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A Message from Wayne Edwards, VP of Human Resources, as we Celebrate Black History Month
As we continue to celebrate Black History Month together, today we are pleased to provide you with a message from our VP of Human Resources, Wayne Edwards. The below message was shared with PLASP staff today - and now with our PLASP families - and reflects PLASP’s commitment as an organization to address anti-Black racism.
Wayne Edwards, PLASP’s VP of Human Resources interacting with children in program in 2018.
A message from Wayne Edwards:
As a Black male who was born and raised in Canada, I remember growing up thinking it was odd that a month of the year was dedicated to recognizing the contribution and achievements of people, simply because they were Black like me. I thought why was it an achievement for a Black person to serve their country in the Canadian Armed Forces like Jeremiah Jones or play hockey in the NHL like Willie Eldon O’Ree did or even become a Member of Parliament like Jean Augustine? These were all Canadian citizens who were doing what other Canadians had done for many years before them. So why did it matter that they were Black? Well, as I got older, I learned that the colour of my skin did matter to some people because to them it meant that I was more threatening, suspicious, less qualified or less Canadian than someone who was White. I also began to understand that the accomplishments of these Black Canadians were not only special because of what they achieved but also because they were able to achieve them in a world where they faced extraordinary discrimination and opposition to their success, simply because of the colour of their skin. Their achievements and bravery in context to the prevailing systemic and individual racism that disadvantaged, threatened and marginalized them and their communities, made their accomplishments that much more worthy of special recognition because they broke stereotypes and overcame racial barriers in order to pave the way for many others to follow in their footsteps.
So why is it important to celebrate Black History Month? For starters, diversity is important to foster equitable environments and practices for everyone. Diversity, equity and inclusion helps us stay alert to societal injustices, and keeps us grounded to issues relevant to our families and our communities.
In addition to grappling with the emergent pandemic this past year, our PLASP staff, families and communities have also been confronted with addressing the impact and consequences of our history that have created systemic barriers that prevent Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) from fully participating in all aspects of society. This is especially true for Black Ontarians of all backgrounds. Whether they’re recent immigrants or descendants of people who were enslaved, Black Ontarians live a shared present-day experience of anti-Black racism.
This is why PLASP is committed to not only recognizing Black history and achievements but also dismantling and eliminating all forms of systemic and individualized racism and anti-Black racism. Racism has no place at PLASP!
PLASP’s anti-Black racism strategy builds upon Ontario’s Plan and our commitment is to L.E.A.D. (Learn, Educate, Act and Demonstrate)
Learn from our staff, families, experts and our community partners by engaging them in meaningful dialogue & communication
Educate and inform ourselves and others about the issues (history past & present, perspectives, systemic structures and cultural biases)
Act now to dismantle systemic and cultural structures that support inequitable outcomes for Black and racialized people that are both visible and measurable
Demonstrate our commitment and progress towards eliminating racism through our results and outcomes
While the pandemic and subsequent program closures have certainly impacted our plans and ability to engage all PLASP employees on these important issues through the more personal and face-to-face ways we’re accustom to, our work to address these challenges is very important to us. Over the upcoming weeks, PLASP will be launching a number of initiatives to first engage our employees on the issues of anti-Black racism, equity, diversity and inclusion and then we will work together to identify ways to involve our families and community partners.
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