Part of All recipients

Northern Lights recipient – Marion Ashton

On November 18, she was recognized for using music and the arts to help kids overcome barriers.

Portrait of Northern Lights recipient Marion Ashton

Location: Calgary, Alberta

A second mom to some. A hero to many. An inspiration to all. Marion Ashton holds a special place in the hearts of those in Calgary’s black community and beyond.

With determined purpose tempered by compassion and a heart for young people, Marion is the driving force of Sankofa YYC, a grassroots foundation dedicated to bringing music and the arts to a diverse group of the city’s black and marginalized youth. In doing so, she has inspired and encouraged the creativity of a generation of young people – opening their eyes to their own potential and helping them chart a pathway to the realization of that potential.

From raising funds to host hundreds of kids at free screening of Black Panther with pro-athletes, to organizing a six-week music summer camp for 90 economically disadvantaged youth, Marion has harnessed the power of the arts to change lives and instill a sense of pride and belonging in young people. By her efforts, Marion is helping kids overcome the many barriers placed before youth in the black community. In those times when they stumble over those barriers, Marion is often their voice, advocating on their behalf with police and the courts.

While music and the arts may be food for soul, the body needs something a little more substantial. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, food security within Calgary’s northeast communities became an even more pressing concern. With economic impact of COVID affecting all members of the community, Marion reached out to other local community organizations and quickly organized a temporary food depot, providing hampers to anyone in need. Already a superhero to many in the community, with the success of the food depot, Marion quickly became a ‘supper’ hero to those around the table of many northeast Calgary households.

By lifting up disadvantaged youth through the power of music, the arts and an unfailing spirit, Marion has melded diverse voices into inspiring harmony and in return, a chorus of thanks from a grateful community.

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