Bollers’] coaching methods, I would say, were top notch.”


Bollers leads a player through a drill. (Courtesy Cyril Bollers)

Vancouver Canucks forward Justin Bailey is another Black Aces alumnus. Born in Buffalo, N.Y., a 12-year-old Bailey was hesitant about joining a team across the border where he didn’t know anyone.

It took some convincing from his mother, Karen Buscaglia, and the decision was an instant success.

“People embraced their differences. And they had fun music playing in the locker room. And it was the first time that I could look at him and I could see he just had a blast. And obviously hockey was predominantly white, so he had never been exposed to anything like that,” Buscaglia said.

While a fun atmosphere certainly existed around the Black Aces, both Francis and Buscaglia say Bollers ran a tight ship where discipline among players — things like walking in an orderly fashion and politeness — impacted players’ ice-time.

The Black Aces, counting one edition of the team featuring one of Bollers’ three sons, often faced racism from other teams, including hearing the N-word uttered against them on the ice.

“We used to laugh at it because we were so good we would beat people. And for me, I would just tell the guys, ‘They can’t beat you on the ice. They’re going to try to beat you with their words. But words are just words,'” Bollers said.

Equal success with Jamaica

As a white player born in the Caribbean, Ethan Finlason had a slightly different experience when he joined Bollers’ Team Jamaica. Finlason played inline hockey in his home country of the Cayman Islands before eventually moving to Canada to pursue ice hockey.

He was met with hostility from other kids who said he should quit because he was Caribbean. Then a goalie from his academy team stayed behind to watch one of the team’s games.

“The Canadian goalie was shocked that Jamaicans could skate,” said Ethan’s father Andrew. “And I don’t know where this bias comes from. I mean, most of these kids grew up in Canada. But they’re tremendous athletes. They have a tremendous coach. But there’s this stigma that they shouldn’t be able to play.”


Team Jamaica players are seen above in 2014. (Courtesy Cyril Bollers)

In 2019, Jamaica went 5-0 en route to winning the championship at the LATAM Cup, an international tournament pitting top Latin American and Caribbean teams.

But Jamaica can’t be fully sanctioned by the IIHF until it builds a rink. When that happens, more resources could be poured into the program and the pitch to NHL players of Jamaican descent, like the Subbans, can begin.

“I’m sure that once that’s happened, we can just place a call to Karl [Subban] and then Karl will round up the boys and then we’ll take it from there. But I think until it’s fully sanctioned, we don’t want to put the cart before the horse,” Bollers said.

When that finally happens, Bollers said his admittedly lofty goal is to qualify for the Olympics.

Between the Black Aces and Team Jamaica, Bollers’ hands are plenty full in the world of hockey, even as he continues to eye a pro position. He can take solace in the fact that if nothing else, his teams simply win.

“They used to come and watch us play because we were fast, we were strong, it was entertaining hockey. But more importantly we could coach, and I think what people forget is I’m a hockey coach by choice, Black by nature.”

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The First Black Hole Ever Discovered Might Be Even Larger

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The general idea of a stellar object with such intense gravity that even light cannot escape dates back to the late 18th century. However, it wasn’t until Einstein’s contributions in the early 20th century that we had the necessary theoretical underpinnings to go looking for such an object. Cygnus X-1 caught the attention of scientists because of its X-ray signature. Today, Cygnus X-1 is widely accepted to be the first black hole ever discovered, but we might not know as much about it as we thought. 

Scientists have been looking for black holes ever since general relativity predicted such an object could exist. Cygnus X-1 made history in 1964 as the first likely candidate black hole. Astronomers have revisited Cygnus over the years, and a new analysis suggests the first black hole spotted by humanity might be larger and farther away than believed. 

Cygnus X-1 is a stellar-mass black hole currently thought to have about 15 times the mass of our sun. It’s orbiting a blue supergiant variable star, the light from which has helped to characterize Cygnus X-1. In 2011, researchers used parallax measurements from different points in Earth’s orbit to pin down the black hole’s location. The team found it was just over 6,000 light-years away. Astrophysicist James Miller-Jones worked on this research, and now he’s back with a new team to refine the numbers. 

