Tales from the 2.9 — The Black Canadians Sharing their Stories in a Digital Age — Vol. 2 #1 — Dwayne Morgan, Poet, Speaker, Social Entrepreneur

It’s a new day, one and all!

With 2017’s Tales from the 2.9, we’ll build off of the successes of last year’s entries with a deeper look into what it means to be a Black Canadian and some thoughts on our culture… whatever you might perceive it to be!

I could’ve done like last year and come out swinging with a piece of my own to share my thoughts about all the issues attached to this project like I was hosting Saturday Night Live… but Tales isn’t about meTales is about the fact that you can’t easily define what Black means, and I hope to share a month’s worth of stories to show you just that.

I’ll still be here in my intros and asides, but I rather let my contributors do the talking until the end of the month, and when we get there, then we’ll have some words.

This year’s Tales kicks off with a piece from Dwayne Morgan, a poet, speaker and social entrepreneur from Toronto, ON who hits us with some poignant thoughts on being Black Canadian and how to embrace a culture that’s fragmented by its very definition.

See you tomorrow!

— case p.


Tales from the 2.9 Vol. 2 #1 — Dwayne Morgan, Poet, Speaker, Social Entrepreneur — Dwayne Morgan

What does being Black Canadian mean to you?

I always struggle with this question. There isn’t a Black Canadian identity, in the same way that it may exist in the United States. For that matter, I’m not even sure how I would describe or explain Canadian identity, so I see myself as a Black man, with all that comes with that from history, who happens to be born, and living within Canadian borders. Maybe my Canadianness is my deep connection to my Jamaican heritage and African roots.

Tales from the 2.9 — The Black Canadians Sharing their Stories in a Digital Age — #29: Samantha Kemp-Jackson, Writer, Multiple Mayhem Mamma

After everything we’ve seen through February with the Tales from the 2.9, I wanted to end on a great note with someone who’s seen a community grow from its beginning, and ’round these parts of the nation, that goes back to ’60s/’70s Toronto where the first Caribbean immigrants came in search of better lives for the generations to follow—exactly what my parents and grandparents did to give my brothers and I the lives we have today! And who better to illustrate this than Samantha Kemp-Jackson, who grew up and raised kids of her own through those decades of change?

Sam’s submission for Tales says it as it is—that Black Canadians often fail to know their own history, our stories often overshadows by the Black American narrative ever-present in our collective consciousness. That we have a lot of preconceptions to work past if we want to grow as a society. That through sharing our collective stories, we understand one another far better than we might should we continue keeping it all to our own individual circles.

Enjoy Sam’s piece to close off an excellent month, and keep your eyes peeled for a Black History Month wrap-up piece coming soon!


Tales from the 2.9 — Samantha Kemp-JacksonSamantha Kemp-Jackson is a successful parenting writer, blogger, public speaker and frequent media spokesperson. She regularly discusses the various triumphs and trials of parenting via her blog, Multiple Mayhem Mamma as well as on various media outlets including The Huffington Post, CTV Canada AM and CBC Radio. Since starting her blog in 2011, she’s become a much-sought-out media commentator and parenting expert, having appeared on and given interviews to CBC Marketplace (February 2015), Reuters, Canadian Press, CTV News, Global News, Maclean’s, Newstalk 1010,  Entertainment Tonight, The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, The National Post and many more.

For over a year, Sam was the resident Parenting Columnist on CBC Radio One’s “Fresh Air” weekend program, dispensing parenting advice and insight on a regular basis. Having children of the most diverse age range of anyone she knows, her “claim to fame” is that she’s a rare breed of folk who has the dubious distinction of having raised children in four decades: the ‘80’s, ‘90’s, ‘00’s and the ‘10’s.

Most recently, Sam’s unique story was profiled in the November 2015 edition of Toronto Life (full story here), as well as on Canada AM (clip here), where she has regularly appeared as part of the program’s “Parenting Panel.”  For a more detailed overview of her broadcast and print media interviews, please visit her media page, here.

