How would you describe your Fellows experience? What were the biggest take-aways for you both during and post-program?
In a word: challenging. Just like the rest of the world, our cohort was learning how to take a traditionally in-person experience and make it digital. All our programming was done through Zoom. This had its difficult moments for sure; however, our cohort made the best of it, and I got to know a group of incredible people who are always willing to support each other – both personally and professionally.
Why are programs like DiverseCity Fellows important?
Especially now when people are so isolated and live in their own echo-chambers, the Fellows is a crucial and needed bridge-builder. It’s rare to have so many different perspectives working together to solve the biggest challenges facing the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA).
You describe yourself as a “maker of good trouble”, what exactly does this term mean to you?
There’s a quote from the late Georgia Congressman John Lewis that I consider words to live by: “My philosophy is very simple. When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, Do something! Say something! Get in trouble! Good trouble! Necessary trouble!” I can always count on this quote for encouragement if I ever need some gas in the tank.
Congratulations are in order! You recently received the Gold Award for Personal Journalism from The National Media Awards Foundation. What does it mean to be considered an award-winning journalist for your memoir published in Toronto Life Magazine? And what’s next for you in this space?
Thank you! The recognition was definitely unexpected, but it’s amazing to have my life experience and storytelling skills recognized in this way. I believe that deeply personal stories can communicate a vision and a picture of the realities people face. These visions – as enablers of action – can be a helpful tool for social and political change. What’s next? I could definitely see a documentary series in the future…
Your past as a convicted felon doesn’t define you, but it does shape a lot of the injustices you fight for today. What key lessons have you learned as you continue to navigate your personal and professional growth in the GTHA?
This is my story; my journey. There will always be haters or people who want to bring you down if you’re out there making waves; that’s the price we pay for going against the grain and not keeping ourselves small. I don’t believe you should live your life listening to those voices – allowing yourself to be broken by the barriers – but it’s undoubtedly a heavy toll that’s extracted. That’s when I rely on some really amazing peers who are willing to support me.
You recently posted on social a letter to your future self, expressing a sense of pride for receiving a law degree. Can you share the significance of this letter? And your reason for posting it online?
Sure! The letter was actually an assignment from the first week of law school. I posted it online mostly as a personal accountability tool, but also as a source of inspiration as I progress through this journey. Being accountable (to yourself) is critical!
Burnout is a reality for many racialized leaders, particularly during a time where large organizations and institutions have an increased focus on addressing equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) in the workplace. From your perspective, what are you hoping to see more of from the major organizations and institutions in the GTHA?
Many large organizations and institutions are no doubt feeling the pressure to ramp up efforts to address EDI. Most of the focus has been largely symbolic: well-meaning initiatives, such as signing a pledge. I am hoping to see more actionable, transparent, and sustainable follow-through. Accountability matters. Having said that, this kind of systems change is a marathon and not a sprint.
The floor is yours. What message would you like to share with your DiverseCity Fellows alumni peers?
I have full belief in the capacity of each and every one of us to change the world; however small or grand a scale on which that may be. Never be afraid to make some #GoodTrouble!