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!
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.
What’s your experience been like as a Black Canadian and how has it shaped who you are today?
Unfortunately, being a Black Canadian has often been isolating. Growing up, I was one of only three Black students in my whole high school. I was one of a handful of Black girls figure skating from age 4 – 17. I could never find a pair of ‘nude’ skating tights in my shade.
Often, when I meet white Canadians I don’t know, they ask me where I’m from. I always respond that I am Canadian and they always seem dissatisfied with that answer. Some probe further and ask ‘but where are your parents from?’. It’s interesting how many people assume that I cannot be a Canadian because I am a person of colour or that I must be an immigrant. I am born in Canada and my mother came here as a teenager. It’s interesting. Other people of colour ask the question too but not nearly as often.
As a result of sometimes feeling like an outsider to the Canadian society I’m born in, I have made a special effort in the last three years to create relationships with other Black Canadians. Both of my parents are Caribbean immigrants and many Black Canadians I know can relate to the experience of being a first or second or third generation Canadian like me.
What’s something you’d like to see more of within the Black Canadian community?
I would like to see more established national media within the Black Canadian community. I would like to see more of our stories, concerns, joys and lives shared across Canada and the world. This project is a positive step in that direction.
What do you think those outside the Black Canadian community need to better understand in order to coexist with Black Canadians in a respectful and considerate way?
We are people just like them, with all of the desires, challenges and human needs that they have. Last year someone was surprised to learn that brown skin like mine does tan. She is a makeup artist and I suspect doesn’t know many black people. The people outside of the Black Canadian community, I fear, still see me as ‘other’ and not like them.
If your life could teach but one thing to your fellow Black Canadians, what would it be?
A life distilled into one thing is difficult! My life now is about teaching all people that they can do what they imagine and have what they desire in life. It’s hard work and luck and help and time and a host of other factors that have to assist you in getting what you want, but it is possible and should be pursued. Also, we are stronger together. Take away the limitations of borders and culture and upbringing. All Black people can and should work together to create the best opportunities, experiences and lives that we can. When the group benefits, then each individual benefits as a result.
I am a marketing agent and public relations expert who specialises in getting products, services and brands in front of the right audience. I established Black Leopard Public Relations in 2013 to assist entrepreneurs with reaching their ideal customers through new and old forms of media and BLPR has grown to serve entrepreneurs and SMEs in the Greater Toronto Area and across North America. I’m also the regional director of Black Bloggers United and enjoy connecting Black bloggers and vloggers from the Greater Toronto Area with Black bloggers from the United States. As a group we are providing training, networking and sponsorship opportunities for Black bloggers to develop their stories and network through blogging.