Having lived in the Toronto area my whole life, I’ve had the benefit of a highly multicultural Canada.
Half of Toronto’s made up of visible minorities, with 8.5% of that pie being Black. It’s quite possibly the best place in the world to raise my mixed-race family, in a city known for its diversity and acceptance. There’s something for everyone in The Big Smoke, and I don’t see my family living anywhere else!
But what about the rest of Canada?
Toronto’s but a 7.7% sliver of Canada’s population at 2.8 million strong, yet the 220,000 Black people who call it home make up more than 23% of the country’s total Black population! In fact, 80% of our country’s Black people live in a mere 0.1% of the country’s landmass, which makes you wonder what life is like for the 20% in the rest of the country.
Hailing from Plaster Rock, New Brunswick, Alicia Bell’s view is one of optimism, seeing how far she’s come and filled with hope for her years ahead. Check out what she has to say below!
Being Black Canadian means that I’ve never had to worry about the colour of my skin or who my friends are. I’m proud to live in an amazing country that accepts everyone regardless and I feel blessed to be Black Canadian.
What’s your experience been like as a Black Canadian and how has it shaped who you are today?
Being Black Canadian has shaped who I am today because I grew up in an area of New Brunswick that was predominantly all white. Even though I was different I was proud to be different and happy to educate people on my background. Being diverse and Black in Canada opens me up to influence so many people with my passion for helping others reach their health and fitness goals.
Alicia and I first crossed paths on a TELUS campaign for the Samsung Galaxy S6, her life as a dedicated fitness model and personal trainer contrasting pretty heavily with the role of the new Dad in dire need of sleep I was clearly playing. But differences be damned, she clearly knows what she’s doing, with a growing audience in the tens of thousands across the Internet with her training club Train it Right, so I’m glad I could grab her long enough to join the project!
Make sure to check out her submission for Tales from the 2.9 below as she discusses race relations, sport, and what it’s like being Black in a rural community!
Alicia Bell is a Toronto based Kinesiologist, Personal Trainer, Strength Coach, Published Fitness Model, Fitness Competitor and Track and Field Sprint Coach who has devoted her life to helping people reach their goals in fitness and sport. Alicia has modelled in and wrote content for numerous publications. In 2015 Alicia starred in two commercials featuring herself. She is also a nationally recognized track and field coach who previously has coached team Canada at the Maccabi games in Israel in July of 2013. She led the team to 13 medals. She now coaches for Ryerson University and her own Club: Train It Right. Alicia has over 10 years of practical and educational experience. Alicia also runs her Train It Right her own Personal Training business and Track and Field Club. Alicia is also a Corus Entertainment Wdish Creator and is currently enrolled in the Canadian Sports Institute taking her advanced coaching diploma. Alicia has experience working with many types of clientele. She has worked as a Kinesiologist and an Exercise Rehabilitation Specialist. She is also experienced at weight loss, strength training, toning and athletic conditioning. She has worked with clients such as Dwight Howard (NBA), Rashad McCants (Former NBA), Geoff Harris (Olympic 800m runner), Lil Jon (Rapper/DJ), Karla Moy aka HustleGrl, Hill Harper (actor, author) and even the mother of the Toronto rapper Drake. Recently Alicia has been sponsored by Crossfuel and is Puma Canada’s first signed training ambassador.
1) When you think of Black History Month, what are some of the stories and images that come to mind?
Obviously track and field is a sport that is very close to my heart. So I immediately think of John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. It stood for so much! And still does.
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?
I come from a very rural small New Brunswick town called Plaster Rock. Where I was actually the only Black person for miles. For the most part the people I was close to saw me as the same. However I was always called names that I know to this day they didn’t understand the history or how discriminatory those names were. I know they don’t completely understand how bad it is to use those terms and names. I will call it ignorance or lack of education. Since there aren’t many people of colour there I don’t think they fully understand. I think people in rural areas of Canada need to be taught more about Black history and the impact of negativity that ignorance can have.
3) In sharing your voice with the world, what impression do you hope to leave on the world with everything you do?
That despite being Black and from a small New Brunswick town that I went for my dreams and haven’t stopped trying to reach them. No matter what your circumstances are there are no limitations and I hope that people who have followed me/are following me see how hard that I have worked to get to where I am now.
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?
My biggest mentor from a cultural standpoint used to be one of Canada’s top sprinters. He went to my University, Dalhousie. He helped me embrace who I was and learn the history. Up until then I was sheltered in my small town and very unaware. Heck, I didn’t even know about Biggie or 2Pac until him!
5) If you could say just one thing to the rest of the 2.9%, what would it be?
Surround yourself with influential, positive and hard-working people. They will help guide you in the right path.
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!
Tell your wife, tell your kids, tell your husbands:
We’re really good at making life unnecessarily complicated.
Once upon a time, I’d carry the weight of the world on my shoulders. Not even metaphorically, though — if you want to know how notorious I’ve been for carrying everything but the kitchen sink on my back, here’s a diagram!
I never made things easy on myself — need to take some sweet baby photos? Bust out the SLR, charge the flash, adjust the diffuser and capture that perfect moment. Despite the world obviously moving toward single devices that do all the things, for some reason I felt it necessary to carry a phone, a tablet, my laptop and my drawing tablet with me wherever I went… but for what? In case I needed to hack a mainframe with a friend on the phone while reading an ebook for instructions, drawing schematics and playing a ridiculously amazing soundtrack? Seriously?
The more I clung to my old and outdated ways, the more I realized all my time was going into things that I could do way faster with a device that’d just handle everything for me. As a father, husband, blogger, and a very busy Team Lead in my 9-5 life, I — quite literally — need every second I can get… and the Samsung Galaxy S6 was the perfect device for making my life easier!