Miller-Jones and his team used a network of large radio telescope dishes across the US called the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) to observe Cygnus X-1. The 2011 research didn’t collect data from the black hole during all parts of its orbit around the supergiant star, and that might affect the distance measurement. The VLBA scanned Cygnus X-1 for 12 hours at a time over the course of six consecutive days. Combining this parallax data with the 2011 numbers, the team has reported a different result. Instead of being 6,070 light-years away, Cygnus X-1 might be 7,240 light-years distant. 

The M87 supermassive black hole imaged in 2019.

So, why does that matter? Many of the characteristics of celestial objects are calculated based on their distance from Earth. If Cygnus X-1 is farther away, that means it’s also larger. The researchers have calculated that at more than 7,000 light-years away, Cygnus X-1 would be about 21 times more massive than the sun, a significant increase over the currently accepted figure. 

The new figures for Cygnus X-1 could change how we measure other black holes. This is likely not the most massive stellar-mass black hole in the universe, but we may need to revise estimates of how much mass a dying star loses as it collapses into a singularity.

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Meet the nurse clinician shedding light on pioneering Black scientists

CBC Quebec is highlighting people from the province’s Black communities who are giving back, inspiring others and helping to shape our future. These are the Black Changemakers.


As a child, Stephanie Bumba never saw any Black people in the history books and cartoons she read, or the science movies she watched.

In school, she learned about the contributions of pioneering white scientists but was left wondering why she wasn’t hearing about Black scientists and what they had achieved.

So last summer, Bumba, who is now a nurse clinician, created a web series called Ces afro-scientifiques d’hier à aujourd’hui, or Yesterday’s and Today’s Afro-scientists, dedicated to telling the stories she longed to see.

“These Afro-scientists were hidden under historic rubble, and it’s the time now to make them visible and to dispel the ignorance surrounding these scientific pioneers,” she said.

Each episode features someone who worked in health sciences and whose discoveries and inventions are still relevant today. The episodes are in French, but the second season, slated to debut this month, will feature English and Spanish subtitles.

So far, she has profiled people such as Dr. Charles Drew, a surgeon who organized the first large-scale blood bank in the U.S. and directed a project that sent blood and plasma collected in New York to Britain in order to treat people during the Second World War.

In addition to working as a nurse clinician during a pandemic, Bumba is doing a master’s degree in health care administration at Université de Montréal.

She did a lot of the research for the series last summer, after work. She would come home, take a nap and then spend her evenings and nights combing through the databases she has access to through her studies to look up information about people she wanted to highlight.

Bumba said the episodes have been well received so far — two have more than 10,000 views on her YouTube channel, Nurse Stephie TV. She has heard from high school teachers who are showing the videos to their students.

Her career as a science communicator is evolving; after Bumba wrote an op-ed that appeared in La Presse, the Montreal Science Centre invited her to write a series of blog posts about pioneering Canadian and Quebec scientists for Black History Month.

Bumba said she wants young Black people to have scientists to idolize so that they, too, are inspired to do great things.

“Black history is not only about slavery and the hardship, it’s also about those pioneers who contributed to the advancement of our health-care sciences.”

The Black Changemakers is a special series recognizing individuals who, regardless of background or industry, are driven to create a positive impact in their community. From tackling problems to showing small gestures of kindness on a daily basis, these changemakers are making a difference and inspiring others. Meet all the changemakers here.

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Case dropped against NYC woman who called 911 on Black birdwatcher in Central Park

Amy Cooper, the white woman arrested last year for calling 911 on a Black birdwatcher in New York’s Central Park, had her criminal case thrown out Tuesday after she completed a diversionary counselling program that prosecutors said was meant to educate her on the harm of her actions.

Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon said Manhattan prosecutors were satisfied with Cooper’s participation in the program — described as an alternative, restorative justice solution — and were not seeking to pursue the case any further. Such outcomes are standard for first-time offenders facing misdemeanour charges, Illuzzi-Orbon said.

Judge Anne Swern, presiding over the matter by video because of the coronavirus pandemic, agreed to dismiss the charge of filing a false police report and said she would seal Cooper’s case file, in accordance with state law.

