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Black History Month - Celebrating Black Excellence 427
Black History Month - Celebrating Black Excellence
Celebrating Black Excellence nominations are now open!

Do you have a story of Black Excellence about yourself or someone you know? If so, please consider nominating a student, alumni, staff member, community member or York Region resident through our Celebrating Black Excellence form. Nominations will be accepted from February 1, 2021 - February 15, 2021.


 Feature Video of the Week


​Fe​ature Stories


Dr. Natasha Williams

Dr. Natasha Williams’ journey was inspired by her mother. After seeing the effect her mother, as one person, could have on a community, Dr. Williams was inspired to become a psychologist as early as Grade 9. She is now a highly respected name in the field. “She was very selfless in terms of giving herself to the community,” Williams said of her mother. “I wanted to make sure I had a career that embodied who I believe she was.”

After Williams graduated from Milliken Mills H.S. in Unionville, she completed an undergraduate degree at York University and a Master’s Degree at the Adler School of Professional Psychology in Toronto.  She decided to pursue her doctorate from the same school.  There was only one problem.  Williams wanted to pursue a Psy. D rather than a PhD as it focused more on clinical and practicum experience and that certification wasn’t offered in Canada at the time. She was undeterred.  Williams enrolled in the weekend program at Adler’s campus in Chicago, for its full-time program offered on weekends.  Every two weeks, she took the 10-hour Greyhound bus trip from Toronto to Chicago for three days of classes before returning to Toronto for work. On rare occasions, someone would provide her with money to take a flight, however, most of the time, she now laughs, she had to take the bus.  

Her schooling also came with additional challenges.  Williams was one of few Black interns in her program.  In fact, she was the only Black intern in her department.  While her fellow interns said they were noticing a lack of diversity in their departments, Williams was witnessing diversity on a daily basis while working with patients in the psychological trauma program. 

At her placement, the organization would bring in experts to speak to different aspects of psychology, one of them being diversity. Unfortunately, the speaker brought in to discuss diversity was a self-professed non-expert in the subject and spoke only about an article they had read.  Knowing the importance of explaining diversity in mental health settings, Williams was upset with the way it was handled and issued a formal complaint to the internship coordinator. The complaint was handled quickly and Williams heard that Dr. Charmaine Williams from the University of Toronto had been brought in to teach future interns about the subject.  

Her experiences during her education helped shape the way she conducts her practice professionally.   

She addresses anti-Black racism, transgenerational trauma, anxiety, depression and more in her practice.She has taught an online course called Reclaim Your Superwoman about divorcing from negative mindsets and how social constructs affect women’s health.  The course empowers women to take care of themselves and others.  

In addition to her work as a psychologist, Williams is also a keynote speaker and trains other mental health professionals.  She contributed to a book titled Carpe Diem, an anthology that features a collection of submissions from 24 women. Williams’ chapter focuses on the archetype of the strong Black woman.  

“(Carpe Diem)’s given me a kick-start in regards to actually going into authorship,” Williams explained.  She has recently completed her first ebook, focused on how selfishness can be redefined as radical self-care, which will be released soon. She is currently working on her first full-length book titled Reclaim Your Superwoman.

In a rare spare moment, Williams enjoys sports, (she was a rugby player in high school), live music and going out to eat.  It’s also important to her to remain connected to her family. She is the Chair of the Board of Directors at her church, another community that is very important to her. It’s very important to her to educate and empower the next generation as well.  

“My hope is that not only the work that I do, but the life I live can be seen as an example of living your best life on your own terms, being able to make mistakes and learn from them, but more importantly just being genuine in regards to wanting the best for my community as well as for all”, Williams said.  


David Martin



​If you asked the average Grade 3 student to name their favourite musicians, you would likely expect to hear a myriad of popular artists.  This is not true of David Martin. The Buttonville P.S. student lists Vivaldi and Bach among his favourites (although he is also a big fan of Lil Nas X, especially his song Old Town Road).  It's the music of the f​irst two though that David plays on stage. 

David has been playing the violin since he was five years old. His family was living in Jamaica at the time. David’s mother Jeneva encouraged his interest in the instrument, saying she “was always fascinated by the violin and wanted to play it (herself).”  She’s also the first to admit that she wasn’t the first person to see her son’s natural ability, that person was his tutor, Steven Woodham.  

Woodham is a well-known violinist from Jamaica. When he saw the gift David had for the violin, he said to Jeneva, “David has something really, really special, that I have not seen in years in a child, and please, please, please, don’t let him stop playing.”  So, when the Martins moved to Canada, they found a new tutor, (Ryan Ip) for David, and his abilities have continued to grow building on his early teachings from Woodham.  

David was the youngest person in the Carribean to receive a distinction from the Associate Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) in 2018, when he completed the Grade 2 music examination at the age of six.  He enjoys playing music and practices about 45 minutes each day. He has performed at the North York, Unionville and Newmarket Music Festivals and won his categories.  

While he enjoys using his own creativity to personalize pieces of music, David’s favourite piece to play is Seitz’s Concerto Note 5, Movement 3. His favourite audience? “My mom, my dad, my uncle and my cousins.”  

