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 — #10: Kevin Kelly, Co-Founder, #devto

Kevin’s one of the few people in my digital life who knew me well before my journey into a full-fledged blogger ever really began. Introduced through mutual friends, he’s actually one of the people who got me to go to my first tweetup in 2010, and I haven’t looked back since!

Kevin’s been a staple of Toronto’s digital scene in some form or another for yearsheavily involved in Twitter in its 2011-2013 heyday; active in the developer community with a bevy of meetups and hackathons; and even going as far as co-founding #devTO, a developer group looking to advance the profession across the Toronto area.

Kevin’s Tales from the 2.9 submission focuses on the fact that we can’t so easily segregate the history of Black Canadians from that of Black people worldwide — and we’d do well to remember our roots!

I hope you enjoy his thoughts below!


Tales from the 2.9 — Kevin KellyKevin Kelly is a Developer, with experiences from banking, advertising, and even the government. When he’s not creating pixel perfect work, Kevin runs a local tech meetup group, #devto, and has participated in Humber Program Advisory Committee for Interactive Media.

Twitter | LinkedIn


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

At first, it was the usual. Slavery this, some of our North American achievements that, which were the very things that the scholastic system brought us to at the time. Yet, as an adult, I’ve realized that there was more to look into: Africa. The other aspects of what we are and those who came before us. The achievements that pushed society forward moretimes than the issues that indirectly hold us back because of a collective mindset that has been quietly resurrected. The inventors that gave the west many things we take for granted and no one knows about them unless we do dig for ourselves. As for Africa itself: someday I would like to experience the birthplace of those first hand. I’ve seen what my parents called their home, last year, in the West Indies. As beautiful as the islands are, I’m glad they settled with Canada.

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?

This part of Canada has its fair share racial issues and nearly all of us “Black” have in that respect. I agree that what’s being done there is definitely against us in North America. We still have a ways to go i.e. carding is something that’s being addressed. I’ve seen some of those things first hand. From being asked if my family was lost when all we wanted were tennis lessons to pretty much being asked by police officers to check out my sketchbook on my way to animation class. But Ontario redeemed Canada, I think. The melting pot. My parents are still here. That enough is proof to trust this country.

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

It’s funny. These days, I still don’t think I’m ready to be a mentor and cultivating as of yet. Funny thing, though. If you become a bit a community leader, people kind of see that as a mentor. In fact, a couple of years back at a collaborative holiday tech event, someone approached me and said he was proud that my tech group was great not just because it was positive, but there was a Black guy behind it. I nearly teared up. I never saw that kid again, but it resonated — being the exception in a world that usually sees us as athletes and musicians. There’s change, but how much? Anyone can do that. Change things. Their perspective, too. I’m living proof of that and hopefully, I can be that change. I chosen a path I believe in, not because of what a majority of my peers are doing. So can they.

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?

Too many. My Mom, really. Good advice knows about the game to a point. Must be the Black Canadian West Indian parents’ phrase “work harder than the rest just to compete.” There were others. Some being from Humber, who have been more than supportive. Not really cultural on their end, but great all the same. Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Gang Starr, KRS One, and several others as different kinds of mentors. For those, it’s mostly about the lessons that our school system has failed to teach us about African history and heritage. Their insight on the here and now for black people.

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

You’ve got one life to live. Never stop evolving. Especially on your own terms. You define you. Also, take time to reinvest into your roots for the future’s sake.


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!

Winning

Where are you winning in life? This is the question I think we need to ask ourselves about our lives more often — what are we doing well and how could we do it even better? As born complainers, we like to focus on whatever we see as the negative parts of our lives, forgetting about the good stuff: the little things that keep us going and get us out of bed every morning; the things that, when combined, make up our reason for living; or perhaps the things that catch us by surprised and bring smiles to our faces when we need them most.

I guess the question here is how do we switch the focus so that we’re living the best lives that we possibly can? How do we get the blinders off to see all the things our lives genuinely have to offer rather than the myopic views we tend to obsess over? In the words of a certain sportswear giant:

“Just do it.”

Just Doing It.

Life gives us all different sets of skills, and it’s up to us how we decide to use them. I’ve always been a bit of a Jack-of-all-trades, always dabbling with a handful of interests and side projects, but never really mastering anything in particular. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t try to work at developing every one of them as much as I can!

It’s fear that causes us to shy away from our dreams or from doing anything with our abilities. We see people who’re way farther ahead at the things we want to do and get discouraged. We see those far more skilled at our hobbies than we are, convincing ourselves that we’ll never get to that level. But more often than not, those people started from the very point you’re at now, with nothing, having yet to prove themselves to the world. I’ve applied this kind of thinking to live over and over, with varying degrees of success.

Recent examples saw me…

  • …put together a video for a Manpacks-sponsored contest, where I goofily rapped about the products they offered but in the end won me a $900 gift certificate for their service

  • …guest host on a friend’s Internet radio show, ending up in what I regard as one of the funniest episodes of the show yet (not safe for work!):

What I Learned.

Now, the rap had bits that were off-tempo and could’ve used more polished instrumentation. My radio voice needs work and I speak too quickly or mumble at times. And my photography skills are nowhere yet near where I’d like them to be. But by doing things like these, you can visibly see that I’m working at it, trying to improve my skills enough to be great at the things I want to do, taking further control of my destiny. Basically, the lesson here is this: YOU NEED TO BE WILLING TO PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE AND KEEP TRYING UNTIL YOU GET IT RIGHT.

The Internet changed the world that we live in by expanding the boundaries of our knowledge. We’re no longer trying to compete with the peers in our classrooms, offices or neighbourhoods alone — you might be the best in your neighbourhood, or even in your city, but the Internet has opened up a whole world of competition for people who do what you do! However. Your reality isn’t there to discourage you from trying — it’s there to make you try HARDER. So each time you fail, dust yourself off and try again. Stop telling yourself that you’re not good enough or getting dismayed when things don’t exactly go to plan. Work at it. Get better. And eventually — hey. You just might get it right, after all.

cep wrap-up logo

The 2K11 24/7 CCXLII: How to Network Sans Jerk

Last night I found myself visiting #devTO — an event described as follows:

You love it, hate it, debug it, dream about it, obsess over it, test it, throw it away… because you don’t just write code.

#devTO, a place for all developers, regardless of age, experience or sex to gather and collaborate on the problems we face as developers. These problems are as broad as our job descriptions, can’t figure out how to get that interface to look good in Chrome and Safari? Not sure how to deploy code to multiple servers with no downtime? What is the best way integrate social media into your projects? I’m sure at some point you’ve all run into something like one of the problems above, so why not share it and benefit from the experience of others.

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Though I’m not really a developer, I was going to check it out due to my sheer interest in the world of development. But before I knew it, a text message from my buddy Kevin soon found me taking photographs for the event (which in turn prompted my urges to get my new camera once more, but we’ll save that for another post). Of course, I can’t really prove I was there through the photos (think about it), but you can catch a glimpse of what went down here:
But one thing I definitely saw a lot of going on before and after the speakers took the floor at the event was networking. A number of developers, and people seeking the assistance of developers, getting out there and talking about what they do, what they’d LIKE to do, and making the connections necessary to enable those ideas.