Gwyneth Chapman is a recent Queen's Diamond Jubilee medal recipient and a dedicated activist. As the head of the Canadian Black Caucus, she has hosted countless political debates in the hope of engaging Toronto's diverse black communities as well as inspire Toronto's new generation of leaders to become more engaged in the political process.
She spoke to me about her advocacy work and how volunteering has been a fulfilling experience for her.
You have been a great advocate for diversity in Canadian politics for a long time. Tell me about your experience.
"It's as simple as what my father, Cyril Matthew -- a man of great principle, compassion and integrity, my hero -- has always taught us: 'We are our brother's keeper.' When this idea or value is put into practice, it's very easy to understand and see how anyone and everyone can volunteer their time to make sure they are part of the solution in addressing the challenges we face, and for those who are visionaries, to work out some type of strategy that enables us to realize the potential within us, thereby making a greater impact in the lives of many others.
I've volunteered since I was 14 through various outlets, but the one thing I find is even more important now to make an impact on the masses is getting involved in the political process. I see the vision of where we are to go as a community, and precisely because we may have more challenges than the other communities, we owe it to ourselves and the next generation to create a platform, a voice, and political power so that we can be part of the solution -- and not just sit on the fence and accept whatever remnants of policies that are thrown to us.
The Canadian Black Caucus, which I founded about four years ago, has been producing important programs for youth and will continue to inspire, teach and encourage more civic and political involvement onward. 2013 is going to be very busy for us, as we will have a monthly political reception and also events where our young emerging leaders will be highlighted. We will be active in the schools, churches and community centers.
We have had some improvement (in getting more young people involved). Like a young person who usually got 40 per cent on his test scores and all of a sudden starts getting 60 per cent, it's important to acknowledge and celebrate the improvement, but our eyes are still on the prize and we still have a distance to go. It's more important now to push as hard as we can till we hit the target of equality, fairness, diversity and opportunity."
You are also a long time TV personality and used it to highlight many pressing issues in the community. Tell us about that.
"I had a weekly program I developed which was on City TV from 2006 for a couple of years, which highlighted on the things that mattered most to us. I've taken parts of the concept of that program and developed a weekly program for young people called, Inspiring Youth, on Rogers TV. The aim was to use this at a platform for youth and have them learn and develop themselves in various aspects of TV production."
I once watched the episode that you hosted from abroad on Rogers TV. It was an inspiring show with, many youth taking part. Can you tell us about that?
"I went St. Lucia with Dr. Carl B. Mack, Executive Director of NSBE, and former President of the NAACP, Seattle. We were there to help inspire and give the young people hope about their future. The messages aired on the program were powerful and invigorating. I've always expected and will continue to expect extraordinary things from our people. Listen; I have so much confidence in our people. When I see our community, when I see young people, I see major potential. It's excitingly frightening!"
What advice do you have for someone who wants to emulate an activist journey?
"Young people need to carve out some quiet time for themselves to ask the question, 'why I am here and what is my purpose?' By the way, my journey is just beginning, and as usual, I am who I am because my father is who he is, the greatest father in the world! For all the people who have said YOU CAN'T ....just say with confidence, 'WATCH ME and GO FOR IT'!'
I am also excited that via the Canadian Black Caucus -- we are organizing an important conference for black men in the fall. We want to encourage and support our men and young boys in the GTA to fulfill their destiny."