In Sam’s professional life, she’s a strategic, senior-level communicator, writer and media relations expert with 25 years of professional experience working with both the public and private sectors. Currently, she provides senior-level Writing, Communications Strategy and Digital Support via her independent consultancy,Triple M Communications. She’s also an undercover tech geek (having worked in Technology PR for most of her communications career) and a lover of Social Media. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Google+.


1) When you think of Black History Month, what are some of the stories and images that come to mind?

Growing up in Canada, particularly in the ’70’s and ’80’s, a lot of the Black history that was taught was written from an American perspective. While the experiences of our Black neighbours south of the border were and are compelling, there were very little “homegrown” stories to which I could relate. As the first generation of children born to Jamaican parents who went through the very typical West Indies-to-the United Kingdom-to-Canada route, I would have loved to have heard more stories and experiences of other Black Caribbean Canadians like me.

At elementary school, we learned about American slavery with a slight tip of the hat to our Canadian forebearers who also suffered incredible hardship. We knew that they existed but didn’t know enough about them. I do hope that the curriculum at school has changed since then. I know all about Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad but would have liked to learn more about the men, women and children on the Canadian end who made lives for themselves in spite of their incredibly difficult circumstances.

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?

Absolutely, as I noted in the first question, our experience here is heavily influenced by the experiences of our southern neighbours. While it would be great to think that we’re insulated from many of the injustices that have resulted in the “Black Lives Matter” movement, unfortunately we’re not. In Canada, we still have systemic racism and have a ways to go before we can say that we’re completely free of discrimination and prejudicial treatment against people of colour. Perhaps we’re more polite about it and it’s definitely not as overt as in the States, but it does exist, sadly.

In terms of experiences, there are so many to choose from as is likely the case with most Black people who have grown up as minorities in their country of residence. Hmm…

I guess the preconceptions and stereotypes that people have about me before they even meet me, or when they just meet me, without even having spoken to me. And Casey – you say that “Casey Palmer” invokes visions of a blonde woman, and that people are surprised when they meet you? I completely understand, as “Samantha Kemp-Jackson” apparently doesn’t match who I am either, and I’ve had many surprised looks in the pre-Google days, when I walked into a job interview, a meeting or event. In a way, I’m now thankful that people know what they’re getting when they meet me as Googling someone before you meet them is the way things are normally done in this digital age, aren’t they?

3) In sharing your voice with the world, what impression do you hope to leave on the world with everything you do?

When I started blogging, I didn’t do so to be known as a “Black Blogger” or to blog about race-related issues. Blogging was really just a way for me to get my thoughts out on what I was experiencing during my third round of parenting (with twins, no less!). Since that time, I’ve had more digital presence and my hope is that people can read my blog and get advice, tips, insight and opinion, but also appreciate the diversity that exists in the blogosphere. We’re here and we’ve got something to say, and a range of voices is always a good thing!

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?

Am I allowed to say my parents? Because honestly, the person that I am today is because of them. Despite my mistakes, missteps and failures, they always were there for me and always taught me to be strong, be proud of who I was, and to believe that I could do anything I wanted to do. Thanks, Mom and Dad! Love you!

5) If you could say just one thing to the rest of the 2.9%, what would it be?

So glad you’re out there and I look forward to hearing more of your voices, digitally or otherwise!


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!

Tales from the 2.9 — The Black Canadians Sharing Their Stories in a Digital Age — #28: Sandra Dawes, Owner, Embrace Your Destiny

Compiling a project like Tales from the 2.9 isn’t always simple when you’re competing with various schedules, Valentine’s Day plans, and everything that you already should be doing when blogging’s not your full-time gig. That in mind, I pulled every trick out of my bag, including reaching out to a world of potential sources through Help a Reporter, which is how I got introduced to Sandra Dawes.

Sandra’s submission deals with—among other things—the problem with perception. As an educated MBA-wielding Black woman, she’s seen her share of injustice, and you can check out some of her story below!


Tales from the 2.9 — Sandra DawesSandra Dawes is a recovering control freak and excuse maker who works with clients struggling to do the same. She holds an Honours BA, an MBA as well as a certificate in Dispute Resolution. After the passing of her father and circumstances that followed, she was lead on a journey of self-awareness and forgiveness that changed her life in deep and meaningful ways. Sandra enjoys spending time with friends and family, her partner Satnam, her dog Lulu, as well as writing articles for her blog www.embraceyourdestiny.ca. She published her first book in the fall of 2013 titled: Embrace Your Destiny: 12 Steps to Living the Life You Deserve!