The confrontation, captured on video the same day Minneapolis police killed George Floyd, drew worldwide attention and was seen by many as a stark example of everyday racism.

Christian Cooper, the birdwatcher who recorded the video and was the subject of Amy Cooper’s 911 call, said he was caught off guard and learned of the dismissal only when the Associated Press called him shortly thereafter. Illuzzi-Orbon said he declined to participate in the matter. (There is no relation between Christian Cooper and Amy Cooper). 

Christian Cooper later issued a statement highlighting what he said was another racial injustice, saying he was “far more outraged” by the U.S. Congress denying statehood to the mostly non-white District of Columbia “than by anything Amy Cooper did.”

“That gross racial injustice could be fixed by Congress now, today, and that’s what people should be focused on — not last year’s events in Central Park.” 

Amy Cooper’s lawyer, Robert Barnes, praised prosecutors for a “thorough and honest inquiry” into the allegations and said he agreed with the decision to dismiss the case.

“We thank them for their integrity, and agree with the outcome,” Barnes said. “Many others rushed to the wrong conclusion based on inadequate investigation, and for some, there may be legal consequences coming.” 

Fired from job

Amy Cooper, 41, drew widespread condemnation after frantically calling 911 on May 25 to claim she was being threatened by “an African American man” who had confronted her for walking her dog without a leash.

When police called Amy Cooper back in an attempt to locate her in the park, she falsely claimed the man, Christian Cooper, had “tried to assault her,” Illuzzi-Orbon said. The second call was not recorded on video, Illuzzi-Orbon said. It was previously reported incorrectly that Cooper was the one who called 911 again.

Illuzzi-Orbon said that when officers arrived, Christian Cooper was gone and Amy Cooper admitted he hadn’t tried to assault her. Illuzzi-Orbon said Amy Cooper’s false claim could have led to a physical confrontation between police and Christian Cooper if they had gotten to him first.

“The simple principle is: One cannot use the police to threaten another and, in this case, in a racially offensive and charged manner,” Illuzzi-Orbon said.

After the incident, Amy Cooper was fired from her job as a portfolio manager at investment firm Franklin Templeton. Her actions were also condemned by the University of Waterloo, which she attended, in a statement on Twitter.

Court’s dismissal criticized

Amy Cooper’s diversionary program, run through a wing of the Center for Court Innovation and a Manhattan psychotherapy provider, included education about racial equality and five therapy sessions focused on making her appreciate that racial identities shape our lives, but that they shouldn’t be used to cause harm, Illuzzi-Orbon said.

The prosecutor said Amy Cooper’s therapist described it as a “moving experience” and that she learned “a lot in their sessions together.”

To some, the dismissal of Amy Cooper’s case after a series of counselling sessions felt like just a slap on the wrist.

Eliza Orlins, a public defender who is running to replace Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., tweeted: “This isn’t surprising. This is how the system was designed to function — to protect the privileged from accountability.”

Ernest Owens, a prominent Black journalist, tweeted: “White privilege, 2021.” He also called out the “irony” of the case being dropped following the counselling program. 


Case inspired new law

In the video posted on social media, Christian Cooper claimed Amy Cooper’s cocker spaniel was “tearing through the plantings” in the Ramble, a secluded section of Central Park popular with birdwatchers, and told her she should go to another part of the park. When she refused, he pulled out dog treats, causing her to scream at him to not come near her dog.

Amy Cooper also warned him she would summon police unless he stopped recording.

“I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life,” Amy Cooper is heard saying in the video as she pulls down her face mask and struggles to control her dog.

“Please call the cops,” said Christian Cooper.

“There’s an African American man, I’m in Central Park, he is recording me and threatening myself and my dog. … Please send the cops immediately!” she said during the 911 call before the recording stops.

Amy Cooper’s 911 call inspired New York lawmakers to pass a law making it easier to sue a person who calls police on someone “without reason” because of their background, including race and national origin. San Francisco lawmakers passed a similar law.

Amid the backlash, Amy Cooper released an apology through a public relations service, saying she “reacted emotionally and made false assumptions about his intentions.”

