In 1991, my parents bought a gas station in Tavistock after making the decision to move from Brampton. I was four years old when Tavistock became my home. As you can imagine, it was a culture shock for my parents as they settled into a small town in rural southwestern Ontario. I, on the other hand, did not know differently at that time.
As I grew older, became more involved in sports, the community and school, I began to realize that we were not like everyone else in town. We looked different, dressed differently, and our culture was not the same as my friends.
Throughout my life, my father guided me. He shared with me that the secret to becoming a valuable member in any community is to prioritize relationships with others. My father took the time to communicate with our neighbours, our friends, and the community around us. He took every opportunity to patiently educate them about our culture. As a result, he broke down barriers and apprehensions that others may have had about our family and created lifelong friendships, built on the foundations of mutual respect, transparency and understanding.
It is from him I learned the value of patience, communication, and education in relationships in community. Were some days harder than others? Yes. But I learned from my father to persevere; that it would be worth it.
Yes – I experienced racism
Yes – I was called a girl for having long hair
Yes – I got into fights as a child, trying to defend myself
These experiences, along with the guidance that I received from my father shaped me, and made me who I am today. I understand first-hand what it feels like to experience racism -- but I also understand first-hand how to bridge the gaps in these relationships and how to build community from education and conservation.
I make every effort to be inclusive and respectful of others, hear their points of view, and learn about their backgrounds. We are all different but I believe that is what makes an excellent community - like Wilmot!
We cannot let negativity and misunderstandings take us down and win the battle. Instead, we must try to bridge the gaps within society. We must communicate with others, ask and answer questions, and learn from one another.
No – Everyone will not be open-minded or willing to communicate openly in the beginning of each conversation – but that should not stop us from trying.
For 31 years of my life, I have lived in Wilmot as a person of colour. I have embraced the differences and similarities that I have with my friends and relationships that I have made. I have made positive contributions within my community through my small business and I have made the decision to raise my young family in Wilmot.
I hope to empower my kids and our future generations by sharing my own experiences and building a strong community where there is ZERO tolerance for racism or discrimination. I believe that we should all build each other up and for that we must inspire others and lead the way ourselves to a better and more inclusive Wilmot.
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