1) When you think of Black History Month, what are some of the stories and images that come to mind?

I think about the civil rights movement in the US. Canadian images that come to mind are influential figures such as Lincoln Alexander, Jean Augustine and other community leaders who have made a positive impact on our local communities for decades. I see them as trailblazers. They were able to achieve significant advances at a time when it was even less commonplace than it is today, especially in the political realm.

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?

My Dad was very big on making sure I knew my history. He had cassette tapes with recordings of people giving seminars on historical events, the challenges of the Black community and the importance of being proud of who you are.

I am amazed at how low the expectations are for some people when they meet a Black person. I am frequently met with surprise when asked about my level of education. There have been many job interviews where I was met with what I’ll call shock. There’s nothing on my resume that gives any hints at my ethnicity. Unfortunately, I don’t think my face is what many interviewers are expecting. I haven’t gone on a job interview for a while, so I’m hoping that’s changed!

3) In sharing your voice with the world, what impression do you hope to leave on the world with everything you do?

My intention is to be remembered for inspiring others to be the best versions of themselves that they can be. It’s what I’m striving for on a daily basis in my own life!

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?

I would have to say my Dad was my mentor. He taught me to be proud of who I am regardless of what anyone else may think or say. He encouraged me to do the best I could and take pride in everything I did. He taught me that hard work is rewarded; we just have to be patient. The greatest lesson I learned from him was that I should love what I do, not the money it may provide.

5) If you could say just one thing to the rest of the 2.9%, what would it be?

Our numbers may be small, but our power and influence are great! It’s time to collaborate in a way that benefits us all.


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!

Tales from the 2.9 — The Black Canadians Sharing their Stories in a Digital Age — #27: J. D. Amin, Founder, BramptonRises#

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!


Tales from the 2.9 — J.D. AminJ.D. Amin – Writer, Content producer, BramptonRises# founder

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 even 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!

Tales from the 2.9 — The Black Canadians Sharing their Stories in a Digital Age — #26: Rachel Lambo, Owner, Smthng New Invitation & Stationery

When you think of Black people and the various parts of the world they’re from, I’d bet you Vienna, Austria wouldn’t be high on your list! But that’s exactly where today’s guest for Tales from the 2.9 is originally from, and it’s always interesting to get a read on the Black Canadian experience from the outside in and not simply focus on all the voices who grew up in it, largely speaking a common language because it’s what we’ve always known.

Rachel’s entry touches on the difference in being Black in Austria and being Black in Canada, as well as what it is that’s built Black culture to where it is today in North America!

Check it out below!


Tales from the 2.9 — Rachel Lambo

Marketing and Creative professional with over 8 years of luxury CPG and product development experience, with a focus on branding, brand awareness and sales.

Owner and Lead Designer for Smthng New Invitation & Stationery.

LinkedIn | @rlambo & @smthng_newinvitations on Instagram


1) When you think of Black History Month, what are some of the stories and images that come to mind?

What really surprises me is the dozens of pioneers and rich history that exists within North America. The many brave and courageous men and women that gave their lives for the privileges of today.

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?

My experience has been quite interesting. I am originally from Austria, Vienna and the environment was very different, people there are much more reserved and straight-forward.

Toronto is different, I love the multiculturalism and inclusion in this city. Struggles I personally faced were my own language barrier and understanding the cultural norm.

I never heard of Black History Month until I moved to this end of the continent.

3) In sharing your voice with the world, what impression do you hope to leave on the world with everything you do?

That’s a very good question. Personally, I try to make an impact in people’s lives through my work, friendship and using my knowledge to create opportunities.

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 parents. They have a saying: “Never forget whose child you are.” It’s very important because it talks about the pride and love a parent has for you, and their expectations.

5) If you could say just one thing to the rest of the 2.9%, what would it be?

Be yourself.


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!

