Tales from the 2.9 — The Black Canadians Sharing their Stories in a Digital Age — Vol. 2 #9, Paul Okoye, Founder, MeBookz

Paul Okoye, the ninth contributor to 2017’s Tales from the 2.9, speaks often about something that’s the cornerstone of why I do the things I do—


Before we had our boys, I feel my views were very different.

Maybe most noticeable in 2011-2013 where Twitter became a huge part of my life, I never worried about the story my content would tell decades down the road—the focus was always on what it would do for me right now, letting short-term thinking cloud what was possible if I was willing to put in the work.

Years later, I think my sons changed me for the better. I now have a brand I’d love to grow with them, always thinking about what things could look like a year from now. 5 years from now. 10. It’s no longer about simply retelling the facts—I want the work I put out to mean something, and it’s all because I care more about what I leave behind for someone else than I do about myself.

Paul’s answers echo much of this, so much so that it’s his driving force.

The founder of MeBookz, personalised children’s books that do a better job than any of having a character designed to look like your child, he’s using his skills, time and resources to change the world in his own way.

And if not the world, then at the very least the lives of every person he gets to meet in this life.

Check out more of Paul’s story below!

Until tomorrow,

–case p.

What does being Black Canadian mean to you?

It means waking up every morning, with a clear understanding that as much as I am a representative of Canada, I’m also an ambassador for the black race. I have increasingly accepted the idea that our fate, as a race, is collectively tied. Being black means accepting that whether I like it or not, the actions of others have created stereotypes of the black race; stereotypes that I’ll have to either live up to or disprove. A realisation that even before people meet me, they’ve created a profile for me, one that aligns with their idea of who a “Black man” is.

Yes, it is tiring. But I also see it as a huge opportunity. That my life, however simple, will add to our collective stereotypes. That the way I choose to live my life today will influence others’ stereotypes of the black race… the same stereotypes that my kids will one day inherit. This drives me.

Tales from the 2.9 — The Black Canadians Sharing their Stories in a Digital Age — Vol. 2 #8, Makini Smith, Entrepreneur, Speaker, Mentor and Author of the “A Walk in My Stilettos” Series

If you heard any of the interviews I did for Tales from the 2.9, you’ll know there’s one word that comes to mind when I think of my fellow Black Canadians—


It’s rare that anything worthwhile happens overnight. In an age where overnight successes come and go daily, we rarely see the years of grind needed to get people there.

People clown on Drake all the time for his quasi-anthem “Started from the Bottom”, but that title’s all too real for so many Black folk, and we’ve culturally learned that we’ll need to work twice as hard to get half as far.

But when those efforts start bearing fruit and you can finally see what it was all for, you don’t give that success up for anything.

It’s this narrative that comes to mind when I read Makini Smith’s contribution, seeing just what she’s overcome to become the international phenom she is today. People take pity on teen Moms. They downplay how hard it is to be a housewife. But Makini doesn’t want your pity, nor should she ever be underestimated—it’s clear from her brand and her accomplishments that she’s taken her life into her hands through hustle and through faith, and if that isn’t the utter embodiment of the Black Canadian Experience, I don’t know what is.

Check out Makini Smith’s post below. I promise—it’s a good one!

Until tomorrow,

–case p.

What does being Black Canadian mean to you?

Being a Black Canadian to me means multiple things.  The question is a little difficult for me to answer one way. I travel internationally and can give a response based on how we are treated elsewhere vs how I view things living here. Having spent much time traveling to the United States my entire life I’m grateful my parents chose to migrate to Canada. Being Black Canadian is something I am proud of. I use that as a tool when I travel to other parts of the world. Others greet me with hugs and smiles. I’m treated with much respect. Canadians have a good reputation in other countries. When I am home here in Canada I can appreciate the diversity of cultural backgrounds but also feel extremely limited for success. We are a minority being Black in North America as it is but Black successful Canadians are an even smaller number.

Tales from the 2.9 — The Black Canadians Sharing their Stories in a Digital Age — Vol. 2 #7, Kevin David, Blogger/IT Specialist, The IT Nerd

So let’s talk tokenism for a moment.