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Health-care system’s history with Black community is affecting attitudes around COVID-19 vaccine

Before Brayana Taylor went into labour with her now 16-month-old daughter, she read up and carefully planned for the day. While much of it was a blur, she says she remembers her time at the hospital as traumatic, and that her concerns and feelings were dismissed.

“I just feel like, during the most vulnerable and crucial moments of my entire life, my care was mishandled.”

She rarely talks about what happened to her in detail, but after speaking to another Black mother, Taylor soon found out that she wasn’t alone in her experience. It’s something that she says has hurt her trust in the health-care system, and it has also affected how Taylor feels about the COVID-19 vaccine.

While health professionals are stressing to Canadians that the approved COVID-19 vaccines are safe, Taylor is one of those who attribute their vaccine hesitancy to eroded trust in the health-care system as a whole for its treatment of Black and Indigenous people.

Taylor runs an Instagram page called Black Motherhood Collective. In response to pushback she and others have received for being vaccine-hesitant, she put out a post outlining statistics about Black maternal health as an answer to why some Black women feel skeptical about the medical system.

One of them is an alarming stat from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics that reveals 84 per cent of pregnancy-related deaths in the United States in 2018 were Black women. There’s limited race-based medical research data available in Canada, but a 2015 McGill study found that Black women have significantly higher preterm births than white women.

“I think to a lot of people, it’s just hard to imagine why somebody wouldn’t want a vaccine, you know, because the pandemic has been around for what seems like forever at this point,” Taylor said.

“But in practice, we have to understand that there [are] a lot of kinks in our institutions and in our systems that really do obstruct a lot of progress when it comes to our communities.”


Brayana Taylor runs an Instagram account called Black Motherhood Collective. She says it was important to her that the skepticism she and other Black women feel about the COVID-19 vaccine and the health care system be taken seriously. (Ousama Farag/CBC)

Black people have also been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite making up 9 per cent of Toronto’s population, a quarter of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 are Black.

It’s something Cheryl Prescod, the executive director of the Black Creek Community Health Centre in North York, Ont., is working hard to address as part of the effort to vaccinate all Canadians and stop the spread of the virus.

Prescod notes that the predominantly Black and brown neighbourhood is home to many essential workers living in precarious conditions. Social distancing is made harder when they shuttle to work in crowded buses and come home to densely populated, high-rise apartment buildings.

“This has been a hotspot since the beginning of COVID. We have a high number of positive cases, and we also have a low testing rate,” Prescod said.

Of the top 10 COVID-19 hot spots in Toronto last month, eight were in the city’s north-west end.

Prescod adds that while the vaccine isn’t yet available to most of the general public, the work to address their questions and inform them about it needs to happen now.


Cheryl Prescod, executive director of the Black Creek Community Health Centre, says she sees first-hand how Black and other racialized Torontonians have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. (Ousama Farag/CBC)

In a recent virtual information session, the Black Creek Community Health Centre put together a panel of health professionals and community members to take questions about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Attendees weighed in with questions ranging from how the COVID-19 vaccine works differently than the flu vaccine, to whether or not there was a microchip in it being used to track people, particularly low-income people of colour. Prescod has heard a lot of it before.

“Can we trust that substance? Can we trust what’s happening? There’s still that mistrust around that science, around the development of the vaccine, around the fact that certain populations might be used as guinea pigs,” Prescod said.

One of the historical examples Prescod hears patients refer to is the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, where 600 Black men in Alabama were experimented on without being told what for. In Canada, Indigenous children in residential schools were also experimented on to learn about the effects of malnutrition.


The Tuskegee Syphilis Study, conducted in Alabama from the 1930s to the 1970s, took blood samples from Black men for an experiment they didn’t know they were participating in. The unethical study is often cited by experts when systemic racism in health care is discussed. (National Archives and Records Administration)

Dr. Upton Allen, head of infectious diseases at Sick Kids Hospital, has been meeting with the Ontario government, urging it to factor the need to repair relationships with vulnerable communities into the province’s vaccine rollout plan.

