Ricky Sookram: Reflecting on “Star Bhai”, Future Goals, and Empowering the Indo-Caribbean Community
Written by Rebecca Dass
Sunday April 2, 2023
“I want people within our own community, the Indo-Caribbean community, to know that they are capable of anything.”
Born to parents from Trinidad and Indian origin, Ricky Sookram, 43, is a Manager of Learning at Toronto Community Housing. He declares himself a lifelong learner, earning a college diploma in Business Administration specializing in financial planning, in addition to possessing certificates in adult learning and agile project management.
“I’m at a stage in my life where I want to give back,” he says. “I’ve been raised by a good family, I’ve always had their support. My family has passed on a lot of wisdom to me during the course of my life, and as I get older, I wish to do the same by serving our community as well as our greater society.”
“I joined ICCA, because I wanted to give back to our community,” he says. “I love our culture, our diversity, and our zest for life. I want people within our own community, the Indo-Caribbean community, to know that they are capable of anything. The only limitations we face are the limitations of our own minds. We have a rich culture, and I want to make sure that the younger generations appreciate and take pride in their ancestry and heritage.”
Ricky joined the Indo-Caribbean Canadian Association (ICCA) over the summer of 2022, and is currently the Vice-Chair. One of his biggest responsibilities is working with the team to promote and deliver Star Bhai, a fellowship program by ICCA for individuals from the Indo-Caribbean community in Canada, who identify as male, between the ages of 12-21.
The team behind Star Bhai currently meets once a week to discuss and plan workshops and event ideas. “We make sure that we have impactful workshops and events that range from socializing to cultural events. Past events have included cooking classes, lessons on culture, going out to get a bite to eat, playing games, and exploring Toronto. We’re discussing workshop and event ideas for the next 2-3 months. We keep our end audience top of mind.” He stresses the importance of making sure that the events are worthwhile for the participants, saying “It’s one thing for us to think the events are going to land, we also want to validate that the events will land.”
“I believe the youth are our future,” he says. “This is my personal belief, and it’s not to take away from anybody older, it’s a young person’s world. The world is changing so much. [We’re] just doing our part to prepare the younger generation for even greater success than we have attained. My wish for everyone in Star Bhai to possess the mindset, tools, and courage to pursue their dreams.”
“We have such a cool group of people,” he says, talking about the team at ICCA. “It’s cool to see the younger generation involved with ICCA. Unlike so many of the young volunteers in ICCA, when I was in my twenties, I was reading and seeking knowledge, to try to make sense of the world. I was not thinking about volunteering or giving back. I’m blown away by the diversity of thinking in ICCA and honored to be part of this phenomenal group.”
“The highlights that stand out for me are, hearing about the impact the Star Bhai program has on its participants. Second, was attending the boat cruise in the summer of 2022. I was brand new, and I met quite a few members of the team. It was nice to see the team celebrating their hard work and successes while partying to soca and chutney music.”
“I really want our community to know two things: first, we come from a rich cultural background, and we have persevered after being displaced through colonization. I like to say we have made lemonade out of lemons. The Caribbean is a fusion of many races and cultures, what has evolved from this and still evolves, is beautiful, and has impacted the cultural landscape of Toronto.”
“And then second, I want people to know that you can do anything you want in this world. Literally, anything. Our job is to uplift, motivate, and see our people come together for positive causes. I love ICCA, because ICCA does just this. We’re one of many platforms that bring our community together.”
In his free time, Ricky is an avid reader, and loves listening to podcasts on history and current events. Apart from work and volunteering, you can find Ricky listening to music, practicing his long overdue dj-ing skills (it’s been 15 years in the making), enjoying a dish of curry duck, and spending quality time with his friends and family. “I make sure that when I’m with them, I’m with them. Whether it’s 5 minutes, whether it’s an hour, a day or a weekend. My goal is to put away all the distractions. It’s quality over quantity.”
“My big goal is to create a Caribbean Cultural Centre in the city of Toronto, that really celebrates the Caribbean,” he says, talking about his hopes for the future. “This will be a place where we celebrate Caribbean culture, our people, our mindset, our food, our music, and our art. The story of the Caribbean is our story. It will be a place where people can come to learn, share, and understand our story, and celebrate the power that we collectively possess. My hope is that I’m alive to see it, but at least we can start to lay the foundations so that someone can see it.”
“A lot of times in life we focus on differences. What I think needs to be done in the world today, is to celebrate similarities. It’s going to sound so corny and cliché, but love everybody. This is what the world needs, more love. That’s why I joined ICCA. We need to spread love, look at someone and think ‘this is my brother, this is my sister.’ To do right to someone is to do right to yourself, to do wrong to someone is to do wrong to yourself. That’s where I try to live right now.”
About the Author
Rebecca is a Toronto-based writer and digital marketer, currently working in book publishing. With a BA in Sociology and a minor in Caribbean Studies, she joined the Indo-Caribbean Canadian Association to continue her interest in researching and writing content about Indo-Caribbean history and culture.