I’ve had a book in the works for a while now—TOKEN: Living Life Black in a World Coloured Otherwise. You haven’t heard much about it because I’m already doing more than enough writing to keep me busy, and no number of things I experience today will suddenly change a childhood where the only Black faces I saw were often the ones I was related to.

So then, does your community dictate your culture?

Well, if your definition of Blackness comes strictly from popular culture where stereotypes reign supreme, then I’m sorry my culture disappoints. The world I know is built on community service, extracurriculars and a private school education, so I might be a little different than you expected.

Today’s entry from Kevin David mirrors much of what I’ve experienced and then some. When you’re a token, you often become an unsolicited ambassador for your race, questioned whenever you do something that doesn’t fit the expectation. Hopefully this entry—and others in the series—help shatter those expectations and give us a world where kids are only expected to be one thing… themselves.

Until tomorrow,

–case p.


Tales from the 2.9 — The Black Canadians Sharing their Stories in a Digital Age — Vol. 2 #7, Kevin David, Blogger:IT Specialist, The IT Nerd — Kevin David HeadshotWhat does being Black Canadian mean to you?

It means being a chameleon. I find myself often having to be different things to different groups of people, be it Black, White, or whatever, in order to exist within this society. So much so that if you asked me what I am really like, I am not sure that I could really answer that question. It also means that I have break stereotypes on an almost daily basis. If I don’t, I will get placed into a category that really doesn’t apply to me.

Tales from the 2.9 — The Black Canadians Sharing their Stories in a Digital Age — Vol. 2 #6, Samantha Kemp-Jackson, Writer, Public Speaker, Media Spokesperson, Multiple Mayhem Mamma

I’ve faced a number of issues as a Black Canadian, yes, but those suffered by Black Canadian women are on a different level entirely.

It’s no coincidence that the Women’s March happened the day after Donald Trump was inaugurated as President — his election campaign was awash with sexist sentiment leaving women feeling more objectified than ever, so when Samantha Kemp-Jackson echoed these feelings in her submission, it was sadly just another example that women of colour have dealt with entirely too long.

Compiling Tales from the 2.9 gives me hope that with enough mindful action, we can find ways to work past the shackles that bind us, but who of us will commit to taking the first steps on that very long road ahead?

Hopefully, this post will inspire you to do just that!

Until tomorrow,

–case p.

What does being Black Canadian mean to you?

To me, being a Black Canadian means many things. It is a daily exercise in intersectionality, with my skin colour being the constant. I am a Black Canadian, but I am also a woman. The combination of both of these elements has led to many experiences, both positive and less-than-positive that are sadly, not uncommon for Black women in general.

I think we (People of Colour) have all experienced some standard questions: “Where are you from?” or “No, where are you REALLY from,” which underscores that while we may be a diverse society, we still have a way to go in terms of the greater public accepting minorities as “real Canadians.”

That said, it’s not all doom and gloom. Being a Black Canadian, and a Canadian in general, has allowed me to be appreciated by many who embrace multiculturalism, and who are open and welcoming to all. As well, I appreciate the many cultures and the diversity that I experience on a day-to-day basis. Living in Toronto, I’ve been spoiled in that every day, it’s the norm to see, speak with and interact with so many Canadians of diverse backgrounds and ethnicities. Being a Black Canadian means walking through life with many different lenses and experiencing the society from a unique and interesting perspective.

Tales from the 2.9 — The Black Canadians Sharing their Stories in a Digital Age — Vol. 2 #5 — Ryan Elcock, Co-founder, The Habari Network

A friend first introduced me to Ryan while seeking contributors for the first Tales from the 2.9, and we’ve kept in close contact ever since while he works at building inroads for the Black Canadian community.

I knew it when I read his post last year—Ryan has some of the most pointed views out of anyone I work with for Tales.

Black power groups have popped up time and again for a reason—because there’ve always been adversaries trying to hold us down. We saw it with the slaves who knew how to read and write on plantations. The victims of the Tuskegee syphilis experiment. Those left standing in the ashes after Black Wall Street was razed to the ground in the 1920s. There’ve been all too many horrific examples of the majority stopping the Black minority from getting ahead, which is why Ryan’s tenets of Black pride hold so much value.