“It’s really important to ensure that the Black community is engaged in discussions and decision-making, and that the community can feel that they are part of the process,” Dr. Allen said.

“It’s important to ensure that the messaging relating to vaccine prioritization is appropriate, and is very transparent and very clear, so that there’s no misinterpretation of intent.”

Dr. Allen says he received his first dose of the vaccine a few weeks ago, and that he is confident recommending it to others in the Black community.

He also emphasizes the importance of Black people being involved and considered at every level of health care. Dr. Allen leads a team of researchers at Sick Kids looking at the rates of COVID-19 infection among Black Canadians and the factors behind them, as well as pushing for their participation in antibody testing. He says the lack of diversity in medical research can contribute to inequities in the system.

“One needs to make sure that all the major groups are included so that one can generalize across several groups, not just in terms of racial groups, but also in terms of age groups,” Dr. Allen said. “And so moving forward, it’s important that vaccine related studies — and there will be more — will include Black representatives, Black participants.”


Health professionals are stressing to Canadians that the approved COVID-19 vaccines are safe, but some say their trust in the system has been eroded due to its past treatment of vulnerable communities. (Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

In a statement to CBC News, Nosa Ero-Brown, Assistant Deputy Minister of Ontario’s Anti-Racism Directorate, says that the province is talking to community health groups about how these concerns can be addressed through the Communities at Risk COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force Sub-Group.

“We will be working with partners to develop culturally relevant and responsive outreach strategies for each community as part of our Vaccine Distribution Plan, so that all Ontarians can access and understand the facts they need to make an informed decision on getting vaccinated,” the statement said.

The Ministry of Health says it is allocating $ 12.5 million in funding towards community health agencies in 15 high-risk communities for community outreach and increased testing. It adds that at-risk areas will be prioritized in Phase 2 of the vaccine roll-out.

This week, the City of Toronto announced a new Black Community COVID-19 Response Plan, allocating $ 6.8 million in funding towards 12 Black-led and Black-serving organizations to provide additional support, from food delivery to vaccine education.

The Black Health Alliance has been advocating for investment in grassroots organizations that are trusted in the communities they serve.

The government is not going to be able to build trust with the Black community overnight.– Paul Bailey, Black Health Alliance

“The government is not going to be able to build trust with the Black community overnight,” said Paul Bailey, executive director of the Black Health Alliance. “The agencies or the organizations that have to engage with certain parts of the population will be able to build trust over time.”

It’s the kind of commitment Taylor says she’s been looking for from those in power.

“Make the effort and let us know that this is something that you’re very serious about, and you’re adamant about repairing the relationship, and making sure that there is a level of trust between the Black community and health-care professionals so that we can have confidence moving forward,” Taylor said.

Dr. Allen remains cautiously optimistic that the advocacy work he and others are doing is leading to change.

“I think that the issues are being heard, steps are being taken, but it’s early in the game to see whether or not these steps are going to be sustainable and appropriately resourced.”


Watch full episodes of The National on CBC Gem, the CBC’s streaming service.


For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.


(CBC)

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How the Black Canadian Coaches Association was born from George Floyd’s death

There is an equation St. FX women’s basketball Lee Anna Osei continually instills in her players. 

It reads E+R=O. Event plus response equals outcome. The idea is that if you respond to an event in the right way, the outcome will turn out favourably.

Osei, known as Coach Lee to her players and friends alike, has witnessed firsthand the lack of minority coaching hires across the Canadian sports landscape.

But that’s more of a long-standing fact than an event. And so a response never followed.

Then George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer, sparking a worldwide racial reckoning and increased calls for racial justice by the likes of Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri, Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James and Canadian WNBAer Natalie Achonwa.

Those three in particular spurred Osei to a response: the formation of the Black Canadian Coaches Association (BCCA).

“I considered this a passion project to start. But then in realizing the change that it really can have, it’s not just a passion project of mine. It’s a passion project for hundreds of thousands of people,” Osei said.

The BCCA intends to increase opportunities for BIPOC coaches in Canada through its principles of networking, celebration and advocacy through allyship.

CBC Sports visual audit

In July, a CBC Sports visual audit revealed that only about 10 per cent of 400 top positions at 56 Canadian universities are held by a Black person, Indigenous person or person of colour.

