When La Connexional first started hosting events at Privé Ultralounge in May 2017, all Ivan Touko wanted was somewhere where he could dance to Afrobeats.
“We just noticed that there was a huge lack of places where you could go and have fun and listen to Afrobeats, Latin music, Caribbean music and the rhythms that we were used to,” Touko, La Connexional founder and CEO, tells me. “It’s not fair that I can’t go to a club and listen to Burna Boy, Davido or WizKid.”
That first event brought together over 500 people on a Thursday for a night of dancing, music and fun. It was also when Touko — as well as fellow La Connexional founders Patrick Cajina Cortez, Gallican Buki, Eugine Ncube, Omono Udo and Tarisai Mbudzi — realized they had tapped into something big.
Four years later, La Connexional has transformed into a full-blown social enterprise, hosting events, professional development workshops, dance classes and operating its own clothing line. The organization has become a mainstay in Edmonton’s African, Black, Caribbean and Latinx communities and, true to its name, it plays the role of an intercultural meeting place, event hub and advocacy group for youth all across the city.
“For the last four years, none of us has ever done this full-time,” Touko says. “But we always try to make sure that whatever we do, it doesn’t look like we’re doing it part-time. We want to make sure that the quality in the end product that we put out is always there.
“The ambition comes from [us] always taking on things that I honestly feel like are almost too big for us,” Touko adds. “But we’ve been able to build … the resiliency to just keep pushing and building, so that’s where the part-time [endeavour] with full-time ambitions [slogan] comes from.”
In celebration of the organization’s four year anniversary on May 25, La Connexional will host the La Explorational Live Summit 2021 from May 24 – 30. The free virtual summit will feature interactive sessions with over 40 local and international change-makers, focusing on topics like financial literacy, generational wealth, creativity and e-commerce.
“Our summit is open to everyone, because the goal of the summit is to network and create better connections,” Touko says. “We’re going for anyone that wants to learn and connect with other people within Edmonton and across the world.”
Attendees can register for free for the La Explorational Live Summit 2021 through La Connexional’s website.