What is a Black Canadian?
In the months since my last post, I’ve been trying hard to find the answer to this question. As someone who only recently took identifying as a Black man seriously, I have struggled to look internally for the parts of me that are so socially visible and yet personally unfamiliar. Searching through music, movement and memory for the shadows that hide my Blackness in plain sight.
I reflect constantly, creating poetry and prose, all to define what it means to be a Black male in New Brunswick, Canada. Of all the paths I’ve walked in the search for myself, the most rewarding has been asking for help from Black people in my city.
Finding pieces of myself by building relationships with others that share my culture. It is through conversations with amazing individuals like these that I find the language to speak to myself.
Funké Aladejebi, a professor of history at the University of New Brunswick with Nigerian roots, has already been the star of one of my previous essays as she is the one that helped start me on this journey.
But it’s not just me she’s helping, for the first time in the history of the University of New Brunswick and Saint Thomas University there was a Bi-campus Black Indigenous and People of colour (BIPOC) BBQ that I was so excited to go to.
As someone who grew up with limited opportunities to hang out with non-family Black people having the ability to share stories and laughter with other Black men and women was like finally getting a cup of water after a long hike in a desert.
By responding to an email from a student she’s never met, in another department, Funke has shared with me all the tools I needed to learn from parts of myself I didn’t believe I had.
Thank you Funké for everything you’ve done and I look forward to supporting more events like this in the future
Emmanuel Nizeyimana, a graduate of NBCC and Local Entrepreneur from Rwanda, is also in a previous essay as we both got accepted to be ‘Student Ambassadors.’ This highly respected business training program was developed by the Pond-Deshpande center to help teach passionate students how to make positive lasting change in their communities.
The highlight of this program was a free trip to Boston to get a tour of the entrepreneurial community and learn from industry professionals. During the seven-hour bus ride, Emmanual and I connected by sharing stories on our views of the world.
It’s refreshing to hear someone tell you they will do something a year before, then be able to walk downtown and visit their store an purchase clothing from them. I remember when all this was a passionate idea, and now I can proudly wear African inspired clothing made a reality through hard work and positivity.
Never lose your smile Emmanuel, it always helps me find my own even in the most challenging moments.
Kjeld Mizpah (KJ) Conyers-Steede is a graduate of the University of New Brunswick’s political science program and current executive director for the New Brunswick Student Alliance. As a fellow Bermudian, KJ is one of those people who, since coming into my life has helped me break down an build back up many distorted perceptions of what it meant to be Black in Canada.
We were the only Black people to get chosen for the government’s new innovation team program. Which was developed to help expose the inner-workings of the government to passionate students so they could make positive lasting change.
Not only has KJ helped me discover points of pride from my Bermudian heritage, but also in his spare time (that he magically fabricates in his laboratory) he hosts an produces a podcast on the issues that affect New Brunswick.
Our episode features honest conversations about our experiences being Black in New Brunswick, Canada. I learn something new about myself every time we hangout.
Trying to find something that has not just always been there but is also the main thing people define you as has been a challenging process if I’m to be honest. But the rewards of digging deep, bearing my emotions, and seeking support in this cultural search have more than been worth it.
The strength others have shared with me, the friends and allies I’ve made, they’ve enabled me to do things I never thought I’d have the skill nor the confidence to even dream of. It’s why I will always continue to invite new friends along this path to finding my Black identity. Because sometimes the best way to find something is to create it with others.
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