Zanana Akande (born in 1937) is a former Canadian politician. She was the first Black woman elected to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, and the first Black woman to serve as a cabinet minister in Canada.
She holds a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Education degrees from the University of Toronto, and was also educated at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. She was a longtime member of the Federation of Women Teachers Associations of Ontario. She also co-founded Tiger Lily, a newspaper for visible minority women, and once co-hosted a Toronto Arts Against Apartheid Festival. She was a teacher and school principal before entering politics.
Zanana Akande Making History
When Zanana Akande ran for the NDP in the 1990 Ontario election, she became the first black woman to be elected to the province’s legislative assembly, winning a seat for St. Andrews-St. Patrick in Toronto’s Annex and Forest Hill riding. As a teacher and mother of two, she had until then been working behind the scenes – volunteering for the United Way, for Meals on Wheels and for the Federation of Women Teachers, as well as supporting NDP candidates. “I was getting frustrated with the fact that things weren’t changing fast enough,” she says. “Instead of criticizing, I decided it was time to get more involved. It was time to put up or shut up.”
Zanana Akande, now retired from politics but still engaged in community advocacy, credits her father for cultivating a sense of social justice and desire for change. “Both of my parents were interested in politics,” she says, “but it was really my father who encouraged us from a very young age to watch the news and consider why certain decisions were being made.”