Tales from the 2.9 — The Black Canadians Sharing their Stories in a Digital Age — #25: Brenda Chuinkam, Blogger, Canneverbeaskinnybish

Separated from my African roots by a number of generations, it was quite the trip when I visited Tanzania in 2012, realizing just how far removed our history had set me from my ancestors. Much has been lost to the systematic destruction of the oral culture they identified by, so it’s always good to connect with those who’ve lived overseas to better understand what the Black experience is like not only in Canada, but in all the places our families hailed from before.

With a childhood in Cameroon and North America, fashion blogger Brenda Chuinkam brings her stories to Tales from the 2.9, looking at what she’s cultivated here to become successful, and what she hopes to see moving forward.

Make sure to check it out below!

Until the next,

–case p.


Tales from the 2.9 — Brenda ChuinkamMy name is Brenda Chuinkam and I am a young woman who is passionate about African prints as well as all things bold and bright in fashion! I am obsessed with Ankara and currently have a collection of wax prints under my bed 🙂 I am the creator of the fashion blog Canneverbeaskinnybish, which is a fashion and lifestyle blog, with a heavy focus on African prints and designs.


1) When you think of Black History Month, what are some of the stories and images that come to mind?

I think of the stories I heard of growing up—I was fortunate to experience childhood both in North America and Africa so I was very aware at a young age of the patriots like Martin Luther King Jr. and I also knew of the patriots who made my country, Cameroon, what it is today. A good balance of both worlds if you ask me.

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 have concluded that our sufferings here in Canada are both similar and different from our brothers and sisters in the South. Have I experienced racism while here in Canada, definitely but not on the level my folks in the South have. I personally feel as though the racism here is more disguised than in the States. I do feel like I am generally able to thrive as a young Black woman in Canada but much more can still be worked upon.

3) In sharing your voice with the world, what impression do you hope to leave on the world with everything you do?

I would love for the world to remember me as the eloquently dressed and charming woman whose story was relatable to most and was able to touch the hearts of many 🙂

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?

Currently, one of my biggest mentors is actually my boss—Kelechi Anyadiegwu, who founded the popular website for African fashion—Zuvaa. She is a tough and smart business woman who was recently featured on Forbes 30 under 30 list! I have learned a very basic principle from her: Go after your dreams ruthlessly!

5) If you could say just one thing to the rest of the 2.9%, what would it be?

Remember we feed off of each others’ success. We should never keep our success to ourselves because it should be passed on.

We never stop being mentors.


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!

Tales from the 2.9 — The Black Canadians Sharing Their Stories in a Digital Age — #24: Ryan Elcock, COO, The Habari Network

It’s funny the connections you make through something like Tales from the 2.9—before I started this project, while I thought I already stood out as a Dad Blogger in a landscape where male voices were usually reserved for sports, cars and tech, I didn’t fully appreciate the gravity of the conversations that’d happen around the collective experiences of my fellow Black Canadians, and how much we needed to keep having them. And when I put a call for submissions out on my Facebook, a mutual friend introduced me to Ryan Elcock, a man I’ve spent a wealth of time getting to know since!

Ryan, raised with a deeper understanding of Black history and culture than most Black Canadians are often exposed to, has written a submission for Tales from the 2.9 that reflects this, showing a wealth of experiences and interactions shaping him into the man he is today. Make sure to give it a good read — it’s a great addition to what’s proven quite the educational month!


  • Tales from the 2.9 — Ryan ElcockBorn 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.
  • Cofounder of Revolteur Clothing—an upcoming brand, as well as cofounder 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.

1) When you think of Black History Month, what are some of the stories and images that come to mind?

When I think of Black History Month, I think about the stories of slavery, struggles of Blacks during the civil rights movement and the contributions of great Black men and women in the past. However, the key word is the past –right up to the 60s it seems.

In addition, when I think of Black History Month I tend to think of Black History Month in terms of what went on in America and what went on Ancient Egypt because that was always what was promoted and pushed to us.

Therefore, I always seem to have an image of Black contributions to the society as a thing of a distant past and in the context of struggle. However, I believe that Black History should be seen in the context of a great people who have done great things and continues to do so to this present day.