The young violinist doesn’t feel any jealousy from his classmates over his achievements, and he’s happy to help them when they need it.  “I taught them music is not just about playing notes,” David said. He added that musicians also have to count beats and play the song as it is outlined on their music sheet.  

David is not just a one-instrument musician. He also plays the piano, and has expressed interest in the drums, something that he is returning to, according to his mom.  “When he was two or three, we had a drum in the house and he was very noisy with it,” she said.  She doesn’t reject the idea though, saying “if it’s something he wants to do, we usually try to encourage him.”

David will be taking the Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM) Grade 5 theory exam in summer 2020 along with the Grade 6 level practicals at the North York and Unionville Music Competitions later this year.  

As important as music is to the Martins, Jeneva wants David to be able to enjoy other things as well; “I still want him to be a kid and do fun stuff,” she explained.  

When he’s not playing the violin or another instrument, David enjoys playing with his friends and cousins, video games and sports. He also enjoys school, especially math. When asked whether he prefers doing music homework or school homework, he said he enjoys school homework one per cent more.  

For anyone who wants to try something new, David has a piece of advice, “always try your best, even if you’re not good at it yet.”


Kamilah Clayton

CBE_template_Instagram_Kamilah_Insta.jpgMotivated by her lived experiences, Kamilah Clayton has spent the majority of her adult life advocating for what she believes in and working to create a more equitable world for everyone. “Most of my life has been dedicated to highlighting issues related to the Black community in the Greater Toronto Area,” she explained. 
Despite her strong passion for equity and advocacy, Clayton didn’t go into social work immediately after high school, instead opting for a more general psychology degree. “I actually didn’t know what I wanted to do when I left high school, but my parents said ‘you have to go to university,’” Clayton laughed. “Psychology is very general, so I thought that a lot of the classes would allow me to figure out what I wanted to do.”  

She came to social work when a trusted mentor suggested it to her. Clayton’s mentor was a social worker herself with a strong history of social justice work in both Nova Scotia and Ontario. “She was so inspirational. If she felt that I had the capacity to be a social worker, I wanted to honour that,” Clayton said. Sadly, her mentor passed away just a few months before Clayton finished her undergraduate degree in social work. Undeterred, Clayton honoured her friend by continuing her schooling, graduating with a Masters Degree and becoming a practicing social worker. She has held a number of professional social work positions, including currently working with a child welfare agency in the Greater Toronto Area.
Clayton is striving to create a better world for the next generation, starting with her own children.  She recalled a story of taking her daughter to the grocery store, and her daughter wanted to bring a toy in with her. She immediately thought “somebody’s going to assume she stole it, then we’re going to end up in a room somewhere.”  

Unfortunately, Clayton knows what it’s like to have to be hyper-vigilant due to stereotypes.  She wants to change the experience for her children. “One of my biggest coping mechanisms is teaching my children how to be strong and confident people, so they don’t have all of the issues I had”, she said. “I want them to enjoy every stage of life.”

Her work with youth doesn’t stop with her own family. In addition to her professional work, Clayton also works with the Newmarket African Caribbean Canadian Association (NACCA), helping to educate and empower youth voices. She recently hosted a conference called Healing Our Wounds, Understanding Transgenerational Trauma in partnership with NACCA.  

Transgenerational trauma can even affect people today. Clayton explained that a Black youth may be more likely to be described as a ‘behavioural child,’ when they are really dealing with traumas that may date back several decades.  “You need compassion and empathy to try and work towards finding out what that (trauma) is,” she explained. 

She also emphasizes the importance of telling all of Black history.  She explained that to help Black children understand and value their identity, it is important to explain the entirety of Black history, not just what happened after colonialism. Clayton quotes the famous Jamaican Poet Mutabaruka when speaking about the importance of celebrating Black excellence in history, saying; “slavery is not African history.  Slavery disrupted African history.”  Black families learning about their true history has really allowed for “a resurgence of Black pride, of African pride,” she added, “I think it’s beautiful.”



  ​Roxanne Francis
When Roxanne Francis first arrived in Canada 20 years ago, she didn’t envision a career focused on social work and advocacy.  

She relocated to Canada to continue the studies in biochemistry that she had begun while still living in Jamaica. It wasn’t until she moved to Canada that she decided to go into social work. “When I came here, it really turned on my social justice meter,” she said.  Francis had become accustomed to the experience of stark differences in wealth in Jamaica, however, after travelling between Jamaica and Canada, she began to notice some harsh inequities for people in Canada, especially for people of colour. 


Francis knows firsthand the difficulties that many new Canadians face upon arriving in the country. “When I came to this country, for years I struggled to make ends meet,” she explained.  “What people don’t realize is that you might migrate from a smaller country to a rich country like Canada, but it isn’t changing your life overnight. The statistics say it takes between six and seven years for a new immigrant to get to where they need to be.”  

