Conversations about Race at Sunday Brunch

My mother is my biggest fan. No matter what city I’ve found myself working in, she has always made sure to call the cable company and order the channel or she’s tuned in online. My sisters call her ‘The Alpha Fan’ … though, the more I travel and report, I’m beginning to realize Mom isn’t the only one watching…

Recently, I attended a special Sunday brunch hosted by the Congress of Black Women of Canada (Waterloo chapter). I was invited by a woman who is a member of the group after she spotted me at the gym (on the StairMaster, right in the middle of a serious cardio workout). She told me it would mean a lot to her if I attended … and I’m glad I went.

Every day in our newsroom, reporters have to send an email to the producers, outlining three things about their assigned story–one of them being what surprised you most about it. At this brunch, what surprised me most was the sense of pride these Black women said they felt when they turned on the TV and saw my face for the first time on their local newscast. I was a stranger to them and them to me, but that unfamiliarity between us seemed to last only for a few seconds. There were a number of candid conversations–particularly about race and the media and their desire to see more young, Black journalists on the air across North America.

These conversations were something of an eye-opener to me. As reporters, we aim to make our stories relevant and relate-able. However, I didn’t realize how closely newscasts were being watched–not just for the content, but also for the deliverers of that content. What’s more, despite all the advancements that have been made by the mainstream media, there were some who told me there’s still more work that needs to be done.

What exactly did they suggest needs to be done? I’ll save that for another post. I will say, though, that meeting these ladies is something I’ll never forget–and I’m sure they won’t forget either. Much like my Mom, I’m sure they’ll be watching.

Nadia

Questions for Toronto’s future mayor

 

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Toronto hasn’t been home for me for the last few years, still I always keep an eye on the city’s municipal elections–particularly, the candidates vying for Toronto’s top job. Mayoral races in the city are always exciting: closely watched, hard fought and full of surprises. This year has been no exception.

There are just two months to go before Torontonians will choose their next mayor–October 27, 2014, to be exact. I’ve been poking around, asking friends of mine whether or not they’ve made up their minds. The short answer: some have, but many haven’t. I’ve had friends tell me they’re ready for change–that the city’s current leadership (Mayor Rob Ford) is overdue for removal. On the flipside, I’ve had friends tell me there’s nothing wrong with the status quo.

I also have friends who are still on the fence enjoying the view… 

…And over the last few days and weeks, there’s been lots too see: accusations of ‘dirty politics’ between candidates, dust-ups at other mayoral debates. The candidates have discussed heritage preservation and the all important topic of transit.

Also ahead on the agenda: diversity. Mayoral Debate

This week (Friday, August 29), the Diversity Advancement Network will host it’s own mayoral debate. I’m told the three leading candidates in the race–Olivia Chow, Rob Ford and John Tory–will all be there, along with Dewitt Lee, one of the mayoral long shots. I should point out that while she is on the poster, Karen Stintz won’t be there as she’s dropped out of the race.

Last week, I was contacted by Paul Ade with the DAN to help them come up with a few questions. As a voter, I think debates are key in helping people make up their minds. As a reporter, debates are exciting to cover… but are always a challenge: there are always more questions than there is time.

Still, I’m grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this debate. In addition to questions I have, I canvassed my Facebook friends for questions they also would like to have answered. Here are the 5 that made the list:

 
  1. TRANSPORTATION: What is your plan for transportation across the GTA? Will other municipalities play ball with Metrolinx? More importantly, for any of your proposed plans, how will it be paid for?
  2. YOUTH: What are your plans to help at risk youths in vulnerable communities?
  3. COMMUNITY AND POLICING: How will you work with law enforcement in Toronto to foster an open and healthy relationship between the city’s many diverse groups and Police?
  4. LEADERSHIP: The city of Toronto hasn’t always had a mayor who reflects the entire city. In the past, mayors have appealed to voters in the suburbs, but not in the inner-city–and vice versa. What makes you a leader whom all Torontonians should support?
  5. OFFICE OF THE MAYOR: Over the last few years, the office of the mayor has suffered a few blows to its reputation. While Toronto remains a well liked and popular city, it hasn’t always been cast in the best light. What will you do to bolster this city’s reputation?

So, what do you think–anything missing? There’s still time to get a few more questions in.

 

Nadia

“You must be from Africa!”

I’m always blown away (and, I’ll admit, entertained) when viewers try to figure out where I’m from. Personally, I’m not sure why it matters–it doesn’t really. However, no matter what city I’ve found myself working in, there’s no shortage of people who like to guess.

So, when another viewer set about guessing my origins recently, it wasn’t anything I hadn’t heard before. The viewer saw me shooting and excitedly proclaimed, “You must be from Africa!”

This wasn’t the first time something like this had happened…and Lord knows it won’t be the last! Here are the top 5 countries people have guessed over the years:

  1. Nigeria
  2. Zimbabwe
  3. Cambodia (This one I’ll never understand!)
  4. Trinidad
  5. Scotland

I’ve had this same conversation with viewers so many times over the years that I’m not at all taken aback by their comments. In this case, I just smiled and told them that I was born and raised in Toronto, but my parents are from the Caribbean.

I have to say, this “Guess the Homeland” phenomenon is only one that I’ve experienced since I moved away from Toronto/GTA in 2006. When I lived on the east coast, this happened frequently–a few times a week. I thought it would die down when I moved out west…but that didn’t happen at all!

I’m never offended by these comments, however I do often find myself feeling just a little disappointed. Its impossible to look at someone and know exactly where they’re from or what their backstory is–and yet people do it. Everyday. Coming to conclusions based on what they see.

In my case, it’s totally harmless: there’s never any malice behind the comments.  That said, I’m sure what happens to me also happens to others in Canadian cities…and sometimes, it’s not so harmless. Rather than guessing and coming to conclusions, what people are really missing out on is an opportunity to get to know someone: find out where they’re *really* from and what they’re all about.

I don’t think I’ll ever work in a city where this won’t happen. To some extent, I think when you work in the media, this sort of thing is just par for the course.

I just wonder what country (or continent) a viewer will guess next…