If you came to Tales looking for a light read and fluffy emotions, I’m sorry—this post isn’t for you. But if you’re coming with an open mind and looking for real opinions from real people tackling real issues head-on, then read on—this post’s got food for thought!

Until tomorrow,

–case p.

What does being Black Canadian mean to you?

To me, being a Black Canadian means acknowledging that I fight a battle where the odds are stacked against me, yet I know I do not carry the burden alone.

I carry the knowledge of my parents, who are immigrants, as well as those of my fellow Black Canadians, who also share the same challenges that I face no matter where they come from.

This shared struggle also gives me strength because I know that I have access to a wealth of unique knowledge that can help me in my personal struggle as a Black man since I can learn from others and not just myself.

Furthermore, being a Black Canadian also means that I have a unique ability to relate to the world since, like many Black Canadians, I am the first generation who has one foot in Canada and another in the lands of my parents’ birth. This gives me a unique perspective in navigating not only Canada but also in understanding the global community around me.

As a Black Canadian, I have had to deal with racism and the constant struggle of having to navigate a society that does not always see me as an equal or capable.

However, those hardships made me stronger and helped me develop a strong sense of self-worth because I know that many Black Canadians have endured the same things and triumphed.

Tales from the 2.9 — The Black Canadians Sharing their Stories in a Digital Age — Vol. 2 #4, Nicole Bedeau, Marketing/Public Relations Agent, Black Leopard Public Relations

Upon reading Nicole’s entry for the Tales from the 2.9, I felt we shared many commonalities in our lives—a lack of Black peers in our lives due to lifestyle choices from our Caribbean immigrant parents. Doing things thought “not Black enough” by family and friends, losing street credibility to things like figure skating and spelling bees.

In fact, though many of us are Canadian born and bred in 2017, we still have a hard time integrating into the lifestyles full of Canadian ideals prescribed to us through our popular culture.

Feeling torn between two identities is something that isn’t foreign to me—or any other Black Canadians, I wager—and while the struggle between “too Black” and “not Black enough” might not be resolved with my generation, I fight the ongoing fight to help my kids needing to struggle with the same.

Enjoy today’s read and I’ll catch you tomorrow!

Until then,

–case p.

What does being Black Canadian mean to you?

It means holding two identities in my head at once. I see myself first, as sharing the same racial identity as African descendants from all over the world. I am an African first. Secondly, my culture is Canadian. I was born here and raised here. The Canadian way of living and thinking about the world influences much of what I do. Multiculturalism, winter sports, feminism, Tim Horton’s and a quiet modesty are the Canadian values I hold dear.

Tales from the 2.9 — The Black Canadians Sharing their Stories in a Digital Age — Vol. 2 #3, Chad G. Cranston, Co-founder, TCHAD Quarterly & Social Interactive CA

Those with a keen eye will notice that I scoured through last year’s submissions and invited some of the 2016 contributors back for Tales from the 2.9‘s second edition!

I’ve yet to meet Chad in person — we were brought together by someone whose opinion I trust thoroughly — but after Chad’s submission last year,  I knew I had to have him back on as I brought tougher questions to the table!

In his entry for Tales from the 2.9, Chad approaches a rather prickly subject that only keeps popping up—the need for Black people to better support Black-owned businesses. But it usually ain’t easy—with so few of us in Canada, it means staying true to one’s tenets at the sacrifice of choice. While I don’t have an answer that’ll make everyone happy, at least I know we’re talking about it!

Until tomorrow, everyone!

–case p.

Tales from the 2.9 — Chad G. CranstonWhat does being Black Canadian mean to you?

It’s 2017 — I want to take on the advancement of our culture as a personal responsibility. I think about our culture and how to advance into the future in a constructive manner. I have been doing research on how Africans contributed to civilised culture, architecture, language, religion, environment, stories and history that are not told in our educational system.

Tales from the 2.9 — The Black Canadians Sharing their Stories in a Digital Age — Vol. 2 #2, Chattrisse Dolabaille, Writer, Performer & Producer

Some people I meet in the most interesting places.