To provide for herself, Francis made the difficult decision to pause her studies to find work. She began working in an administrative role at SickKids Hospital. She looks back on this time fondly, speaking highly of her colleagues and supervisors, but she wanted more. Clearly, her coworkers thought highly of her as well, as when she attempted to hand in her resignation to return to school, her supervisor suggested she work part-time instead of leaving entirely. She applied for a part-time role in another department, got it and continued to work at SickKids throughout her schooling. She was even able to complete her internship at the hospital when she was in grad school. 

After leaving SickKids, Francis worked in various roles, including as a clinical social worker at Kinark Child and Family Services and as a Family Therapist at The Regional Municipality of Durham. She now works in private practice. 

She recounts an incident from one of her final days at her previous role. She was packing up her office and her two young sons were in her office with her. Her supervisor walked past and waved to the boys. Her eldest son asked her, “Mommy, is that the boss?”  “Yes, how did you know that?” she replied. “Because he’s light-skinned,” the boy responded.  

“I thought to myself, ‘I have to do something about that’,” Francis recalled. “At the time, he was seven years old. For a seven-year-old to think that only people who don’t look like (him) can be the boss, that’s problematic.” 

Francis recalled another incident when she contacted her child’s school and spoke with the principal after her son asked her, “ Why can’t I be White like everyone else?” She described the incident as “scary.” She reminded her son about his family, friends and other people in the community, and he realized that not everyone was White.  

Speaking about Black History Month, she said “I think representation is important because it allows people to recognize that they matter, they’re not invisible.” She believes strides have been made in the equity field, even if there is still a long way to go. “Recently, there was a  Black History Month kickoff at my kids’ school, and my youngest, who’s now in Kindergarten, came home and said ‘Mommy, am I part of Black history?’ I told him ‘yes’ and the grin on his face just went from ear to ear to know he is part of something special.”

Francis and her colleagues work hard to make their office a safe place for people of all walks of life. One of the many communities she tries hard to support is the 2SLGBTQ+ community. She has done extensive research on how to provide support to her clients in the 2SLGBTQ+ community, so she is always ready to answer their questions and provide guidance when she’s asked to. Francis recognizes that in collaboration with her advocacy for racial inclusivity, “I also need to be an ally around gender inclusivity and the LGBTQ+ community.”

Since social work can be tiring, Francis understands the importance of self-care. She enjoys being with her husband and children, hearing live music (especially jazz), as well as cooking and baking. Her faith is also important to her and she is very involved with her church, which she said she finds “very replenishing.” She also knows the importance of taking a day off now and then. “It’s not always about going to the spa, sometimes it’s just sitting with my eyes closed listening to John Coltrane” she said.

Francis credits many of her accomplishments to those who supported her along the way.  “There’s a very famous African proverb that says ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ and I’m struggling to find the lie in that statement,” she noted. She explained it took a community to raise her, support her through school and get her to where she is professionally. 

Francis does the work she does because she needs to, not for the accolades. When asked how she felt to be identified as a person who was exemplifying Black excellence, she said; “I have a strong social justice meter and I advocate for the underdog. Unfortunately, a lot of times, the underdog can be someone in a dark brown body. If it’s seen as excellence, let it be excellent, but I will continue to strive to do good work in this community because it’s necessary.”



Paul Jones



“George, look how far we’ve come from 1982!” Paul Jones yelled to George Cope, the now-retired executive at Bell Canada, from the side of the court after game six of the NBA Finals at California’s Oakland Arena. 

It wasn’t the first time Jones and Cope had worked together in basketball; Jones coached Cope as a player at the University of Western Ontario, but an NBA championship was new to both of them. Cope was there representing Bell Canada; the company has an ownership stake in Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, the company that owns the Raptors. Jones was there doing what he’s been doing for 35 years, talking basketball.

Jones, or “Jonesy” as his friends call him, has loved basketball all his life. 

Originally from Jamaica, Jones moved to Canada when he was only five months old. He describes his family’s journey to Canada as one of “initiative.” His father had visited Canada to see his sister, who was in law school at the University of Toronto, and he decided to stay, bringing his wife and young son up shortly after. Jones pointed out that it was ironic that his father passed on the top radio job in Jamaica to remain in Canada, where both Paul and his brother Mark would become broadcasters.

Broadcasting isn’t the only thing that runs in Jones’ family. 

“My grandfather was a teacher and a principal in Africa and in England,” he explained. Jones would eventually follow in his grandfather’s footsteps, obtaining a Masters in Sports Psychology and a teaching degree at York University and the University of Western Ontario. He continued to play basketball through his undergrad, playing on two all-star teams and being named a Finals MVP while at York. He also spent some time playing professionally in Europe.

While at Western, he got into coaching, spending one year with the women’s team and two years with the men’s team. It was his love of coaching that brought him to teaching. Jones started as an occasional teacher with Toronto District School Board in 1984 and joined York Region District School Board (YRDSB) as a Principal in 1999. 

He didn't put his love of basketball on hold due to a day job though. He joined TSN in 1985 on the advice of his brother Mark, who was also employed by the network at the time. Jones would watch games and write scripts for the commentators. He thought he had to step away when he was finally accepted to a long-term occasional teaching job, however TSN convinced him to stay on. There were times the two jobs would intersect, “I would bring my marking in (to the TSN office),” Jones explained. He remembers calling parents during halftime at Raptors’ games.

