Ivan Touko creates platforms for Edmonton’s African, Black, Caribbean and Latin communities
Job Title: Entrepreneur, Community Organizer
Community was everything in Ivan Touko’s scenic, coastal home of Kribi, in Cameroon. He would often spend his childhood days playing with neighbours, working on his grandparents’ farm in Bafang during the summer, or exploring nature. So, it was only natural that building community would become an important aspect of his life when he and part of his family immigrated to Edmonton in 2012.
The biggest change — apart from the weather — was the sense of isolation Touko felt.
“There was a less communal environment,” Touko says. “Everyone is in their own apartment and I don’t really know my neighbours.
“I think a big part of why the work I do is focused on community or bringing people together is because not having that community was something that was really missing for me.”
At just 27 years old, Touko has done a lot to make the African, Black, Caribbean and Latin (ABCL) community more visible and more connected here in Edmonton. The organizations he’s cofounded — La Connexional, BOM (Black Owned Market) YEG and the UBUNTU Festival — have created inclusive spaces for those communities to gather, create and share their contributions to Edmonton, Alberta and Canada.
For Touko, these projects are more than just about finding community himself — he hopes they can create a lasting framework for future immigrants and marginalized youth.
“When I think about the work I’ve done, and that I would like to keep doing, it’s about ‘What if there’s another me that arrived in Edmonton, in Alberta? What if they are really struggling and don’t have the same drive as me to go towards other people and find community?’ It’s to create spaces for them to have easier access to that.”