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?

My Black experience in Canada has been interesting to say the least. Growing up I was instilled with a sense of pride in being Black. From a young age, I was sent to Black heritage school and grew up learning about the great contributions Black people have made and reading African and Caribbean stories.

That did come in handy when I was in elementary school because sometimes my teacher would defer to me during Black History Month since I was not afraid to let her know that I knew my stuff. On the flip side, I was also made aware of the struggles that Black people face and that we always had to be twice as good to get half as far.

In addition, high school was tough because, as a young Black teen, I felt like an outsider since I was the only Black kid in many of my classes. Thus, I always had a chip on my shoulder and I would also try to prove that I was just as good as anyone else and more capable because I knew I would also be held to a different standard than my peers.

However, I have come to appreciate my experiences as a Black person in Canada because I was fortunate to not just have a concept of Blackness based and rooted in slavery alone. My Black experience is a culmination of not just experiencing life not just as a Black Canadian, but that of Black man of Caribbean descent who has lived in America’s South.

That has enabled me to see successful Black people not as an outlier, but as a norm and expectation which provides me a deeper appreciation for the true capability of what Blacks can achieve.

3) In sharing your voice with the world, what impression do you hope to leave on the world with everything you do?

When I share my voice, the impression I would hope to leave on this world is that being Black is not a liability but an asset. I want to make sure that I help change the way Blacks see themselves and how other people see Black people.

I want to make sure that when I do anything, it is seen as the platinum standard of excellence thereby eliminating the poisoned mindset that Black people are not capable of doing great things and that we are bottom feeder people.

I do not want my accomplishments to be viewed as an individual success story, but rather as a cumulative effort by those who believed in me and encouraged me along the way.

I also want to make sure that whoever interacts with me feels like I bring value to them and that they are better or wiser after they have talked with me.

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?

I have been fortunate to have several mentors and teachers in my life. But there are a few people who really stand out to me along my journey called life. In high school, one of the key people who shaped me was Karl Francis. He was one year older than me and I looked up to him like a big brother.

Karl was the president of the African Caribbean Council (ACC) at Michael Power/St. Joseph Secondary School and he taught me the true meaning of leadership. I still remember one instance when he was creating several committees within the ACC and I wanted to be a leader because I thought I was a young hot-shot who should be a leader in one of his committees.

When I asked him to make me one of the leaders, he told me would make me a junior leader but not a full one because leadership was not just in title but in knowing how to interact with those higher up and know who the key decision makers were to get things done.

That has stuck with me for a long time and has shaped my mindset on the principles of leadership and power.

As an adult, one of the other key mentors was doctor by the name of Vincent Osundwa. His sons and I went to University of Western Ontario and he treated me like a son as well. He was very unassuming and quiet, yet when he spoke; it carried a lot of weight. But what stayed with me is the dignified manner in which he carried himself.

You see, he was originally from Kenya and lived in the US and the Middle East prior to settling in Canada. What stuck out to me was the way he deftly handled people no matter their background and the deference and the respect they gave him as well.

Dr. Osundwa always showed pride in his Kenyan heritage and did not try to water down who he was to fit in to Canadian culture. Yet, he found a way to balance the two with such skill that it became part of the charm of who he was.

Thus, the way he dealt with people demonstrated how a Black man could command respect without having to play respectability politics. It is from my time interacting with him, that I learned how to command the respect of others and carry myself in a dignified.

5) If you could say just one thing to the rest of the 2.9%, what would it be?

If I could say one thing to the rest of the 2.9%, it would be that as a people we must know our true power and that we should command respect do not ask for it. You see, you can only command respect when you are truly empowered. When you are empowered, you are able to change the narrative people have of you and also how they treat you.


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!

Tales from the 2.9 — The Black Canadians Sharing their Stories in a Digital Age — #23: Zetta Elliott, PhD, Writer-in-Residence, Weeksville Heritage Center

Sometimes Canadians don’t stay in Canada — we like telling ourselves that we’ve built a utopia and that our country’s one of the best places to live on Earth, but that doesn’t make it perfect — we’ve still plenty of issues lurking beneath the surface, and unfortunately, the 2.9% of Canadians who identify as Black are far too familiar with far too many of them.

