After the launch of "...and still I rise" the travelling exhibit in March 2003, the Afro-Canadian Caribbean Association approached the Workers Arts and Heritage Centre (WAHC) to develop more youth programming.

What resulted was Pieces of the Dream…Creating a Legacy for the Future, a one-day youth conference held on October 25, 2003. Since then, WAHC has had an active team working on youth issues. Focus groups in Hamilton, Kitchener, Cambridge and Oshweken, a Six Nations Reserve, took place in the summer of 2005 and a follow-up conference, “Lifting As We Climb”: Youth Empowering Youth in the Workforce, on October 29, 2005, demonstrating that young people of Colour were yearning to become involved and make a difference. As this movement snowballs, youth networks are growing across Ontario communities and a workplace mentorship program is planned for 2006-2007.

The time is now!
After the launch of "...and still I rise" the travelling exhibit in March 2003, the Afro-Canadian Caribbean Association approached the Workers Arts and Heritage Centre (WAHC) to develop more youth programming.

What resulted was Pieces of the Dream…Creating a Legacy for the Future, a one-day youth conference held on October 25, 2003. Since then, WAHC has had an active team working on youth issues. Focus groups in Hamilton, Kitchener, Cambridge and Oshweken, a Six Nations Reserve, took place in the summer of 2005 and a follow-up conference, “Lifting As We Climb”: Youth Empowering Youth in the Workforce, on October 29, 2005, demonstrating that young people of Colour were yearning to become involved and make a difference. As this movement snowballs, youth networks are growing across Ontario communities and a workplace mentorship program is planned for 2006-2007.

The time is now!

© 2007 Workers Arts and Heritage Centre - All Rights Reserved

From the Roots Up Flyer

From the Roots Up: A Youth Forum on Building Safe & Healthy Communities, Toronto, March 24-25, 2006

Photo by Michelle Myrie

© 2007 Workers Arts and Heritage Centre - All Rights Reserved


Michelle Myrie

Michelle Myrie, Lifting As We Climb (LAWC) Project Coordinator, at the Pine Tree Native Centre in Brantford, Ontario.

Photo by Helen Tewolde

© 2007 Workers Arts and Heritage Centre - All Rights Reserved


Video

Lifting as We Climb

At the ‘Lifting As We Climb’ Youth Conference held at the Workers Arts & Heritage Centre in Hamilton, Black and Aboriginal youth leaders, students, union organizers and community workers came together to address economic and social marginalization.

Guest speakers and panelists explored the links between alarming drop-out rates, unemployment, the recent spate of gang- related violence and the decimation of social programs in the 1990's by a conservative agenda that sought to balance the budget on the backs of the poor.

During the workshop session entitled “Art as a Tool for Social Resistance,” vocalist Queen Cee, and visual artist Nazia Zeb acted as agents for social change by engaging participants in alternative art forms that allow them to express their discontent with the current social and economic crises.

Despite the barrage of negative media images and stereotypes, young activists are determined to speak out. They are committed to engaging in political and social change through grassroots movements and to stamping out injustice in all its forms.

The time is now!

Workers Arts and Heritage Centre

© 2007 Workers Arts and Heritage Centre - All Rights Reserved


Video

Evelyne Myrie

Evelyn Myrie, WAHC Board member, African Canadian Workers Project Committee Member

Workers Arts and Heritage Centre, and she as well, is a member, of the African Canadian Workers Project Committee.

Evelyn: Good morning everyone, thank you for coming. My name is Evelyn, as you said, and I'm involved with the Workers Arts. This centre is established to bring to the fore the workers’ contribution to Canada. Oftentimes, we acknowledge people who are doctors, and lawyers, and other professionals. We never take time to honour those people who are simply working, to make sure that we, in Canada, have a better quality of life. This centre acknowledges and recognizes the contributions of all workers, domestic workers, farmers, plumbers... all kinds of people that make this country a great place to live. So, that's why we exist. And so doing, we wanted to acknowledge the African Canadian workers, because oftentimes African people, Aboriginal people, people who are not white, are not acknowledged. So we, as a member of this organization, are pushing forward this agenda...