Despite working both jobs, Jones remained committed to his schools and students. “What Paul doesn’t tell you is his impact on new vice-principals at the time,” said friend and former colleague Michael Cohen, currently a superintendent of education at YRDSB, “(his personality) just brought people together.”

Cohen also noted that Jones shares stories with a purpose, something he brought into the classroom as well. He used basketball as a way of helping students connect what they were taught in school to the working world.

He recalls asking students “who thinks there are too many rules in school?” and seeing a flurry of hands go up. When he pressed about what kind of rules the students didn’t like, he got responses of “well, if you’re late you get a detention.”  Jones responded with “well, that’s good.  If you’re late with (former Raptors Head Coach) Sam Mitchell, you get fined like $500 a minute.”  When many students said they thought they should have access to their cell phones, he told them “when a phone goes off in a Raptor meeting, you’re fined like $2,000 per ring.”  “I’m trying to draw connections for them,” Jones explained.

He remained with YRDSB until 2006, when he was offered a full-time broadcasting job. He recalls meeting the Director of Education at the time, Bill Hogarth, in an Aurora fast-food restaurant. Hogarth told him, “we’re about opportunity. What do we tell kids?  Follow your dreams.” He has now been solely focused on broadcasting for more than 10 years and can be heard on a variety of networks including TSN, Sportsnet and NBA Canada TV.  He’s now a freelancer.  “Whoever’s got the game or is connected with the game, that’s who I work for,” he said.

He admits that he misses teaching, especially working with kids, and the collaborative nature of the work. He has been able to transfer some of his teaching skills into his life in broadcasting, including the importance of being a team player and much of the leadership training he received as an administrator at YRDSB.

In his personal life, Jones enjoys playing golf, reading biographies and travelling.  He also stays busy keeping up with the academic and athletic pursuits of his children. His daughter is a four-time academic all-Canadian.

When asked if he thought the Raptors could do it again, he replied, “yeah. I definitely think they could.”

Richard Walters 


Richard Walters describes himself as a passionate, upcoming artist who dabbles in acting, music and dance, however, he also considers himself a dreamer and hopes his fans feel the same way. “Beyonce has her beehives,” Walters explains. “My followers are the dreamers.”  

Walters was very youn​​g when he discovered his love of music and dance.  One day when he was a child, his daycare attendant put on Smooth Criminal by Michael Jackson.  “It got my attention as soon as I heard it, I wondered who this person was,” Walters said. “I would say Michael Jackson is the main reason I started doing what I do.”

Long before he was walking the red carpet at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), Walters was refining his craft. He wrote his first song, called Speak, around the time he entered high school, speaking out against bullying. “To quote the song ‘if you’re looking for help but nobody hears you, you have to speak’,” Walters explained.  

Walters began to see acting as a potential career after he was accepted to the drama program at Unionville High School. He credits teachers Aaron Bieman and Robert Cook for creating a safe environment to learn as a young actor.  

While most of his classmates were collecting their diplomas and looking to move on to post-secondary or the working world, Walters was preparing to go to a new high school, this one “a lot more dramatic” than Unionville H.S.. He joined the cast of Degrassi, a show that has spawned stars such as Drake. Walters’ success speaks to his perseverance; it was on his seventh audition that he landed the role of Tiny Bell. He had acted before first appearing on The Family Channel’s The Next Step as a dancer. However, Degrassi he said was his biggest project to date. 

He has worked on many projects since then and has been nominated for numerous awards.  One of the highlights of his career was attending TIFF when one of the films he appeared in, American Woman, was screened at the festival. He was able to walk the red carpet, meet fans and have his mother attend the film screening.  

Walters didn’t take a lot of time to savour his accomplishments. He was quickly back to work with his best friend and business partner Calyx Passailaigue, another Unionville H.S. grad.  They are striving to have a film of their own show at TIFF in the future. “That’s always been the goal,” Walters explained.  

Even with so much of his time tied up in acting, Walters makes time to engage in his other passions. He released another single, Vibing, in mid-2019. Vibing was heavily influenced by the way art helps connect people, Walters explained. “It’s one of the best ways to communicate with another person without even speaking,” he said. The video conveys the message that you don’t have to be the best to enjoy something. Everyone is having a good time dancing in the video, despite their varying levels of skill, Walters said. The music video is available on Walters’ YouTube channel Morpheus Richards, a name that reckons back to Walters’ “dreamer” mentality, as Morpheus is the Greek God of dreams.  

In the future, Walters and Passailaigue are going to continue working on a film that Passailaigue wrote. They also plan to work with some fashion designers Walters met at TIFF on some collaborative projects. These projects will include a couple of Walters’ and Passailaigue’s friends and fellow Unionville H.S. grads, Andon Campbell and Tre Michael Bullen, a group Walters calls “The Collective.”  “There’s a lot of great, exciting stuff coming out in the new year,” he said.  



