“It was one of the longest conversations I ever had with someone I didn’t know,” says Charlene Williams, broker at Real Estate Homeward in Toronto, referring to the first time she spoke with Sheena Thompson.
A broker with Keller Williams Legacies Realty, Thompson was “such a gentle, understanding person” that Williams says she felt drawn to her immediately from that first phone call.
Among the topics they discussed was the association for Black Realtors that Thompson was in the process of creating.
Due to the pandemic, the two women only met in person on three occasions but it stayed with Williams. “She had such an impact on me that I wanted to pursue a friendship with her and be involved with the Black Realtors Association.”
Sadly, that relationship did not have an opportunity to blossom. It was cut short this summer when Thompson died after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia. She was 37-years-old.
Thompson became a Realtor in 2014 and joined Royal LePage Your Community Realty in Toronto as a salesperson before getting her brokers license and moving to Keller Williams Legacies.
The board members of the Black Realtors Association of Canada found out about her illness in March and on August 25 she was gone.
“People said, to offer me comfort, that Sheena was too good for this earth. She was an angel,” says Williams.
A lover of “townhomes, exotic foods and red wine” according to her Instagram account, Thompson received a Community Service Award in 2021 from the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board in recognition of outstanding commitment and tireless dedication to serving others and the community. She was also honoured with a Bronze Award from Keller Williams and the Cultural Icon Award from KW Legacies.
On her website, Thompson wrote that one of her big accomplishments was her involvement with the Ontario Real Estate Association’s Presidential Advisory Group on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, “helping to inform research and promote policies that aim to solve the home ownership disparity in Ontario.”
“She was great, and offered lots of good input and feedback,” says Davelle Morrison, broker with Bosley Real Estate in Toronto, who had invited Thompson to join.
The group’s report is set to be released this month and will be dedicated to Thompson.
In the meantime, the Black Realtors Association of Canada will continue its work. As its founder, Thompson had set up a dedicated Facebook page and invited Black Realtors to join. Three hundred Realtors across the country signed up.
A board was chosen in January and the group was incorporated the following month.
The other project was a directory of Black Realtors, which currently has 200 names. “We’re just pushing it out now,” says Williams. “We have a lot of organizing to do.”
A few different issues prompted the creation of the association. “We noticed we weren’t getting the kinds of opportunities as others,” says Williams. As well, many Realtors encountered difficulties finding rental accommodation for Black tenants, even when their credit rating was good.
“It’s not about just us being Black Realtors, it’s about education of the discrimination out there,” says Williams. “Sheena was big on education about that,” she adds. “We need courses about diversity and inclusion and that is part of our mandate.”
Meantime, tributes have poured in for Thompson from her many friends and colleagues. In a statement, OREA praised her for “giving back to her profession and community.”
Judging by the inspirational quotes and encouraging words Thompson often posted on her various online profiles, she seemed to brim with optimism. A few quotes she posted this spring:
“Do something today that your future self will thank you for,” and “You are capable of doing everything you put your mind to.”
Sheena Thompson embodied those very ideas and beliefs.
Diane Slawych is a contributing writer for REM.