This piece, adding the Aboriginal piece, making sure that we do not forget the First People's of Canada, is critical. It is critical, for you to give us feedback, and give us a critique, as to what we should do, and how we should do it better. Bringing your voices to shaping your story, not us shaping your story. This event is only a small part of that work, to bring people who have been marginalized, people whose voices have been silenced.

To say, young people, get together, and share your ideas, develop strategies, and tell us, how we have basically screwed up this world, and how you'd like to see it done better.

So, thank you very much for coming out, and really, be critical. Tell us how to do this better. Make sure that next year, as we move forward, that this project is not only just a small piece, but will become the centrepiece of this organization as well. So, thank you, for coming.

Workers Arts and Heritage Centre

© 2007 Workers Arts and Heritage Centre - All Rights Reserved


Video

Marie Clarke Walker

Marie Clarke Walker, Executive Vice-President of the Canadian Labour Congress, "Racialized Workers & Unions in Canada"

Thank-you Michelle and Helen, Renee, Evelyn, Janice is also here, for asking me to come and speak with all of you this morning. I think it's important, that we acknowledge the progress that we have made. But at the same time, we also have to be critical of the organizations, and structures that we belong to, so that we'll be able to grow, and will be able to move forward. I also want to say a special thank you... where did she go? Where did Helen go? Oh there you are! It's early in the morning, can't see, can't talk, you know. I'm very proud of Helen. Helen is a graduate, as well as a couple of other people this room, of the Canadian Labour Congress' "Solidarity Works!" program, which is a program that we have for young workers, both labour activists, and community activists to learn more about the movement, and to get active, and to become more active in working with organizations. So Helen, I'm very proud of the work that you have done. I tell you about "Solidarity Works!" because we've been struggling to actually keep it going, and I think it's an excellent, excellent program. We went from 3 weeks to one week, which doesn't really cut it, when trying to do all of the things that that program does for young people, and hopefully next year we'll move back to about 2 weeks....(inaudible)

This presentation is meant to deal with the fact that despite the many changes in the labour movement, in the last 3 decades some unions remain resistant to representing the concerns of marginalized workers, in developing pro-active programs for equity seeking groups. Often workers concerns about racism, sexism, homophobia, etc, are marginalized and treated as the problem. At the same time, successful organizing has encouraged many unions to take up equity issues. What can we learn about overcoming union resistance from both the success stories and the failures. And I'm gonna talk about some of those success stories and some of those failures today. To begin with, I think we need to deal with some of the issues that we have raised. We need to look at some of the issues equality seeking groups have raised, about their unions. In respect to anti-racism work, Aboriginal people, and peoples of colour, I will refer to the voices of concern captured in the task force report, and we did a task force, the Canadian Labour Congress carried out... formed a task force and carried out consultations between 1996 and 1998, and came out with a report shortly after that. And I'm doing that, I'm referring to that task force report so that nobody can say it's only Marie Clarke Walker saying this.

Workers Arts and Heritage Centre

© 2007 Workers Arts and Heritage Centre - All Rights Reserved


Video

Tanya Ferguson

Tanya Ferguson, Black Youth United (BYU), Service Employees International Union (SEIU)

So, I think that like I just wanted to add quickly, to what the other speaker said for what a union is. What I do is I work with people who want to be part of a union, or who are in a job that does not have a union, or if they live in an apartment building, that's like disgusting, that has bad living conditions, and they want to fix those things up. So, like almost everybody that I speak to, I always ask them "what's something that you wanna see changed, right?" And very often, people will say that they have to pay for their uniforms, so that their first whole paycheque goes to their uniform. Or that they have cockroaches in their building, and they keep spraying it, and they keep coming back, stuff like that, right? So, at the end of the day...... I guess if I was to speak to one or two people who were saying that they're into seeing changes in their workplace, or they're interested in their building, it's kind of ....it's inspiring to hear people say that, but I know (inaudible) if Chris and I, like all four of us, wanted to make those changes, in, say, the Tim Horton's down the street, I know for a fact that the manager of the Tim Horton's down the street wouldn't really care what the four of us had to say, you know what I mean? So, I think that the bottom line, for unions is really power in numbers. The idea is to get everybody on the same side, so that when you do have to go to the boss and say, "it's not fair that we have to pay our first whole paycheque to uniforms", like, they know that everybody's serious about it, y'know? Everybody's on that same page, 'cause they can easily ignore one person right?