“Everyone sees this as a gap that needs to be addressed — not just in Canada. We need to do better. But how we do that is probably the challenging thing right now,” Osei said.

In addition to initiatives such as the Black Female Coach Mentorship Program and The Racial Equity Project, the BCCA plans to maintain numbers on how many coaching positions in Canada are filled by minority candidates. Nothing official on that front currently exists.

Osei says the organization is also hoping to secure funding from the federal government.

Osei, 30, grew up in Toronto’s Jane and Finch neighbourhood. She says she first picked up a basketball “because honestly, it was either a ball or probably something not as positive.”

WATCH | Bring It In’s Black History Month book recommendations:

Morgan Campbell, Meghan McPeak, and Dave Zirin suggest some readings for February as we celebrate Black History Month. 5:08

One of Osei’s first coaching influences was her Grade 6 principal who co-starred as basketball coach. Now, she’s put together a 12-year coaching career herself.

“The most passionate, the most impactful, the most helpful people I’ve met have all been coaches, and that said something about the Canadian context of coaching because there’s not a lot of professional jobs out there,” Osei said.

Corey Grant wants one of those jobs. Currently the offensive co-ordinator of McMaster’s football team, Grant, first and foremost, says he wants the pandemic to end so he can return to the field. 

But the former CFLer would also like to rise the ranks and chart a path for future Black athletes and coaches.

“Representation matters because you want to see what you can be. And sometimes if we’re seeing lack of representation at different levels, especially in coaching and then head coaching, as a player and as a former player, I start to think, ‘Well, maybe I can’t be that head coach.’ As an athlete, you never want to say ‘can’t,’ said Grant.

Grant, 44, grew up in Stoney Creek, Ont., near Hamilton. He spent 11 years as a CFL receiver from 1999-2009 with the Tiger-Cats and Saskatchewan Roughriders, winning a pair of Grey Cups in the process.


Corey Grant says the BCCA is important so that young, prospective Black coaches can see a path to the job. (Courtesy Corey Grant)

In the years since, Grant has begun his coaching career, going from McMaster receivers coach to Tiger-Cats running backs coach and back to McMaster in his current role.

As a player, Grant said his sole focus on playing made him block out the various microaggressions he encounters every day as a Black man.

“Sometimes you shake it off because, hey, I got to focus on the game, I got to focus on practice. And now you start to realize, you know what, that’s not good for your mental health,” Grant said.

High school memory

Certain incidents can’t be blocked out though, such as one high school memory Grant says he recalls like it was yesterday.

It was after a school dance and Grant noticed a crowd packed with screaming people in the parking lot. As he walked towards the noise, some classmates stopped him: “don’t get him,’ they said, “leave him, he’s an athlete.”

“It was some guys wearing swastikas and beat up some South Asian kids and ripped off their turbans and beat them to a pulp in the parking lot. You felt helpless. You couldn’t do anything,” Grant recalled.

Grant went home and punched his garage door out of frustration. It was the only thing he could do.

As assistant director of the BCCA, Grant aims to prevent that feeling of helplessness among Black children — specifically daughter Qiawna, 12, and son Devonn, 10, who are both aspiring athletes.

“It’s doing it through advocacy, through our relationships, through celebration and networking, because sometimes there’s that thought of, ‘it’s just me going through this. Nobody else is there with me. I have to deal with this,’ and then that’s where that mental health piece comes in,” Grant said.


Grant won two Grey Cups as a CFL player with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Saskatchewan Roughriders. (The Canadian Press)

Grant’s parents were his first coaching inspirations. Father Lynford was a steel worker and mother Hermine worked various jobs when Corey was growing up, but now runs a nursing home.

Their hard work stuck with Corey, who is the oldest of four siblings, plus two foster sisters and a foster brother.

As a player with the Tiger-Cats, Grant met Bernie Custis, the first Black professional quarterback in the modern era, and first-ever in the CFL.

Custis, who played with NFL Hall of Famer Jim Brown at Syracuse, is also one of few Black head coaches in Ontario University Athletics (OUA) history.