Milton Hart


Milton Hart is a man who is driven by his core values, values that include equity, perseverance and lifelong learning. A former military officer in both Jamaica and Canada, Hart’s work ethic took him to the Olympics, won him multiple awards in track and lead to a successful teaching career with York Region District School Board (YRDSB).  

While such success could be driven by a desire for personal glory, this is not true of Hart. “I’m a true believer in the idea that I wouldn’t be here had it not been for some people who took an interest in me when I was small and making my mistakes,” Hart said. “I think my job now is to ensure the younger generation is set up for success.” This belief is reflected in his teaching, coaching and commitment to championing equity. Long before he was working in schools, Hart was an Infantry Soldier in the Jamaican Military.  He served with the Jamaican Armed Forces between 1984 and 1992. It was his time in the Jamaican Military that led him to both the Olympics and to Canada.  

The Jamaican Bobsled team practiced on military property. Once Hart learned more about the sport and their need for strong sprinters, he joined the team. He went on to compete with the team in the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France.  

Around this time, Hart also applied to become a permanent resident of Canada, choosing.  He chose Canada because of his experience working closely with the Canadian Bobsled Team. He was also interested in  York University. “If I ever decide to further my education, I think this would be the school,” he remembers thinking at the time. He said he was especially impressed by their track facilities.  

Moving to Canada didn’t mean he was finished with military service. Once he arrived in Canada, he became a Commissioned Officer and received a letter from Queen Elizabeth II, a memory that he still looks back upon fondly.  He said the letter read “You, Milton Hart, are allowed to lead my troops and they have a responsibility to follow you.” Hart described his military experience as “amazing.” “I am a protector of the state. That got me up mornings, helped me to stay up late at night,” he explained.  

A lifelong learner, Hart spent two years as President of the St. George’s College Alumni Association, the school he attended in Jamaica. Through his Queens Commission.JPG
alumni work, he assisted with initiatives to help financially support the school and provide scholarships for graduates.  

Hart joined YRDSB as a teacher in 2008.  He now also teaches adults as an English professor at Seneca College. While he spends a lot of his time teaching, Hart is also a big advocate for learning from others.  He explained that everyone can learn from the experiences of other people. “Equity is all about fairness. Equity is championing differences, celebrating them, not seeing differences as impediments, but as fantastic ways of everybody learning,” he stated.

Despite the time he has spent moving around, Hart isn’t planning on going anywhere anytime soon. He is still teaching in YRDSB, and he’s still running.    “I heard the other day that I broke the 50-metre Canadian record, which is just fantastic,” he said. He also has the Ontario and Quebec championships coming up on the Master’s Circuit. 

Even with so much going on, Hart remains focused on his main task of being an educator.  “I’m blessed by virtue of the fact that I have seen so many things,” he said. “Now with all that blessing, all that experience with everything I’ve learned, I think it would be prudent of me to pass that back onto kids”.  



Ashley Lewis

​Technology can seem impersonal at times. Ashley Jane Lewis, a New Media graduate from Toronto’s Ryerson University is working to change that. “Code drives the way that we are able to access community, through social media, code drives the algorithms that determine what my insurance package looks like, code drives the algorithms that determine where I am first offered opportunities to live, code drives the systems that categorize my identity in government files” she explained, when talking about why it is important to develop technology with a human lens.  “I think for a long time, perhaps ever, the existence of technology has not centered humans and therefore has created a lot of unempathetic, inaccurate and biased systems… If that’s going to change at all, we have to change the origin point of how we produce technology and make it more human centred.” This is something she would include when she taught code later on.
Lewis didn’t enter the New Media program with a goal of changing how machines think, in fact, she almost went into post-secondary for clarinet, an instrument she played in her high school concert band. An artist from a very young age, the program ended up blending a couple of her interests together; “I was really interested in the hybridity of technology and art, and it’s capacity to reach more people than the audience who are standing in front of your piece," she said. Lewis admits she didn’t know she would be coding when she entered the program. She recalls wondering “what have I gotten myself into?” on her first day of school when she learned her program involved coding and math, a subject she didn’t enjoy in high school. 
The way Lewis learned to code greatly impacted the way she would teach it later on, although it was not through emulation. “(When) I found myself in a position to start teaching code, it was really through social activity and game-oriented learning that I structured my workshops… I think that if we're not centreing social encounter, arts and human connection while teaching the next generation of coders, we’re not doing ourselves much of a service in the future,” she continued.  

Technology and art are two things that are close to Lewis’ heart, however, her passion for creativity has also driven other interests. Woodworking and baking are two other hobbies she enjoys. Keeping with her strong work ethic, Lewis enrolled in night classes at George Brown College in the Baking Arts program to work with other people who shared her interest. “(I) accidentally ended up with a Diploma in Baking Arts,” she laughed.  

