Stand up for education

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BY: KATHY MCDONALD 

After seeing the cover of the April O magazine, I got inspired to write this column.

I was even more excited to see a familiar face on the contents page, a gutsy Canadian and fearless changemaker, Whitby’s MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes. She is labelled a force of good for taking a stance on hair-shaming “with one exhilarating speech and some very dope braids”. Even in the face of being ridiculed and being labelled a one-term politician MP Caesar-Chavannes has kept her focus on equity for all. She is a breath of fresh air a politician who actually is willing to stand up for what’s right because it’s right.

The adage, if you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything” has always resonated with me. It is important for individuals to remain true to themselves and not get distracted. Recently Justice Donald McLeod was criticized for his approach to social justice as a leader in the Federation of Black Canadians (FBC). At the end of the day, because of the FBC, the Canadian government gave the black community access to one hundred million dollars of programming money. To my knowledge, this is the biggest that has very been awarded to our community. This money can be directed

to fight anti-black racism as well as improve the educational outcomes for your children, African, Black and Caribbean children.

The FBC must be doing something right to get access to this kind of funding. Garnering such commitment, I would imagine, takes a lot of people with a lot of clout and influence to operationalize. We all have our roles to play. The Black Lives Matter movement has managed to rattle many cages and have, if not anything else, brought to the forefront a lot of issues that are plaguing our community. These are two distinct groups with two

distinct modus operandi. In the final analysis, they are fighting for social justice for the African, Black and Caribbean communities. They are standing up.

As a trustee of the Peel District School Board (PDSB), I stand up for education. I advocate for equity for all students especially the marginalized. It is these students that often get left behind. I cannot do this alone. I need the community, parents, caregivers and the students to partner with me; to partner with the PDSB. I wholeheartedly believe that in today’s world we need a first-class education, now more than ever. Students need to find what they are good at. Students need to find out what they are passionate

about and then work diligently in pursuing and mastering it.

In the black community, as a result of an unfortunate cocktail of systemic racism and bias, parental frustration and a pinch of apathy many students are not living up to their potential. The educational outcomes can be much better. Now I always like to focus on the positive. I would encourage all readers of this column to watch a TED talk about Michaela DePrince. After watching her story, it is clear that there can be no excuse for anything but excellence. So, yes, we have a great number of students that are doing amazing things in all areas of academia. However, there’s much room for improvement.

One thing that is crystal clear after watching the TED about this remarkable young black woman is that we all need a goal. I strongly encourage parents to talk to your children and ask this simple question. What do you want to be when you grow up? Try and get a sense of what their interests are. Armed with this information, as a parent, work backward with your child and determine what steps your child needs to take to accomplish their goals. Liberty Silver at a very young age knew she wanted to sing. Armed with a tessitura that only a few singers possess she embarked on a career in music at an early age. She was fortunate to find her passion early in life and nurtured and studied diligently to hone her voice. Those Junos and Grammy awards did not just fall into her lap. She earned them.

Where there is a will there’s a way. Ignore the naysayers and help keep your children focused on accomplishing their dreams. Remember it will not be easy and there will be obstacles and hurdles in this quest. Just ask Celina Caesar-Chavannes, Michaela DePrince, Wes Hall, Donald Mcleod, or Liberty Silver. Quite often when we hear about these successful individuals it’s at the peak of their success. When they are steadfastly

toiling and building they are often under the radar. Then, poof, they are an overnight success. Just remember that all overnight success stories started years ago and usually it involves having an education. If one delves deeper into the “overnight success” stories I think all stories will have a good work ethic as well as a resilient and determined spirit as commonalities.

As I reflect on an article about Wes Hall and his rise from a mailroom clerk to a Bay Street power broker the importance of education coupled with a good work ethic cannot be underscored. As a community, we must be vigilant and strengthen our resolve to work together to improve the educational outcomes of our children. It truly takes a village. So, journey with me. Walk Good Belle Marché!

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