Part of the duality of being Black is that you don’t want to be defined by your melanin, but you also don’t seek to forget everything that’s come before you to make you who you are today.
Natalie’s post reminds me that the world will inform you you’re Black no matter how you’re raised, but it’s up to us not to let the disadvantages of being Black Canadian hold us back. Instead, we must work hard to overcome them so we can shape the tomorrow we want.
Even through this series, we’ve seen examples of a number of Black professionals and the things they’ve done to carve their own paths—who’s to say you can’t do the same?
I hope Natalie’s story—like many of the stories we’ve shared this year—inspires you, and as for me, I’m off to prep tomorrow’s Tale from the 2.9!
What does being Black Canadian mean to you?
Funny enough, I’ve never thought of myself in that context. I’ve always been Canadian. I was never taught to label myself in such a manner. If anything, I would state that I’m a Jamaican-Canadian, because I have been heavily immersed in my heritage from a young age, thanks to that good, good “broughtupsie’! I knew I was black, kids in school were quick to tell me, and I may not have completely understood what it was all about then but I knew was different, I just didn’t dwell on it. My parents would tell me afterwards how important it was to get an education and that I would need to work harder than others because I was a Black Canadian. I understand it now more than ever. Being a Black Canadian means I need to be a role model for my children and help guide them to see their worth in this world as they will be labelled the same way.
What’s your experience been like as a Black Canadian and how has it shaped who you are today?
It’s been a mixture of ups and downs. I can still vividly recall each moment where I experienced racism, from my elementary school to as recently as a month ago. It’s a hypersensitivity in your system that just does not go away. I can share many examples of people reacting differently when they’ve seen me in person after only ever speaking with them on the phone, or perhaps the extra attention given when I am alone in an aisle of a large big box store, regardless of my extremely professional dress code. How about when I arrive for a meeting and the person at the front desk automatically assumes I am seeking employment? The undeniable and complete shock on their faces when I advise that I am from Human Resources makes me chuckle just a little. The upside is that all of those experiences have not hardened me, they’ve motivated me to be a person who does her best to influence change and lead by example, which means educating folks when they need to be educated!
What’s something you’d like to see more of within the Black Canadian community?
More Collaborating and Supporting! It’s true when they say there is strength in numbers. We have the numbers but yet we are still so segregated, not just by geography or age group but even within the Caribbean communities themselves. Could you imagine if we consistently collaborated and put our collective efforts towards a goal multiple times throughout the year? Talk to each other, get creative, and learn from each other. We need to remember that it’s great to support each other because it results in positive emotions that bring us closer together and move us forward as a community.
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?
Do not get it twisted, i.e. do not minimise our experiences just because
If your life could teach but one thing to your fellow Black Canadians, what would it be?
Life is about LIVING! It’s not about constantly trying to prove to others what we can do, it’s about living your best life NOW! Once you are doing that everything else will fall into place. Focus on your strengths and passions, the strength of your relationships, the strength of your community and nurture them. We have an opportunity to continue on with the legacies of those who came before us, let’s not let them down!
Natalie is the founder of PegCityLovely.com and an energetic personal lifestyle blogger who clearly demonstrates a passion for people both online and offline.
After the passing of her mother and recently turning 40, Natalie realises she has so much more to offer and share with the world whether it’s documenting her recent travels, claiming her unofficial foodie title, or interviewing local and international personalities.
She is always authentic in her approach and thrives on experiences as they happen – which is reinforced with her love for live video coverage via Facebook Live, Instagram or Snapchat.
Natalie’s ultimate goal is to live her passions and encourage others to do the same while radiating optimism and exhibiting her realness throughout the journey.