Last Updated: November 22, 2020
I’ll admit—being born in Mississauga but spending much of my life in downtown Toronto where I worked, dated and went to school, I’ve likely thought The Big Smoke the centre of the universe at least once. With much of our country’s 2.9% Black population living in the 8.5% of the 6ix that identifies the same, one can ignorantly forget at times that there are Black people everywhere — not just in Drake’s hometown.
But today’s contributor isn’t about to let that slide. Though Brampton is but a stone’s throw from the T-Dot, Torontonians write it off far too quickly, lumping it together with the rest of the suburbs in the surrounding area, failing to give it the recognition it deserves for everything it offers!
Amongst a number of initiatives designed to strengthen and empower Black people in the General Toronto area, J.D. Amin’s the founder of #BramptonRises, which connects, informs and inspires the new leaders of his city, and though we’ve yet to formally cross paths, I’d imagine he’d take none too kindly to those who dismiss Brampton without a second thought! His submission for Tales from the 2.9 helps illustrate that while Black History Month is a step in the right direction, we’ve still numerous issues to overcome if we ever want to see a Black community that’s treated just like everyone else.
But I’ll let the man speak for himself. Enjoy J.D.’s thoughts below!
J.D. Amin is the founder of BramptonRises#, which created the intellectual property #BramptonRises. The platform was founded in 2012 to engage, connect, and inspire the new leaders of Brampton. The organization had had different phases and will be going in a new direction for 2016 and beyond. Rest assured, we will never change. Follow us on Twitter! #BramptonRises above and beyond. Don’t believe us, just watch.
J.D. Amin is also a founding member of the Pages on Fire writers collective. An anti-oppression writers group that host events and facilitate writers workshops all across the GTA. Past events include the highly reviewed “Black Futures” series, which encouraged participants to envision a better future, which we hoped would be the first steps to achieve it. Follow us on Twitter @PagesOnFire or on facebook.com/PagesOnFire.
J.D. Amin also writes for 4CornersBrampton.com. 4C is a website designed to connect the Brampton community. We present an exciting and engaging way to experience the food, culture, art and life of Brampton. With a team dedicated to providing the best of Brampton, we present stories that get you excited about our community.
1) When you think of Black History Month, what are some of the stories and images that come to mind?
Black history month reminds me of the unfortunate reality that in our modern Western society black history begins with slavery or colonialism. The entire month makes slavery seem like the “big bang” of Black existence. “Black history” before slavery is rarely if ever acknowledged.
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?
Canada has been great for me and my family. I am confident I haven’t felt the intensity of institutionalized racism that is seemingly the “American way”.
However, there are unique challenges one faces being black in multicultural Canada. For one there is still basic level—and frankly stupid, racist tendencies or prejudices in people, of all colours. We are inundated with so many messages and images of black negativity it subtly shifts our perceptions of each other. Sometimes, even your fellow “black person” will look at you sideways in certain situations. One has to be constantly aware of those biases and tendencies and subsequently watch for their own reaction. Or else stupid situations will tend to escalate quickly, or 0 to 100 real quick! As intoned in some circles…
Secondly, the concept of multiculturalism has created a false sense of smug self-satisfaction amongst Canadians when we really want to speak about race issues. Even though we are multicultural in regional demographics, due to media and old-time misconceptions we still see the world in the dichotomy of black and white. Everyone in between uses that to create their cultural context.
The fact that we as a group have to be called by a colour, and the dominant society is the opposite colour, is a doomed proposal from the start. Only an alien invasion or robot uprising can change it…
3) In sharing your voice with the world, what impression do you hope to leave on the world with everything you do?
You have to think differently. It may sound like a marketing slogan, but it’s real life! Once you think differently enough, new ideas and solutions present themselves. Just do it, anyone can…
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?
This one is easy. My parents. They taught the value of hard work and being a straight-up good person. Our “operating systems” aren’t exactly compatible, but we DEFINITELY agree on that uncompromising principle.
5) If you could say just one thing to the rest of the 2.9%, what would it be?
Don’t get caught up in the hype of negativity. A positive life is a magical life. Oh, and watch out for Brampton, I heard the city rises….
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!