Job title: Editor in Chief, Afros In Tha City
Why she’s a 2022 Top 40 Under 40: By helping Black Calgarians share their stories, Tomi Ajele has built a nationally recognized media brand.
Tomi Ajele grew up in what she describes as “very white spaces,” where she struggled to express experiences her peers didn’t share. As she grew into adolescence, she became more confident naming her experience and being her authentic self. Still, she wanted to find more connection with other Black Calgarians.
In 2020, Ajele became active with Afros In Tha City (AITC), a community group known for DJ events, workshops and talks. On AITC’s Discord server, Ajele and a group of fellow soon-to-be editors created a media arm for the group that focused on telling personal stories in vivid detail. “The value of personal stories is that they offer something that I think is rarely offered in stories that feature marginalized folks, and that is nuance,” Ajele says.
Since AITC has a horizontal organizational structure, Ajele is quick to acknowledge the project as a team effort, but it was clear from the outset that she was fulfilling the role of editor in chief. Ajele managed the Black Futures collaboration with local media organization The Sprawl and has fielded requests from Global TV and HGTV Canada about interviewing Black leads for new programming. During her tenure, AITC has grown its audience and paying membership, and has participated in revenue-growth programs with Indiegraf, resulting in a $9,000 mix of grants and donations, and a $5,000 grant from the Canadian Association of Black Journalists.
Ajele is also an in-demand speaker and, outside of her work with AITC, she has a full-time job with Apathy is Boring, a charitable organization that encourages democratic participation by youth in Canada. In all these things, she brings her authentic self and a passion for a better world. “Being able to live in alignment with your beliefs and your values and your convictions — that, to me, is success,” she says.
“Grace, Jenny and Danny; my family, with a special shout-out to my parents, Moji and Dele; my friends, for the absurd amount of support and hype they bring to my life. Dooshima, for creating the beautiful community that is Afros In Tha City and empowering me to lead it; and Ado, Aurora, oualie, Jaysi and Chris for building Afros In Tha City Media.”