So, I think like the bottom line for what a union is is just unity for workers, 'cause that means they can never put people against each other. And I just think, like, what I wanted to kind of start with, and I'm glad that Chris brought it up, was the idea about education. Because I think a lot of people, it's kind of already been established, didn't know what a union was in high school. When I was in high school, I didn't know what a union was, even though I actually belonged to a union, and I was really into Black history because, the same kind of things Chris was saying about not knowing your history, those kinds of things. That's kind of the thing I was most interested in in high school....

Workers Arts and Heritage Centre

© 2007 Workers Arts and Heritage Centre - All Rights Reserved


Video

Chris Harris Ph. D

Chris Harris, Ph.D Student Ontario Institute for Studies in Education/University of Toronto (OISE/UT), Labour activist

We live in an advanced high tech society, that is only getting more advanced, and more high tech. And what we’re having is a situation, where most Black and Aboriginal youth in the country don’t have basic skills to enter the workforce. And as a result, you know, the government solution is to build more jails, and to get companies from the States to come here and build more jails for our young people. But, I guess, you know, we have a different take, we can’t afford to just accept the reality that Canada’s offering our communities today. I think we have to stop being passive, and we have to start forming our own strategies. And for high school students, I think what you guys need to really consider is skilled trades. A lot of our community, when we go to university, and get degrees, unfortunately, we have to go into the society, and get a job, and it’s really hard for us to get a job, because racism is a fact of the matter, not just for people that don’t have skills, but also, for people with degrees. I think a strategy that we should be looking at is how can we infiltrate the union. Because unfortunately, the unions are controlled by white people who don’t want to just let us in in large numbers, because they look at us different. Like, they see us affecting their opportunities for their kids. So, there’s a lot of this kind of racial stuff going on. For the Black community, they see us as immigrants, like, I don’t wanna say, as the enemy, but they’re not comfortable with us, just coming in in big numbers. Just put it that way.

In terms of the Aboriginal community, the white people in the labour movement actually think that this is their country. They think that they’re the founding peoples of Canada, but this is actually First Nations country, right. So, this is not even their country, but being raised in our schools, which miseducate people, and don’t teach about First Nations history, there’s a lot of confusion. So, you know when Aboriginal people come, then it’s like, "Oh well, they have to figure out what they’re gonna do".

But once we enter the unions, then we can start explaining what’s going on in our community, and making the unions more accountable to organize our communities. And it’s personal, because the place where I work at, we have large people of colour staff, mainly black folk, and we were trying to get organized about a year and a half ago, and CUPE turned us down, because our workplace didn’t have 50 workers in it, right. We’re a small organization of social workers, you know. So they don’t have an anti-racist agenda, like they just don’t care, y’know what I’m sayin? Cause they don’t understand what it’s like to be a minority in this country, and not to get work. So, once we enter the unions, we can actually, in bigger numbers, we’ll be able to educate the labour union people.

Workers Arts and Heritage Centre

© 2007 Workers Arts and Heritage Centre - All Rights Reserved


Video

Drummer

Workers Arts and Heritage Centre

© 2007 Workers Arts and Heritage Centre - All Rights Reserved


Video

Singer

Workers Arts and Heritage Centre

© 2007 Workers Arts and Heritage Centre - All Rights Reserved


Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • explain how Canada’s identity has been and continues to be shaped by its global participation;
  • comment on the political and social context of African Canadians between 1900 and World War II;
  • discuss civil rights of African Canadians from 1960 to now.

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