Dr. Zetta Elliott—born Canadian, but currently found in Brooklyn where she’s the writer-in-residence at the Weeksville Heritage Center—didn’t leave Canada filled with warm feelings. In fact, her contribution to Tales from the 2.9 details a life where she couldn’t fully reach her potential as a Black woman without leaving Canada. But that’s exactly why I’m glad to share her piece with you today — life as a minority’s rarely a bed of roses; heck, this entire project started when I realized that there weren’t proportionally enough of us in Canada to have a single Minister represent us in the federal Cabinet!

All that said, please take some time and read today’s entry. It’s well worth the read, and that’s saying something considering some of the stellar submissions we’ve seen this month!

Catch you at the next installment!


Tales from the 2.9 — Zetta ElliottBorn in Canada, Zetta Elliott moved to the US in 1994 to pursue her PhD in American Studies at NYU. Her poetry has been published in several anthologies, and her plays have been staged in New York, Chicago, and Cleveland. Her essays have appeared in The Huffington Post, School Library Journal, and Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures. She is the author of eighteen books for young readers, including the award-winning picture book Bird. Her urban fantasy novel, Ship of Souls, was named a Booklist Top Ten Sci-fi/Fantasy Title for Youth and was a finalist for the Phillis Wheatley Book Award. Her own imprint, Rosetta Press, generates culturally relevant stories that center children who have been marginalized, misrepresented, and/or rendered invisible in traditional children’s literature. Elliott is an advocate for greater diversity and equity in publishing, and currently serves as writer-in-residence at Weeksville Heritage Center. She lives in Brooklyn.

Website | Twitter | Facebook

 


1) When you think of Black History Month, what are some of the stories and images that come to mind?

When I was growing up in Canada in the ’70s and ’80s, there was no Black History Month. As an expat who has lived in the US for over 20 years, I don’t have many positive memories of Canada when it comes to the development of my Black identity. My family happens to have African American roots, which I’m researching right now (with funds from the Canada Arts Council). I understand why my enslaved ancestors might have seen Canada as their best option in 1820, but I also understand why—once they got here—some of them chose to cross the color line and leave their Blackness behind. I was a Black Studies professor for almost a decade but that wouldn’t have happened if I had stayed in Canada (where I never had a Black educator until my last year of university). I’m the author of nearly 20 books for young readers that blend Black history with magic—that also wouldn’t have happened if I had stayed in Canada. I often draw inspiration from Dionne Brand’s book A Map to the Door of No Return; in it she writes that people of African descent have had to develop a “mastery of way-finding.” So I guess when I think about Canada and Black History, I think of all the ways we’ve found to survive and make our stories known—even if that means re-crossing the border.

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 wrote about my life in Canada in my memoir, Stranger in the Family. And that title pretty much sums up my experience as a Black woman in a country that I found to be hostile and/or indifferent to Blacks. My father was an Afro-Caribbean immigrant who arrived in Toronto at 15 but attended high school and college in the US. He used to say, “I can’t get anything started in Canada,” and he ultimately returned to the US in 1990. That opened the door for me to move to the US, too, and I left Canada because all I could see were closed doors. Everything seemed so much harder in “the Great White North,” and racial advances in the US take 10-20 years to take hold in Canada. I found it hard to build community in Toronto and yet felt immediately embraced by the Black community in the US. There’s not much I miss about my early life in Canada—besides Shreddies and butter tarts!

3) In sharing your voice with the world, what impression do you hope to leave on the world with everything you do?

I hope my example—as a Black feminist writer and educator—lets young people know what’s possible for them, too. I never read any Black Canadian authors as a child and never met an author until I started graduate school at NYU. I hope my books let kids know that magic can happen to anyone, anywhere. I’m still trying to decolonize my imagination after consuming so much imperialist British literature in Canada, and I hope young people—by having “mirror books”—won’t have to spend as much time decolonizing their minds, too.

