It’d be foolish to talk about the digital landscape for my fellow Black Canadians without keeping an eye firmly fixed upon the future.
Ryan Robinson’s someone I got to meet in person fairly recently, and it was refreshing to sit and chat with a like-minded father about parenting, blogging and finance, largely because we Dads often fail so hard at connecting on our own.
Infused with his strong conviction for ensuring our children get raised with better financial savvy and know-how than we did, Ryan’s submission for Tales from the 2.9 is rooted in positivity, determination, and the reminder that we’re ultimately in control of our destinies, no matter how hard life may seem right now.
Check it out below!
Hi, my name is Ryan Robinson. My story is very different and not typical of what you’d expect to find an Electrical Engineer doing. It’s actually quite the opposite. I was once co-owner of a dance & entertainment company here in Toronto named Do Dat Entertainment. We provided dancers & choreographers for music artists, movies, TV commercials and corporate events. You have probably seen our dancers either dance for or choreograph for artists like Jay-Z, Mary J. Blige, Jully Black, Alicia Keys, Janet Jackson, Shawn Desman or Diddy, to name a few.
Now, one of the things I’m very passionate about is helping parents teach their kids that they are not ATMs. That they don’t have a magical tree in their backyard that has $5 dollar bills as leaves. (Isn’t this what all parents want their kids to know?..haha)
One topic I find that we as parents don’t talk to our kids enough about is money. We don’t have fun conversations with our kids about how to use money wisely.
I honestly believe that if we create fun activities for our kids to learn about Saving, Sharing, Spending and Investing the money they get early on (whether that be money from the grandparents, or money from doing chores) – that we will be providing them with the foundation they’ll need to grow up and become the successful adults we want them to be. Our kids will also learn to avoid the mistakes that we made in our 20s and 30s.
I hear a lot of parents say things like “I wish I had learned about money when I was growing up as a kid” or “I don’t want my kids to make the same mistakes I made with money” or “I want my son/daughter to work and learn the value of a dollar”
So now I help busy parents with kids ages 4-10 by providing them with fun age specific activities they can use to teach their kids lessons about money and values so that they don’t grow up to be spoiled and feel entitled.
You can reach me at Twitter at @SimpleMoolah!
1) When you think of Black History Month, what are some of the stories and images that come to mind?
Some of the stories and images that come to my mind when I think about Black History month are of course Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a dream speech”. Clips and images of his speech have always been highlighted during Black History Month. They serve as a great reminder of what a great man he was and the doors he fought to break down for the rest of us.
Other stories that come to mind are Rosa Parks – for not giving up her seat in the coloured section of the bus to a white person, because the white section was full.
Nelson Mandela also comes to mind. I can’t even begin to imagine how he endured serving over 27 years in prison fighting to abolish Apartheid in South Africa. Then after all that, he goes on to become South Africa’s first Black President! His story is very inspirational.
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 would have to say that my experience has been mostly positive so far. I think Canada is a great country, and I love that Toronto is a city with such a diverse cultural community. But although I’ve had many positive experiences, that doesn’t mean that there has not been some negative points along my journey. Whenever you experience racism first hand, those images stay fresh in your mind, as if they just happened yesterday. Even if it happened years ago…the same emotions you felt back then, quickly resurface and you begin to experience those same feelings again.
One incident I vividly remember. I was walking home one summer day when I was in university. I remember exactly where I was when it happened too. A pickup truck with a group of young white guys hanging out the windows drove by and yelled, “Hey nigger, go back where you came from.”
I remember being startled at first because it was a quiet afternoon. I was the only one walking in that area, and there wasn’t much car traffic. But then I remember thinking to myself, “Did that really just happen?”
And as I thought more about this, I remember becoming angry and upset. For one… I couldn’t believe what just happened. And secondly, I remember thinking, “How ignorant. They don’t even know me, and they’re making these assumptions. I was born in Toronto for crying out loud!…..if they only knew.”
As a Black Canadian, I don’t walk around expecting these things to happen. I don’t expect to face racism from everyone I meet. I have a more positive view on life and people in general. But I’m also not ignorant of the fact that there are people out there that harbor these types of thoughts in their mind.
This incident, along with some others I’ve encountered reminds me and has taught me, that even though a lot has changed, a lot still remains the same. Racism still exists, but it’s more hidden. It’s not as out there and in your face as it was back in the day with the signs of “we serve whites only” or signs indicating which drinking fountains were for whites and which were for coloured people – but it clearly still exists in the hearts of some people in our society.
3) In sharing your voice with the world, what impression do you hope to leave on the world with everything you do?
Lately, the one thing that has been on my mind a lot is to live each day like it’s your last. I truly think that if we really took a moment to realize how unpredictable our life really is, and that things can change literally in a matter of seconds… that we would spend more of our time focusing on the things that matter the most to us on a day-to-day basis.
There’s a quote by Steve Jobs that I have in my bathroom that I read everyday. He said it in his commencement speech at Stanford in June 2005. He said that for the last 33 years, every morning he looked himself in the mirror and asked himself this question, “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And if the answer was “No” too many days in a row – he knew that he had to change something.
I strongly believe in this. Nobody knows if today will be your last, or tomorrow. No one knows if they will live to see another hour from now. You just don’t know. So why waste your time? Why waste time doing things you don’t enjoy? Why waste time not pursuing your dreams and goals?
I believe that if there are things in your life that you want to do, that you should at the very least… start working on them today. Take a small step in that direction. It might be as small as doing a Google search about that business idea you had. Or looking up what a flight costs to that dream vacation you’ve always wanted to take. Or doing one sit up. You may think, “But what point does that make? It’s so small and insignificant.” But I believe that a small step is always better than no step at all. At least you can say that you started.
The marathon is won by taking one small step at a time.
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 honestly can’t think of any specific mentors who really guided me along the way growing up. No one in particular really stands out to me.
Aside from my parents, who are both from Barbados, there really wasn’t anyone teaching me and guiding me from a cultural standpoint.
By default, like any child growing up whose parents immigrated to Canada from another country… you learn a lot from being immersed in that culture on a daily basis. So growing up, I learned a lot about Bajan culture through my parents and family. I visited Barbados a lot growing up, so I got to see the way of life on the island. I saw first hand the cultural differences between living on a small island and living in Toronto. And as I got older, I got to appreciate the differences each place has to offer more and more.
5) If you could say just one thing to the rest of the 2.9%, what would it be?
Always strive for success and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t. As I always tell my kids, “You don’t say I can’t. You say.. I Can!… and you keep on trying.”
If you have a dream or a goal, and you can’t stop thinking about it… work and work at it until you turn that dream into a reality. Do the research. Figure it out.
The birth of the Internet has changed our world drastically. It has given opportunities to people who before never would’ve had those opportunities. It has made our world smaller. Now you can communicate to someone on the other end of the world in a matter of minutes… seconds even… all from your smartphone. The possibilities are endless. If Barack Obama can become President of the United States, you too can accomplish your dreams and goals – as long as you’re willing to put in the work and make the necessary sacrifices.
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!