Black History Month – Jerome Samuels shares his hopes for the future of Black Canadian History
This Black History Month, we’re shining a light on the contributions made to Canada by Black Canadians, inside and outside of Rogers, who are paving the path forward and empowering the next generation of Canadian Black youth to reach their highest potential.
Today, we’re spotlighting Jerome Samuels, Senior Director, Planning & Strategy here at Rogers, who shares how his lived experiences have empowered him to become a leader and a mentor in his community.
Black History Month is an important time to amplify voices and shine a light on the experiences of the Black community. Why do you believe this is an especially vital time for the next generation of Black youth?
Black History month for me is an annual report card on the progress humanity has made in creating an equal seat at the table for Black people. It accounts for the challenges Black people have faced, the contributions they’ve made and the progress they’re trying to make in being considered human and equal. It gives an account for the roles we all play – Black people, allies and otherwise – in the perpetuation or elimination of systemic anti-Black racism. Most importantly, it gives those of us committed to the eradication of anti-Black systemic racism a place to start.
As it stands right now, I have just under 10 mentees at Rogers alone (not to mention those I mentor outside of the organization), which is a bit much for an individual leader, but this is necessary work
As well I’m also working with the Connected Home Black Leadership Committee to develop leadership modules for young upcoming Black talent in Rogers for career advancement because of the imperative of this type of work.
Black History Month is about accounting for where we came from and helping to chart a course for where we want to be.
The events from the last year have sparked worldwide dialogue on the perpetuation of racial injustices experienced by the Black community. How have these conversations impacted you, and what words of inspiration would you say to the next generation of Black Canadians?
As some folks have heard me say before, the response to those events is a referendum on humanity and how the world views Black people. Consider this, there are people alive today who’s grandparents were slaves. Since 1865 (abolition of American slavery), mankind has made many advances for humanity. It’s about time we advance our perspective on humanity and progress towards a basic expectation that we live equitably.
For me, the experience has been validating. The work required to advance the Black community in the various forms of activism we undertake is necessary and we need to continue to amplify our efforts. With that in mind, I would tell the Black youth coming after me to not only dream, but to also undertake goals beyond those we’ve achieved.
As the baton is passed to them, they must be mindful that the things they do and the goals they achieve furthers the advancement of what it means to be Black – the playing field is not level, so you must be more than equal to the challenge.
Beyond Black History Month, how do you honour Black History in your life?
Black History Month and more importantly, a progressive outlook for the Black race, is a daily exercise for me. I’m aware of my role. My activism is the never-ending pursuit of excellence. As a Black man in the business community, my presence matters because there is not many of me punctuating the business landscape.
How I show up at Rogers, in a meeting, as a leader assuming progressively senior roles and putting everything on the table towards excellence matters, again, because there aren’t many of me punctuating the landscape within the organization.
My goal is that a Black man entering a boardroom is welcomed and not met with non ingratiating thoughts of ‘why is he here’. We need to diminish the systemically oppressive narrative of a Black man being physically threating and normalize Black people in the workplace and in leadership roles.
As well, for those coming after me, it gives them a tangible example to follow – Black icons like Barack Obama and Sidney Poitier are tough acts to follow, but a Jerome Samuels, is more than attainable.