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 father really struggled with his Black identity because he grew up in poverty in the Caribbean, and was raised by a religious grandmother who told him to pinch his nose so he look more like “the buckra.” He married a woman who identified as white and felt that would ensure that his children would have every advantage as light-skinned Blacks. But then he had a “Black Power” moment, separated from my mother, and became an activist within the Department of Education in Toronto. He ran a summer camp where we watched Roots and learned about ancient African civilizations. But then his radical moment ended, and he married a Caribbean woman who convinced him he needed to perm his “hard” hair. She got me perming my hair, too, and I only stopped when I moved to Brooklyn and met a group of Black women artists/activists who wore their hair natural. So I’d say I learned from my father that the struggle to love yourself requires you to dig up the roots of self-loathing. And that sometimes means distancing yourself from those who love you but can’t or won’t decolonize their minds. My maternal grandmother looked white but identified as “colored,” and her refusal to “pass” for white like her relatives truly inspired me as a young woman. Sometimes being true to yourself means being alone…   

5) If you could say just one thing to the rest of the 2.9%, what would it be?

Speak up for your children! Find out what they’re learning in school, see what’s available at the public library, and advocate for materials that reflect the histories and cultures of the African diaspora ALL YEAR ROUND. If there aren’t any books that provide a mirror for your child, you might need to make that book yourself. I write the books I wish I’d had as a child. Make sure your child has material that empowers her/him and makes her/him feel valued and loved.


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!

Tales from the 2.9 — The Black Canadians Sharing their Stories in a Digital Age — #22: Mike Armstrong, Blogger, Daddy Realness

Pretty sure I haven’t stepped foot in Hamilton since dating someone there, but Justin’s told me about its booming blogger scene, including — for example — parent bloggers I’ve yet to meet in the flesh!

Mike Armstrong is one of those Dad bloggers out in Steel Town sharing about his journey, and as his moniker implies, he’s always looking to keep it as real as possible when sharing. His submission for Tales from the 2.9 echoes what many of us are trying to do — just live the best lives we can with the resources afforded to us.

You can check his thoughts out below!


Tales from the 2.9 — Mike ArmstrongMike Armstrong is a husband and father of two kids. Born and raised in Hamilton, his day job involves working in industrial distribution. In his spare time, he writes about his parenting experiences on his website, Daddy Realness. It’s him blogging about the adventures and misadventures of fatherhood (mainly the misadventures).

Website | Twitter | Facebook


1) When you think of Black History Month, what are some of the stories and images that come to mind?

I think of the more well known stories and people.  It also makes me think of of how much history that I don’t know. For example, I remember, years ago, reading about how a new school in Hamilton was going be called Ray Lewis Elementary School. I didn’t get why they were naming a school after the Baltimore Raven’s linebacker. I then found out that it was named after a different Ray Lewis. I felt so foolish. I knew about the important Black American Olympians, but not the Canadian ones. Anyway, this month really does make me realize that it is on me to learn and appreciate our history more.

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?

For the most part, my experience in Canada has been positive. There have been incidents and moments along the way, but, overall, the vibe up here is different than in the US. Count me in the category as one of the people who’s never been considered “Black enough”, too. I’ve lost track of the number of times that I’ve been called White Mike. I mean, yeah, I’m aware of what the old stereotypes and perceptions of what a Black male is supposed to look and sound like. And yeah, I could easily act and talk that way, too…but what’s the point? In a country as diverse and tolerant (mostly) as this one, I’ve learned that I can get by just fine by being myself.

3) In sharing your voice with the world, what impression do you hope to leave on the world with everything you do?

I may not be the best at anything, and I make a lot of mistakes, but I try. In everything that I do, there’s always an honest effort. So much good has happened in my life just from being open-minded, and working hard. I don’t know how much of an impression this mentality has made on the rest of the world, but it’s worked for me, so far. If I can at least instill it in my kids, then that’s a win.

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?

Definitely my Mom.  Her life experiences have given her a more jaded perspective. I don’t share her same viewpoint, but she has opened my eyes to a lot of cultural and racial issues. From that, her oft-repeated quote to me back in the day was “work hard, go to school, and get an education.” Pretty simple advice that I took to heart.