Despite having found a wide degree of success in her chosen field, working for a variety of organizations from Toronto International Film Festival to Ryerson University to Mozilla, Lewis chose to continue her education, attending New York University’s Graduate Interactive Telecommunications Program, a program she is on track to complete in May 2020. It hasn’t just been in the classroom that Lewis has been learning, as she stated “(Brooklyn) is the first predominantly Black neighbourhood I’ve ever lived in… I feel like I’m living a version of life that could have been if I had been in an environment that was more reflective of the person I am. You don’t walk around with as much fear or as much self-conscious behaviour.  "You don't have to think about how you're being perceived.” Lewis explained the uneasiness of previously living in predominantly White neighbourhoods by saying that Black people have to prioritize their safety by finding ways to be overtly non-threatening, because of stereotypes of presumed aggression.
As her graduate program wraps up, Lewis said she is “not worried” about what is going to happen after. She doesn’t have a future job title in mind, however, she does know how she wants to feel; “I would like to have opportunities to give back to people who look like me, in gender and race,” she explained. “I want to have opportunities that allow me to speak critically about technology and point out a lot of the plot holes as to the things that are being put into action right now,” she added. ““I really enjoy having those conversations in a meaningful way, but also at a level that could create positive change.” She also wants to ensure her future includes art. “I don’t want to give away too much,” she said, “but there are lots of soft offers on the table that suffice all three of those things.”

Viola Desmond


CNN called her “Canada’s Rosa Parks”.  But long before Viola Desmond became the first Canadian woman and Black Canadian to grace the country’s currency, she was standing up for what she believed in.  

Born Viola Irene Davis, Desmond was one of 11 children. Her father, James Albert, worked unloading cargo ships before he established himself as a barber.  He  was raised in a middle-class Black family, while her mother Gwendolin Irene was a White American originally from Connecticut.
Desmond wanted to train to be a beautician, however, she quickly learned beauty schools in Nova Scotia didn’t accept Black students.  Undeterred, she opted to train in Montreal, Quebec and in the United States.  Seeing an opportunity, Desmond opened her own beauty school and taught Black Nova Scotians the trade. She also opened her own salon and created products specifically tailored to the Black community.  
Desmond was on her way to a business meeting in Sydney, Nova Scotia on November 8, 1946 when she experienced car trouble. She was advised it could take a few hours to fix her vehicle, so she decided to go and see a movie at the local Roseland Theatre in New Glasgow to pass the time. The theatre was two-tiered, with a balcony and a main floor.  Desmond asked for a ticket for the main floor. Unbenounced to her, she was issued a ticket for the balcony. She made her way out to the main floor, only to be told her ticket was not the correct one for that seat.  Believing an honest mistake had been made, Desmond returned to the ticket booth, only to be told she had been issued a ticket for the balcony because that was the only area that was available to Black patrons. Desmond offered to pay the difference to be able to sit on the main floor, however, she was refused. In an act of defiance to these unfair rules, Desmond returned to the main floor. She was then asked to leave.  She refused. The police were called, and eventually Desmond was arrested.  
Desmond was charged with tax evasion over a one-cent “amusement tax.”  The difference in tax between a balcony seat and a floor seat. She was tried and convicted, being fined 26 dollars.  She was not made aware of her right to legal council, nor did she have any present.  
Her husband Jack, a Black man familiar with the New Glasgow area, suggested Desmond not pursue the matter.  She did anyway, and hired Lawyer Frederick Brissett.  While he was unsuccessful at the time, he took the step of not billing Desmond, instead allowing the Nova Scotia Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, who were funding Desmond’s case, to continue fighting for equality.  
Unfortunately, the ordeal had a lasting effect on Desmond. She got divorced, closed her business and moved to Montreal, then New York City seeking a new start. She passed away in 1965.  
Her fight was not in vain. In 1954, segregation laws in Nova Scotia were abolished.  Desmond was granted a posthumous pardon and issued an apology in 2010.  Her sister Wanda Robson released the book Sister to Courage in the same year. 
YRDSB also named a school in her honour in Maple in 2019.  “VDPS students, staff, families and community are proud to have our school named after such an important Canadian Civil Rights Activist who actively challenged racial discrimination,” said Principal Heather Schreider.

Wor​ks Cited:

Criss, Doug. “She was Canada’s Rosa Parks.  Now she’s the first person Black person to appear on its currency.”  Cable News Network.  WarnerMedia/AT&T.  13 Mar. 2018. N.v. 11 May 2020.

Bingham, Russell and Eli Yarhi.  “Viola Desmond”.  Britannica.  Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc.  3 Apr. 2020.  V.7. 11 May. 2020.

Bingham, Russell and Eli Yarhi.  “Viola Desmond.” The Canadian Encyclopedia.  Historica Canada.  3 May 2019.  N.v. 11 May 2020.

“One woman’s resistance”.  Canadian Museum for Human Rights.  Canadian Museum for Human Rights.  N.d. n.v. 11 May 2020.

Nyarko, Mandy.  “Canada 5/150: Viola Desmond”.  The Canadian Race Relations Foundation.  The Canadian Race Relations Foundation.  N.d. n.v. 11 May 2020.

CBC News.  “How civil rights icon Viola Desmond helped change course of Canadian history”.  Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.  Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.  8 Dec. 2016 n.v. 11 May 2020.

