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Black History Month - Kanisha Anderson shares how she celebrates Black History Month through the power of education and mentorship

This Black History Month, we’re continuing to celebrate Black Canadians, inside and outside of Rogers, who are inspiring the next generation of Black youth to reach their full potential through their guidance and mentorship.

For Kanisha Anderson, her greatest mentors came from within the four walls of her own home – her parents.  

As a first generation Jamaican-Canadian, Kanisha shares how her parents’ passion for celebrating Black History Month as a family helped shaped her identity and her commitment to uplifting her 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 that this time is especially important for Black youth?

Since I was a child, I’ve loved how Black History Month feels like a time to celebrate the amazing contributions we’ve made throughout history. When I was younger, every February my parents would organize our own “Black History Education Month.” Along with my brother, my mother would take us to the library, and we’d grab as much literature as we could to learn about the world-changing contributions of Black leaders. Although she was intentional about teaching us that the contributions of Black people couldn’t be relegated to just one month, it was still fun learning about people like Viola Desmond, Marcus Garvey, Kathleen Cleaver and Frederick Douglass together as a family.

Despite the challenges and obstacles I faced, the stories of our communities’ history taught me that I could achieve amazing, extraordinary things.

As I grew into adulthood, I realized how crucial it is for young Black people to see how expansive and global our impact is. For me, it became the framework and foundation through which I developed my own self-perception and understanding of self. Despite the challenges and obstacles I faced, the stories of our experiences taught me that I was capable of achieving amazing, extraordinary things.

Beyond Rogers, you’re an active volunteer in your community. Tell us about some of your experiences and how mentorship plays a role in these organizations?

For several years, I’ve volunteered in communities across Toronto, particularly with young people in their early teens looking to build life skills and personal development. My work included serving as youth community leader, developing educational programs for students and social groups for young girls. Regardless of the organization I worked for, the core message I wanted to instill remained the same: you are gifted, you are worthy, and you CAN achieve your wildest dreams. 

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? 

Like many Black people, the events of the past few years gutted, devastated and truthfully, at times exhausted me. Martin Luther King Jr’s quote “injustice anywhere, is a threat to justice everywhere” started to feel like a never-ending, looping song in my mind. It was, and is, heartbreaking to see how pervasive of racism, institutionalized oppression and subjugation is in our global society and country.

To speak plainly, racial injustices are draining and traumatizing. Especially when we see constant barrages of images, videos, reports of Black people being treated poorly in the news and on social media.

That said, I want young Black Canadians to know that it can often feel like the fight against racism and oppression requires us to stay in “fierce fighting mode”. But in the words of educator, writer and activist, Brittany Packnett Cunningham, joy is also an act of resistance. Making the world a more just, equitable, and healthy society is layered work that also requires action from allies and accomplices. Enjoy and embrace rest. Relish in the times when you smile so much your face hurts, when you laugh until your stomach is sore and those moments of joy that make your soul feel alive.

Even if it’s just turning off the news to go on a nice walk, you always deserve your joy and you will never need to “earn” it.