“None of the [current football] head coaches in the OUA are of colour. So then who is having those conversations and leadership position with the players that are on their team? Who is having those conversations about George Floyd, social justice and injustices and equity?”

OUA announces task force

In August, the OUA announced the creation of a Black, biracial and Indigenous task force to emphasize diversity throughout the conference.

The desire to educate is perhaps what drew Grant to Osei and the BCCA. Having one centralized network to disperse information to coaches throughout Canada could become an invaluable tool.

Not to mention the work the BCCA is hoping to do in providing more opportunities for BIPOC coaches.

“Our goal is really simple,” Osei said. “We’re going to use the platform and leverage other organizations and individuals who believe in our mandate to find the very few people of colour in leadership positions and we want to celebrate them and we want other people to know, hey, that can be you.”

Grant watched recently as just two of seven open NFL head coaching positions went to BIPOC candidates. Eric Bienemy, the Black offensive co-ordinator of the Kansas City team going for its second straight Super Bowl, has now been passed over two years in a row.

Grant says how Bienemy handled that adversity is something he’s drawing from as he waits for his own head coaching opportunity to arise.

“I’m not satisfied with where I’m at, but I’m content right now with where I’m at,” Grant said. “I’m going to continue to move forward. And when it’s my time, I’m going to be ready to shine.”

Since May, a common reprieve in the fight for social justice is that the conversation can’t be left as a moment — it must be a movement.

Osei takes that one step further.

“It’s not a movement. It’s a lifestyle. It’s understanding that this system was built on systemic oppression. And there are so many tangible ways that can combat it.”

“We’re not pointing the blame here. We’re just stating a fact.”

With the BCCA, Osei’s response to systemic racism in Canada is well underway. And if E+R=O holds firm, a positive outcome should follow.

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Astronomers Find Oldest Supermassive Black Hole in the Universe

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Astronomers have discovered about 750,000 quasars, which are among the brightest and most energetic objects in the universe. Despite its uninspiring designation, J0313-1806 is distinct from other quasars. This recently spotted object is the oldest known quasar in the universe, with a supermassive black hole more than 13 billion years old. In fact, it’s so old and huge that scientists don’t know exactly how it could have formed. 

The first quasars were discovered in the mid-20th century, but it wasn’t until several decades later that we began to understand what these objects were. A quasar is an active galactic nucleus in which the supermassive black hole that anchors the galaxy pulls in matter to form a gaseous accretion disk. All this matter colliding as it spirals into the black hole releases a torrent of electromagnetic energy that serves as the hallmark of these objects. J0313-1806, for example, shines 1,000 times brighter than our entire galaxy. 

J0313-1806 is far away — 13.03 billion light-years to be exact. That means we’re seeing this object as it was just 670 million years after the Big Bang, and it’s still huge. Astronomers estimate J0313-1806 to have about 1.6 billion solar masses as its observed age. That’s not out-of-line for a supermassive black hole elsewhere in the universe, but they’ve had longer to vacuum up matter and grow larger. J0313-1806 shouldn’t have had time in the early universe to grow so large. 

The team used ground-based instruments like the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) and the Mauna Kea Observatories (MKO) to spot J0313-1806 last year. It unseated the previous record-holder for oldest quasar, which is about 20 million years younger. Current models of black hold formation assume a star collapses to form a singularity, but the “seed mass” for J0313-1806 would have had to be at least 10,000 solar masses to reach 1.6 billion so quickly. 

The M87 supermassive black hole imaged in 2019.

The study puts forward a hypothesis to explain the existence of this bizarre quasar, known as the direct collapse scenario. In this model, it wasn’t a star collapsing that formed the supermassive black hole. Instead, an enormous cloud of cold hydrogen gas collapsed inward to form a much larger black hole than any stellar source could produce. This could explain why astronomers see so many gigantic black holes in the early universe. 

Unfortunately, J0313-1806 is so distant that we can’t gather much more detail with current technology. The upcoming James Webb Space Telescope could, however, be sufficiently precise to image objects like J0313-1806. After many years of delays, NASA plans to launch the Webb telescope in late 2021.

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