Sister to courage: stories from the world of Viola Desmond, Canada’s Rosa Parks/Wanda Robson with Ronald Caplan.  Cumberland Public Libraries. Cumberland Public Libraries.  N.d. n.v. 11 May. 2020.

Burnett, Amanda.  “York Region District School Board names new school in recognition of Viola Desmond”. York Region District School Board.  York Region District School Board.  12 June 2019. N.v. 13 May. 2020.


Herbert H. Carnegie


Herbert (Herb) H. Carnegie broke barriers and inspired others throughout his life - both on the ice and off.


Carnegie came into the world on November 8, 1919, and it didn’t take him long to indulge himself in one of his country’s national pastimes. “I’d loved the game since I was seven and a half,” he told The Globe and Mail in 2006. He was good at it, too, and aspired to don the blue and white of the Toronto Maple Leafs. 


Carnegie had an opportunity to try out for the National Hockey League’s New York Rangers, but turned it down due to lack of adequate compensation. “In revisiting this experience with my father,” said his daughter Bernice, “he was clearly disappointed with their offer to the minors and the pay cut, especially since he had been just voted Most Valuable Player on his team and would go on to receive this distinction for two more consecutive years.  In the end it should be noted that players with lesser records advanced into the NHL.” It would be several more years before Willie O’Ree would break the colour barrier in the NHL.  


Carnegie chased his dream in the Quebec Professional Hockey League (QPHL).  He played for teams in Shawinigan, Sherbrooke and Quebec City.  His stats remained among the league’s elite, posting over a point-per-game (PPG) in his first seven seasons in the league.  In his best season, he posted 127 points in just 56 games, a PPG of almost 2.27.


He also became a member of one of the most prolific lines in hockey, known as the “Black Aces,” many years before other famous lines such as Philadelphia's “Legion of Doom” or Buffalo’s “French Connection” took to the ice.  He centred his older brother Ossie and Manny McIntyre on the famous line. Carnegie played one season outside the QPHL at the end of his career, with Owen Sound of the Ontario Hockey Association Senior A League (OHASr).  He brought his scoring touch with him, collecting 55 points in 54 games.  He called it a career in 1954 after a single season in Owen Sound.  


One year later, he formed the Future Aces Hockey School (the first registered hockey school in Canada) in 1955. 


Even after he retired from the sport he loved, Carnegie continued to break barriers in other facets of his life.  He became the first Black financial advisor in the history of Investor’s Group when he joined the company in 1964, and he remained with the company until 1996. He never truly left sports behind either, becoming a very skilled golfer, winning multiple championships and tours between 1963 and 1982.  Bernice noted that her father had “the Midas touch” with his list of accomplishments and said, “I have a strong sense of pride in knowing that he used his energy and creativity to promote confidence and self-esteem that encouraged good will and unity among all people”.  

Carnegie, his wife Audrey, and Bernice formed the Herbert H. Carnegie Future Aces Foundation in 1987, a charitable organization that is “on a mission to inspire every individual to be a better citizen.” For more than 30 years, the foundation has made a difference in the lives of young people through scholarships, leadership conferences, in-school programs and more. 


In 1996, Carnegie was named to the Order of Ontario.  He followed this up with an induction into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame in 2001 and being named to the Order of Canada in 2003.  He released his autobiography in 1997, titled A Fly In A Pail of Milk: The Herb Carnegie Story. He was also a guest in two issues of The Amazing Spider-Man, titled Skating On Thin Ice and Double Trouble.


Sadly, Carnegie passed away in 2012 at the age of 92.  He is survived by his four children, three daughters and a son.  York Region District School Board also named a school in his honour in Maple, Ontario. 


Herbert H. Carnegie P.S. celebrated the 100th birthday of its namesake in November 2019. Carnegie’s autobiography was re-released last year with new information written by Bernice.  “It is clear that the legacy of Mr. Carnegie lives on in the hearts and minds of staff and students,” said Principal Shawna Gates.  


“With all of the accolades that came his way during his lifetime, he remained quietly humble, exuding an unstoppable desire to engage in projects that would make our world a better place”, noted Bernice.  “But everything starts from home and as a husband and father, he was kind, fair, loving and totally invested in his family”.  She believes her father’s greatest legacy is the Future Aces Philosophy and its impact in promoting character in education.  




*Photo courtesy of Bernice Carnegie

Works Cited:

“Herbert “Herb” Carnegie”. Ontario Heritage Trust. Ontario Heritage Trust. N.d. n.v. 24 Apr. 2020.


“Herb Carnegie”. Myseum of Toronto. Myseum. N.d. n.v. 5 May 2020.

Douglas, William. “Carnegie could have been first Black NHL player, letter shows”. National Hockey League. National Hockey League. 15 July 2019. N.v. 24 Apr. 2020.


“Quebec Professional Hockey League”. Quebec Professional Hockey League.  Quebec Professional Hockey League.  N.d. N.v. 24 Apr. 2020.


“Herb Carnegie”. HockeyDB. HockeyDB.  N.d. N.v. 24 Apr. 2020.


“Ontario Hockey Association Senior A history and statistics”. HockeyDB. HockeyDB. N.d. N.v. 24 Apr. 2020.