Back in 2014, Tobago’s Division of Tourism and Transportation held the 60 Days in Paradise contest, seeking an “Island Connoisseur” to promote Tobago and all it offers to Canadians looking to travel. Though the competition wound up feeling like a bit of a sham, I did end up making new connections from the ordeal, and one of them was Chattrisse!

The narrative she outlines below is one commonly felt by Black kids when they choose not to follow the archetypes that youths of colour seem to frequently adhere to. I too have had more than enough helpings of “not Black enough” in my life, and I hope her words reach out to anyone feeling a little lost!

That said, enjoy Chattrisse’s submission, and I’ll see you tomorrow!

–case p.

Tales from the 2.9 — The Black Canadians Sharing their Stories in a Digital Age — Vol. 2 #2, Chattrisse Dolabaille, Writer, Performer & Producer — Chattrisse Photo 2

What does being a Black Canadian mean to you?

It means lots of code-switching! Being able to move comfortably into, out of, and through different environments and situations as seamlessly as possible. In my experience, it also means I have abundant reasons to be proud of my heritage and identity: as a Canadian, as the child of Caribbean immigrants, as a Torontonian, etc. I’ve always enjoyed disproving stereotypes, and over the years I’ve found that being a black Canadian gives me numerous opportunities to do that.

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.

#Chronicle150 & Tales from the 2.9 — Making 2017 Memorable One Story at a Time

So—things are about to get real over here at Casey Palmer, Canadian Dad. We’ve been through a lot together—daily Man Lessons, years of resolution lists 100 tasks deep… everything the brand’s stood for’s grown exponentially with every passing year, but it’s never been anything like this.

#Chronicle150 & Tales from the 2.9 — Making 2017 Memorable One Story at a Time - The Older Palmer Son in Canmore, Alberta for Canada Day

It’s a good time to be Canadian—this July, we celebrate our nation’s 150th birthday, and that’s not something we’re taking lightly! With all too many of those years spent trapped in America’s shadow, it’s only recently that the world’s seen Canada stand on its own two, and it’s up to the 35 million of us north of the 49th parallel to keep reminding them we’ve got our own thing going on.

Which is why I found myself thinking, “What better time than now to showcase what makes Canada the amazing country it is?”

February 1st is 150 days before Canada Day—July 1st, where we mark our nation’s independence without needing to blatantly call it “Independence Day”1—and I figured what better way to celebrate everything being Canadian born and bred’s done for me than to put 150 pieces out about our country and everything it means to us in 2017.

#Chronicle150 & Tales from the 2.9 — Two Projects Setting the Tone in 2017!

#Chronicle150 & Tales from the 2.9 — Making 2017 Memorable One Story at a Time - The Older Palmer Son in Canmore, Alberta for Canada Day

I know what you’re thinking—”150 pieces of content?! Casey, you barely survived getting 29 posts out last year!” But seldom am I one to step down from a challenge. 150 posts may seem like a lot, but what I think would be worse is to treat 2017 like it was just any other year.

We didn’t even have an Internet for our last milestone birthday! For Canada’s 125th back in 1992, as an 8-year old Mississaugan, all I could’ve done with my resources would be a nifty school project. 25 years later, there’s so much we can do, but too many of my ilk feel satisfied with a blog post here and a tweet or two there.

But me? I don’t want to look back at 2017 feeling like I missed out on something great because I chose to do the bare minimum.

And so, I’m happy to announce two major projects this year: you already know Tales from the 2.9 — The Black Canadians Sharing their Stories in a Digital Age; but for 2017 we’re taking it a step farther, introducing #Chronicle150 — 150 Truly Canadian Stories for its 150th Birthday!

January Was Just a Warm-up.

I’ll launch Tales more formally tomorrow, but know this—I’ve put a lot of work into making a memorable series, and I hope that shines through as you check it out each day! One thing I learned from last year is that there’re plenty of stories to be told if you bother to sit down, listen, and become willing to share them with others.

And with that, I say so long January and thanks for the prep time—the real work is yet to come!

See you tomorrow, everyone!

Until then, I remain,

–case p.

1 Just kidding, America—we love you. Really, we do!