The following are responses from Tracy Stuart, a principal in the York Catholic District School Board (YCDSB). She was a panelist during the York Region Alliance of African Canadian Communities (YRAACC) third annual Black History Month (BHM) event. We thank Tracy for participating in our panel discussion.
1 You are all successful in your respective vocations and careers. In your personal pathway to success, what would you identify as important “Building Blocks” applicable to a stronger Black community?
Firstly – Having your faith. Relying on God provides you with hope, strength and also discernment in the direction of life. “He will not provide you with more than you can handle” (1 Corinthians:13).
Secondly – There is a concept of having a “growth mindset”- which is having the confidence in yourself that you can and will succeed. For the times you experience, closed doors, missed opportunities, injustice, failure, that does not mean you give up but persevere.
Thirdly, being among like-minded individuals and sticking together. This provides opportunities to network, pool resources, be encouraged and have a stronger sense of community. I commend YRAAC’s grassroots initiatives
Fourthly, have a mentor/guide-having a person you can turn too for questions, guidance and reflection, sharing best practices, resources.
Lastly, forming strategic alliances with others-networking, ** build capital** pooling together resources and info to help provide to youth for career and educational path
2. We hear from many of our youth that they face many barriers to success, including but not limited to Anti-Black Racism. You would have faced some similar barriers, what were they, and how did you overcome them?
Story- One that stands out most for me was in high school and I was unsure of my career pathway goals for after high school. Being confused and uncertain, I did seek counsel from my guidance counselor at the time, my math marks were average and I did want take a path in medicine, he advised me to take courses that “did not require me to work so hard” and that pursuing a career in medicine would take me too long” – that discouraged me and it actually made me think that here is a person with counsel expertise provided me with advice that did not direct me to my goal but rather was changing it. With that being said, falling back to my building blocks (faith, perseverance, speaking with friends, family, (my supportive network), I knew not to follow the advice that was given to me because if i did, I may not be where I am today.
3. Did Mentoring play an important role in your life? Who was your mentor and what difference did that person make? describe the relevance of such interactions on the wellbeing of the next generation?
Absolutely-both personally and professionally. Having a West Indian family, there is usual a matriarch. That would be my grandmother who left Jamaica with literally the clothes on her back to come to Canada to work as a domestic. She saw an ad in the paper and took a risk leaving her country to come to one that was unknown. She sacrificed things for herself so she could send money for her children, my mom back home. Her experiences/stories always remind me that despite the struggles she encountered, she always pressed forward, continued to work hard despite the outcome, and I draw on that for my own strength.
Professionally, it was my former principal, who helped me navigate to the role of being an administrator myself. When I did not have the confidence in myself that I should pursue forward, her encouragement, guidance and support was influential to me. The experience of being a mentor myself was also instrumental. While being one of the many leaders of the MACCA Saturday program, that developed leadership and upliftment for myself. That program was not only for academic support, but it helped our black youth develop their own life and resilience skills as well. I highly encourage, if you can be a mentor for others to do so.
4 In York Region, what resources do we lack as a community that prevents us from effectively and optimally partnering with our Public Service Institutions and Agencies?
Where is the reflection of our community in the community? When you go to the community centres, Camps, look in schools, hospitals, look at those working around the city/town, where is the black community in these public service institutions.
-need to look at employment hiring practices, a plan for our youth to have a career/pathway navigation to help them be hired and more visible in these public sector positions. This will elevate to positions of authority to help change policy, systematic barriers and bring about change.
what resources are being set up to navigate our youth to obtain these positions
Additional talking points
- Not seeking out what is available-scholarship opportunities, tutoring/mentor services
- Getting involved with other organizations, i.e., Apple technology, STEM-Coding
- Look at data- how many students are failing, attendance records
- Strength in unity- coming together to have a more powerful voice