A friend first introduced me to Ryan while seeking contributors for the first Tales from the 2.9, and we’ve kept in close contact ever since while he works at building inroads for the Black Canadian community.
I knew it when I read his post last year—Ryan has some of the most pointed views out of anyone I work with for Tales.
Black power groups have popped up time and again for a reason—because there’ve always been adversaries trying to hold us down. We saw it with the slaves who knew how to read and write on plantations. The victims of the Tuskegee syphilis experiment. Those left standing in the ashes after Black Wall Street was razed to the ground in the 1920s. There’ve been all too many horrific examples of the majority stopping the Black minority from getting ahead, which is why Ryan’s tenets of Black pride hold so much value.
If you came to Tales looking for a light read and fluffy emotions, I’m sorry—this post isn’t for you. But if you’re coming with an open mind and looking for real opinions from real people tackling real issues head-on, then read on—this post’s got food for thought!
What does being Black Canadian mean to you?
To me, being a Black Canadian means acknowledging that I fight a battle where the odds are stacked against me, yet I know I do not carry the burden alone.
I carry the knowledge of my parents, who are immigrants, as well as those of my fellow Black Canadians, who also share the same challenges that I face no matter where they come from.
This shared struggle also gives me strength because I know that I have access to a wealth of unique knowledge that can help me in my personal struggle as a Black man since I can learn from others and not just myself.
Furthermore, being a Black Canadian also means that I have a unique ability to relate to the world since, like many Black Canadians, I am the first generation who has one foot in Canada and another in the lands of my parents’ birth. This gives me a unique perspective in navigating not only Canada but also in understanding the global Community around me.
As a Black Canadian, I have had to deal with racism and the constant struggle of having to navigate a society that does not always see me as an equal or capable.
However, those hardships made me stronger and helped me develop a strong sense of self-worth because I know that many Black Canadians have endured the same things and triumphed.
What’s something you’d like to see more of within the Black Canadian community?
What I would like to see more of within the Black Canadian Community is the appreciation for its own diversity. Although society sees our community as a monolith or just one group of people, we are a diverse people with diverse skills which can be utilised to help the community as a whole.
Furthermore, by truly understanding our community’s diversity, we will be able to better address the issues a lot better because some of the issues that many Black people feel are nuanced, complex plus intersectional.
Just like a powerful army is composed of different military units, so too is Canada’s Black Community with all its diverse peoples. Therefore, once the Black community can appreciate its own diversity, I feel it will become more unified in what it means to be a Black Canadian and leverage the diversity within to move the community forward and make it a force to reckon with on the local, provincial and national stages.
What do you think those outside the Black Canadian community need to better understand in order to coexist with Black Canadians in a respectful and considerate way?
Those outside Canada’s Black Community need to understand that Blacks have made great contributions to the world. We are more than how the media portrays us and more than what history has written about us.
We have been and always will be the backbone and the spine of humanity driving the world forward even when others try to keep us down. We are a strong and capable people whose contributions have made the world a better place whether it be in the artistic, scientific, political or military arena.
Furthermore, I want those outside of Canada’s Black Community to also know that we are not looking for special favours or handouts. On the contrary, many of us want to be given the chance to contribute to society and be allowed to reach our full potential without being judged in a negative light or viewed with suspicion.
If your life could teach but one thing to your fellow Black Canadians, what would it be?
If my life could teach my fellow Black Canadians one thing, it would be that you don’t have to ingratiate yourself to others in order to be accepted or to get ahead. I have learned that it is better to command respect rather than ask for it and we as Black people have to learn to do the same.
For too long, Black Canadians have tried to ingratiate ourselves to mainstream society in hopes to be accepted and viewed with respect only to find out that we are just seen as entertaining caricatures.
When we learn that we do not have to ingratiate or go along to get along, we will start to see ourselves in a positive light and start to make the changes within that will force those without to treat us with the respect that we truly deserve.
- Born in Canada to Caribbean Parents (Mother is from Barbados and Dad is from St. Kitts)
- Mother was a single parent who instilled a value in education. Completed undergrad at Western and did grad school at Texas Christian University (Purple and Proud all day every day)
- Ambitious Individual with an entrepreneurial bent. I would sometimes get paid to help do students homework in elementary school since I was not given an allowance as a kid.
- Co-founder of Revolteur Clothing – an upcoming brand, as well as co-founder of The Habari Network – an Africentric news magazine with a focus on Africa Trade policy as well as changing the narrative of how blacks are presented by the mainstream media. Also currently creating a new platform, Umaizi – an online community focused on creating a bridge for entrepreneurs and investors in Africa and the Diaspora who want to do business with one another.
- Can become prickly when it comes to playing respectability politics in terms of race relations as I believe that blacks have to strive to command respect not beg or ask for it from others.