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!
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.
What’s your experience been like as a Black Canadian and how has it shaped who you are today?
As a Black Canadian the experience of being raised in multicultural environments has made me open-minded. I have had the pleasure of being educated on other races, religions, practices, and history. Having an understanding and respect for the differences I can appreciate the similarities. I believe it has shaped me into a more compassionate human being. It has helped me in my dealings with others when I travel the world. Others gravitate towards me because I am friendly to all. I do however see that I am a clear minority in the spaces I find myself in when I am home in Toronto. As a Black person at times or just as a Black woman I am often the only one in the room. I use that to my advantage and find ways to make the best of the situation. I visibly stand out and people come to me to start conversations. I’m naturally an introvert so that helps me to network and make myself memorable. It has taught me how to make the most out of every scenario. I once heard Jully Black say “My disadvantage is my advantage”.
What’s something you’d like to see more of within the Black Canadian community?
I’d like to see more support of each other amongst Black Canadians. I see other cultures and minorities stick together and build as a community. I feel there is a divide with us. I would also like to see a stronger voice in our community. When I am in the US I see a strong voice for the Black community even though they are a minority. There is a stronger unified voice no matter what country their ancestors are from. As a Black community they have a strong voice. As a woman of faith, I feel that the Black community in Canada doesn’t openly speak about our belief system. It’s sad to constantly have women tell me they don’t feel they can even say “Jesus” or “God” without fear of being judged. The Black Christian community in the US or even other spiritual belief groups have no problem speaking openly about their faith. I would like to see our community be open and proud of who we are and stop conforming to who society says we are.
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?
Often times Black Canadians are clumped into one category by those outside the community and labeled “Jamaican” or “Ghetto” or “Criminals”. We are not all the same and deserve to be treated as individuals. Those outside of the community need to stop stereotyping. We are all human beings and need compassion. Yes, there are those that have given the community a bad name with their actions but that happens in every culture and I don’t see them being labeled with the same negative descriptions. Way too often I am told “You don’t act Black” or I hear “You’re not really Black though so you don’t count” because I speak proper, I’m not loud or act “ghetto”. Those outside of the community need to realize that we are people. People are products of their environment and act based on what they see and hear, not by the colour of their skin.
If your life could teach but one thing to your fellow Black Canadians, what would it be?
One thing my life could teach other Black Canadians is that our only limit is ourselves. We can go where other Black Canadians haven’t been, do what they haven’t done. We have the potential to break glass ceilings. We don’t have to conform and do things as society/media shows us. Colour outside the lines. Build business outside your area code. I went from teen mom to international success story. I went from housewife to full time entrepreneur. I went from introvert to international speaker. When everyone else said I couldn’t because the colour of my skin, God showed them what’s possible. I didn’t see a Black Canadian Woman doing certain things but that didn’t stop me from believing it can be done. We need to break stereotypes and glass ceilings. We are limitless!
Makini Smith is an international speaker, author and mentor. She helps to educate and empower women to cultivate their courage through faith, to overcome adversities so they can live the lives they desire. Sharing her journey of healing with women worldwide, giving them the permission to heal themselves. She has been featured on numerous platforms for her wealth of knowledge and getting through life struggles gracefully including teen motherhood, divorce, relationships, single parenthood, entrepreneurship and more across Canada and the United States. She believes that every woman’s power and purpose is as unique as her experiences. Authenticity is everything. Whether Makini is speaking to teen girls, corporate audiences, the clients of women’s shelters or a small circle of women in a group coaching session, she always speaks her truth. Her greatest fulfilment has come from using the good, bad and ugly of her life to inspire and empower other women to begin to heal themselves and let go of shame and fear. Makini took her truth and experience from the stage to the page and soon to be the big screen, pouring her heart into her two books A Walk in my Stilettos: How to Get Through the Struggle With Grace and A Walk in my Stilettos: 111 Affirmations to Help You Heal and her latest project A Walk in my Stilettos: The Film.