Wednesday, December 19th, 2018
by Aminka Belvitt, ForUsGirls President & CEO
On February 20th, I had the privilege of sharing my story with over 2,000 youth at WeDay Montreal. I have always wanted to be a WeDay speaker. When the WeDay team contacted me in late 2017, I was filled with so much joy but only shared it with my mom. She has been my source of strength, wisdom and empowerment My entire life.
She sacrificed so much for me to be here. I will always be grateful to her and my dad for what they have done for me. I don’t come from privilege at all. I come from poverty. I was the first person in my entire family linage to go to university. My mother didn’t get the opportunity to finish school in Jamaica because her family felt, as a girl she was better off learning to cook and clean.
When she met my dad he helped her go to hair dressing school to get a trade. When we moved to Canada she completed her Ontario high school diploma at adult education while raising a family of 3 and caring for her husband, who at the time was disabled from a motorcycle accident. She later completed her hair and styling certification and diploma to work here in Canada. She was a manager at Magic cuts and after 10 years started her own business, her own salon.
All while being a new immigrant in Canada. As a child, I sheltered her from my experiences at school. But point blank I faced physical, emotional and verbal racism in the schools I attended upon arriving to Canada. I also stood out as a strong black female who took no shit for anyone! I had dreams like anyone else but it was very apparent to me that my dreams weren’t seen as valid by society and by many teachers.
I persevered and continued to remain my strong-willed and multi-talented self. I know now that if I did not had the mother I had, I don’t think I would have emotionally survived. Going to a predominately white school with NO black teachers, as a black girl, who was an immigrant and
out-spoken, nope. I would have been like the rest of my black girlfriends and dropped out of high school.
The school system wanted to write me off so many times, even though I was a high-achiever. I put my self in the academic stream to get to university when I was never encouraged to do so. I wasn’t like the sweet black girls who didn’t challenged the school system. I was the one who demanded the same level of treatment- always!
This is why I created ForUsGirls, and have been an active social justice, political and equality advocate. Because I’ve lived that “over looked” life. I know how it is to have the talents and having to prove people wrong. Certainly, I had support from selected teachers who saw what others refused see to look past. Because of them and my family I’m where I am today.
Finally, at WeDay I had the opportunity to talk about ME and my lived experiences! Not anyone else but me!
I was there sharing MY story of growing up in Canada as an outspoken, Jamaican, black girl. I kept it real and the embrace I received by the kids afterwards was truly phenomenal! It hit me that we are lying to society and the world about the real stories of black and people of color in Canada.
I’m glad we are getting better at immigrant integration and racism in Canada. But let me tell you, just 20, 25 years ago it was not like this. It was hard and it affects your emotional & mental health.
I invite you to understand a part of MY STORY! Watch my WEDay speech below.
Thank you, WE Day for inviting me to take the stage and share my story.
Find your passion, believe in yourself and use your experiences to help others reach their full potential.
You uniqueness will make the world a better place.
Thank you, One Young World for giving me the opportunity to connect with other young global leaders, and selecting me as one of the Emma Watson Gender Equality scholarship recipients.
Thank you, La Petite Robe Noire for sponsoring my outfit for my monumental event.