Black History Month

By: The Hon. Wanda Thomas Bernard

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Hon. Wanda Elaine Thomas Bernard: Honourable senators, it is an honour to stand before you today to recognize Black History Month. The national theme for this year is “The Future is Now.”

When I think of the future, I think of our youth — a generation with whom I’m continually impressed in terms of how they mobilize for change. They are at the forefront of innovation and they make the change they want to see. We saw this innovation throughout 2020 as many young people organized and participated in protests, demanding the change they want to see. Through these demonstrations, I saw strength and resilience.

Today, I bring to your attention a Black-led organization that is leading crucial work for change. Developing Young Leaders of Tomorrow, Today — referred to by the acronym DYLOTT — was developed by a Black social worker Candies Kotchapaw in the Greater Toronto Area. This organization works with young Black people in community engagement, grassroots leadership, self-actualization, systemic advocacy and intersectionality.

DYLOTT runs a program called the Black Diplomats Academy, which creates a space where young Black people ages 18 to 35 are guided by Black leaders. They learn about career spaces and those that are economically sustainable, along with the correct training, education and mentorship to help youth create sustainable development goals. A Black leading network leads to sustained systemic change through collaboration happening on a systems level, in policy and in the community. This model that focuses on Black mentorship and leadership will make sure that Black youth are equipped to take control of their future now.

Honourable colleagues, today I celebrate young Black excellence and thank Candies Kotchapaw for being the example of grassroots success in Black communities. DYLOTT is leading the way with Black leadership and creating intergenerational knowledge and mentorship. The voices of Black youth matter and their experiences matter.

Honourable senators, I believe in the power of Black youth, and each one has a potential to fulfil and lead the change they want to see in the world. Thank you.

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