5) If you could say just one thing to the rest of the 2.9%, what would it be?

Whatever you think your expectations are, defy them. Like that Big Sean song says, one man can change the world.


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!

Tales from the 2.9 — The Black Canadians Sharing their Stories in a Digital Age — #21: Bridget “Bee” Quammie, Digital Content Creator

After all this time invested in blogging and building my brand, I sometimes foolishly (arrogantly?) think that I’ve met everybody in the Toronto-area blogosphere who I’d vibe with, and I’m very glad that I’m still continually proven wrong today — Bee Quammie is the business.

As a fellow ’83 baby — and more recently as one of the few parent bloggers of colour in our nation — Bee’s stayed true to her brand ever since her first post way back in August 2011 (yes, I looked), and stands for much of what I’m trying to accomplish as a Black father and content creator in Toronto!

Bee’s submission for Tales from the 2.9 is a good one — it looks at what it’s like coming from a place that sees you as the enemy, what our responsibilities are in shaping a better world for the generation to come, and ultimately, a lesson we all need to remember to keep moving forward!

Check it out below!


Tales from the 2.9 — Bridget Bee Quammie
Photo courtesy of Samantha Clarke Photography

Bridget “Bee” Quammie is a healthcare professional, award-winning digital media content creator, and speaker.

Bee manages two personal blogs – ‘83 To Infinity and The Brown Suga Mama – and writes for publications like Chatelaine, Metro News, Parents Canada, For Harriet, and The Huffington Post Canada. Bee has been recognized by Black Enterprise and the Black Canadians Awards, and has held speaking engagements and television features across North America.

Websites: www.83toinfinity.com | www.thebrownsugamama.com | https://beequammie.contently.com/

Twitter: @beequammie | Instagram: @beequammie


1) When you think of Black History Month, what are some of the stories and images that come to mind?

The first image that comes to mind is me, back in elementary school – the only Black girl in the class, who was always tasked with speaking on BHM and doing the jobs of teachers who had no clue where to start. I think of historic Black American figures like Malcolm X, Shirley Chisholm, and Black Wall Street, etc. – but I always remember that Black history is global. Now I make an effort to also seek out stories of Black history within Canada and across the diaspora.

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 grew up in London, Ontario – a place and time where it was par for the course to have bananas thrown at my family and I from apartment building balconies and have the N-word hurled at us in both loud and hushed voices. Moving to Toronto opened me up to connections with a more diverse community, but anti-Blackness lives here too. As a first-generation Canadian, there’s a bit of internal reconciliation work I do constantly to figure out what it means to be Canadian when the family and culture I was raised within are from elsewhere.

When we think about the experience of being a Black person in Canada, it’s crucial to remember that this is a huge country with places that are the complete opposite of Toronto. I’m so happy to be here and have opportunities to connect with my culture in ways I didn’t have outside of the city, thus I often think about how others across the country view their own Black Canadian experience.

3) In sharing your voice with the world, what impression do you hope to leave on the world with everything you do?

My motivations are twofold. There have been so many times where I felt like my voice was drowned out, invalidated, or ignored. Having my own platform via the work I do helps me to speak up and out authentically, so I hope that it encourages others – particularly those whose voices are marginalized – to do the same in their own way, and remind people that they aren’t alone in various life experiences. Secondly, I do the work I do to hopefully make my daughter’s navigation through life a bit smoother than mine. I’m having conversations now that I hope she doesn’t have to repeat in the future.

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 parents have been my immediate mentors – the good and bad of their life experiences give me a lot to learn from. As far as a cultural mentor, I’d say Bob Marley has been a huge figure for me. His music and thoughts on everything from Jamaican culture to politics to spirituality to Black empowerment to global equality always give me something to think about, learn more about, or embrace with my own understanding. He consistently makes me consider what my definitions of success and legacy are.

5) If you could say just one thing to the rest of the 2.9%, what would it be?

Let’s find ways to connect with each other. The experiences of Black people in this country are extremely multifaceted, but we have threads that link us to each other. There’s so much we can learn from each other and so many commonalities that can strengthen our various communities, so I believe it’s important to find ways to navigate these connections.


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!