Smith, Thomas Toliver.  “Herb Carnegie”. The Canadian Encyclopedia.  Historica Canada.  28. Jan. 2015. (Edited 4 Mar. 2015). N.v. 24 Apr. 2020.


“Herbert H. Carnegie Future Aces Foundation”.  Herbert H. Carnegie Future Aces Foundation.  Herbert H. Carnegie Future Aces Foundation. N.d. N.v. 24 Apr. 2020.


“Dr. Herbert H. Carnegie.” Herbert H. Carnegie Future Aces Foundation.  Herbert H. Carnegie Future Aces Foundation.  N.d. N.v. 24 Apr. 2020.


“The Amazing Spider-Man: Skating on Thin Ice #1”. Grand Comics Database. Grand Comics Database. 9 Jan. 2014. V.9. 27 Apr. 2020.

“The Amazing Spider-Man: Double Trouble #2”. Grand Comics Database. Grand Comics Database.  9 Jan. 2014. V.5. 27 Apr. 2020.


“A fly in a pail of milk: the Herb Carnegie story”. Toronto Public Library.  Toronto Public Library.  N.d. n.v. 27 Apr. 2020.


“Herbert H. Carnegie P.S.” York Region District School Board. York Region District School Board.  N.d. n.v. 27 Apr. 2020.

Oliver, Greg. ”Herb Carnegie’s story still relevant today”.  Society for International Hockey Research. Society for International Hockey Research.  7 Nov. 2019.  N.v. Accessed 7 May 2020.

Mason, Damon Kwame, director.  Soul On Ice: Past, Present and Future. Filmbuff. 2016.​


Lincoln Alexander

Long before he was the namesake for 
Lincoln Alexander P.S. in Markham, Lincoln Alexander was breaking barriers for Canadians across the country.  
A first generation Canadian, Alexander was born in Toronto in 1922. His mother was from Jamaica and his father (also named Lincoln Alexander) was from St. Vincent. He served in the Royal Canadian Airforce in World War II between 1942-1945 before returning to Canada when the war was over. He marriedYvonne in 1948 and their son Keith was born one year later.
Alexander graduated from McMaster University with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1949.  Following this, he graduated from Osgoode Hall Law School and was called to the Bar in 1953.  
He began his political career in 1965, running as a member of the Conservative Party.  He was narrowly defeated in his first campaign for office, however, he remained undeterred and was elected to his first term in 1968, at which time he became Canada’s first Black member of parliament (MP).  
Alexander was re-elected multiple times, holding a seat until 1980.  He continued to blaze new trails while in office, becoming Canada’s first Black cabinet minister in 1979, handling the Labour portfolio for Prime Minister Joe Clark until 1980.  He resigned his seat in 1980 when Ontario Premier Bill Davis appointed him Chair of the Ontario Workers’ Compensation Board, a title Alexander held for the next five years.  
He wasn’t done with politics though. Alexander became the first Black Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario in 1985. He was appointed to the position at the recommendation of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. He held this position until 1991, when he was named Chancellor at the University of Guelph.  He remained chancellor at the university until 2007.  
In 1992, he was named an officer of the Order of Ontario and a Companion to the Order of Canada.  
Five years later, in 1997, Alexander became the Chair of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation.  
Sadly, Alexander passed away in 2012.  He was survived by his second wife, Marni, (his first wife Yvonne passed away in 1999 and Alexander married Marni in 2011), his son Keith and his grandchildren.  At his funeral, Toronto Argonauts alumni Michael “Pinball” Clemons referred to him as “leadership personified.” 
Alexander was granted honourary degrees by six post-secondary institutions, including York University in 1990 and Queen’s University in 1992.  He also earned several awards, including Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012.  

Works Cited:

Lincoln Alexander Public School. York Region District School Board.  York Region District School Board.  2020.
Lincoln M. Alexander. Black in Canada (via Wordpress).  Black in Canada (via Wordpress). 22 Oct. 2012..
Lincoln MacCauley Alexander. Hamilton Public Library. Hamilton Public Library.  N.d.
CBC News, with files from The Canadian Press. Lincoln Alexander remembered as ‘what is best in humanity’ at funeral. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.  Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.  26 Oct. 2012.
Brown, Wayne.  The Honourable Lincoln M. Alexander: The First Black Canadian Elected to the House of Commons.  Elections Canada. Elections Canada.  Oct. 2002.
University Mourns Passing of Lincoln Alexander. University of Guelph.  University of Guelph.  20. Oct. 2012.
The Lincoln Alexander Award. Law Society of Ontario.  Law Society of Ontario. 2020.,-awards-and-honours/law-society-awards/the-lincoln-alexander-award.
The Canadian Race Relations Foundation commemorates Lincoln Alexander Day and his impact on race relations in Canada. Canadian Race Relations Foundation.  Canadian Race Relations Foundation.  21 Jan. 2019.
“Go to school, you’re a little black boy”: the Honourable Lincoln M. Alexander: a memoir. Toronto Public Library.  Toronto Public Library. 2020.
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