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!
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!