Kevin’s one of the few people in my digital life who knew me well before my journey into a full-fledged blogger ever really began. Introduced through mutual friends, he’s actually one of the people who got me to go to my first tweetup in 2010, and I haven’t looked back since!
Kevin’s been a staple of Toronto’s digital scene in some form or another for years, heavily involved in Twitter in its 2011-2013 heyday; active in the developer community with a bevy of meetups and hackathons; and even going as far as co-founding #devTO, a developer group looking to advance the profession across the Toronto area.
Kevin’s Tales from the 2.9 submission focuses on the fact that we can’t so easily segregate the history of Black Canadians from that of Black people worldwide — and we’d do well to remember our roots!
I hope you enjoy his thoughts below!
Kevin Kelly is a Developer, with experiences from banking, advertising, and even the government. When he’s not creating pixel perfect work, Kevin runs a local tech meetup group, #devto, and has participated in Humber Program Advisory Committee for Interactive Media.
1) When you think of Black History Month, what are some of the stories and images that come to mind?
At first, it was the usual. Slavery this, some of our North American achievements that, which were the very things that the scholastic system brought us to at the time. Yet, as an adult, I’ve realized that there was more to look into: Africa. The other aspects of what we are and those who came before us. The achievements that pushed society forward moretimes than the issues that indirectly hold us back because of a collective mindset that has been quietly resurrected. The inventors that gave the west many things we take for granted and no one knows about them unless we do dig for ourselves. As for Africa itself: someday I would like to experience the birthplace of those first hand. I’ve seen what my parents called their home, last year, in the West Indies. As beautiful as the islands are, I’m glad they settled with Canada.
2) The Black Experience we’re largely exposed to in the media is that of our southern neighbours and the struggles they’ve faced. What’s your experience been as a Black person in Canada, and what have you learned from it?
This part of Canada has its fair share racial issues and nearly all of us “Black” have in that respect. I agree that what’s being done there is definitely against us in North America. We still have a ways to go i.e. carding is something that’s being addressed. I’ve seen some of those things first hand. From being asked if my family was lost when all we wanted were tennis lessons to pretty much being asked by police officers to check out my sketchbook on my way to animation class. But Ontario redeemed Canada, I think. The melting pot. My parents are still here. That enough is proof to trust this country.
3) In sharing your voice with the world, what impression do you hope to leave on the world with everything you do?
It’s funny. These days, I still don’t think I’m ready to be a mentor and cultivating as of yet. Funny thing, though. If you become a bit a community leader, people kind of see that as a mentor. In fact, a couple of years back at a collaborative holiday tech event, someone approached me and said he was proud that my tech group was great not just because it was positive, but there was a Black guy behind it. I nearly teared up. I never saw that kid again, but it resonated — being the exception in a world that usually sees us as athletes and musicians. There’s change, but how much? Anyone can do that. Change things. Their perspective, too. I’m living proof of that and hopefully, I can be that change. I chosen a path I believe in, not because of what a majority of my peers are doing. So can they.
4) We all benefit from good mentors who guide us along the way to make sure we reach our potential in life. Who was your mentor to teach you from a cultural standpoint, and what’s the greatest lesson you learned from them?
Too many. My Mom, really. Good advice knows about the game to a point. Must be the Black Canadian West Indian parents’ phrase “work harder than the rest just to compete.” There were others. Some being from Humber, who have been more than supportive. Not really cultural on their end, but great all the same. Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Gang Starr, KRS One, and several others as different kinds of mentors. For those, it’s mostly about the lessons that our school system has failed to teach us about African history and heritage. Their insight on the here and now for black people.
5) If you could say just one thing to the rest of the 2.9%, what would it be?
You’ve got one life to live. Never stop evolving. Especially on your own terms. You define you. Also, take time to reinvest into your roots for the future’s sake.
Tales from the 2.9 is an ongoing series on CaseyPalmer.com showcasing Black Canadian content creators and the experiences they’ve had growing up Black in Canada!