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Black History Month laureates: Madwa-Nika Cadet

02/05/2015 01:56 EST | Updated 04/07/2015 05:59 EDT
At 25, Madwa-Nika Cadet is already a seasoned politician and lawyer passionate about giving a voice to the members of her community. 

Throughout February, Homerun will bring you feature interviews with some of the 2015 Montreal Black History Month laureates — members of the black community who have had a major impact on Quebec society through their achievements. 

The organization that runs Black History Month events in Montreal chose her as one of its laureates because of her passion for "collective action, youth involvement and social issues in general."

We've asked all the laureates to answer the same five questions about their experience growing up, living and working in Montreal.

Tune in to CBC Radio One today at 5:20 p.m. to hear Cadet's live interview, or listen live here. 

Who has inspired or influenced you the most?

When I was a child, I wanted to become a journalist. I was very inspired by Michaëlle Jean.

As a child, I used to recite poetry from memory and after my recitals, adults frequently came to me saying: "You are the next Michaëlle Jean." I consequently started to follow her career at a very young age!

Beyond her qualities as a brilliant news anchor and reporter, she has always displayed authenticity and commitment throughout her career. Because she stands and strives for youth, women and progress, she is a continuous inspiration.

"Montreal's black community" means different things to different people. What does community look like to you? 

To me, community means a support system and a source of wisdom. I started to be involved at an age when you need advice, support and role models to be able to progress in the right direction and, very often, I have been able to receive all of that from my community.

I feel a strong sense of belonging from the community as well as a sense of duty every time I hear about the hard work that has already been done by pioneers in the city, whether [they were] anglophones or francophones. Montreal's black community keeps me grounded with all the shades of my heritage and inspires to keep trying to make a difference. 

Who in Montreal's black community do you turn to when you need advice or want to talk something through?  Why that person?

I turn to Monica Ricourt, borough councillor for the district of Marie-Clarac in Montreal North. Why? Pretty simple. Monica is the one who introduced me to politics when I was 18.

At that time, I thought my ideas didn't matter and she was a source of empowerment for me.She was there at every step of my commitment and has always provided me with very wise and accurate advice throughout the years, because she believed in my capacities.

Our relationship has always been very honest so I am able to share my concerns with this woman who also started her path in politics at a very young age.

Have you experienced racism in Montreal? How has that shaped you? 

When I speak over the phone, because I do not have a foreign accent, people can't tell from which ethnicity I am. I have experienced moments when people felt comfortable sharing their racist thoughts with me, thinking that I was not a minority.

During the debate over the charter of secularism last year, I have been told to go back home, or to mind "my" street gangs, instead of [having] a fundamental public policy debate. So yes, I have experienced blatant racism.

However, if it is a reminder that there is more ignorance than what we might think, I can't tell that it has shaped me because I have always been able to put up a wall against those offences.

However, micro-aggressions shaped me more because they don't necessarily come from bad motives but still are an illustration of inequality. It has without any doubt developed my sense of observation and my sensitivity. 

How well do you think Montreal deals with its diverse communities?  

Today, half of Montreal population is derived from diversity and the third of it was born outside of Quebec. Our generation grew up with a mosaic of people from different backgrounds who were all educated here and are all part of our modern Montreal culture that is definitely shaped by its diversity.

I recently passed the bar exam and when we look at the Tableau d'excellence du barreau du Québec, a vast number of the last names listed were neither of French or English heritage.

Although there is still a lack of diversity representation in positions of power and in the media, I believe we deal very well today with our diverse communities because we don't hold the same cultural barriers that previous generations might have held because there is no novelty or curiosity about diversity.

It is just our daily reality.  

Tune into Homerun every Thursday in February to hear interviews with the 2015 Montreal Black History Month laureates live, and check out our weekly web series. 

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