MARK DUNN - ROLE MODEL & AMBASSADOR
Officially Inducted into the “National Wall of Role Models” on June 7, 2014 ( See full list www.BlackCanadianAwards.com )
Tell us a little bit about yourself and something not many people know about you? As a young Afro Canadian who was born in Canada of parents of Jamaican decent I have gone through number challenges and difficulties that have shaped who I am today. Furthermore, have always lived with the philosophy that my family values and expectations will not be compromised, I will not hold back my potential due to fear, uncertainty and my past, know that I have a duty to be a person of integrity and character and understand that life is game that I play to win.
I have always approached my life with a purpose to learn, grow and continue ongoing improvement personally and professionally and take calculating risks. I have been privilege to have great friends in my life that I learn from, grow from and associate with.
I do have a fun side to myself. I love pulling pranks on people, asking questions of people to get a rise out of them and many more. The passion that I live my life with is based on having fun, living with purpose, leading by example and understanding that I am walking billboard that can break stereotypes or keep the stereotypes alive and well.
Throughout my academic journey as a child growing up to my university years I played a strong role in advocating for myself because of my academic challenges. I can recall my public school experience whereby the teachers had a meeting with parents to discuss my academic future and determining what school and profession I should study because of my ability.
During this journey I learned very fast that I was not going to allow a person, teacher or school to determine my academic future and professional goals. I found myself at an early age going against the grain of what teachers thought of me vs. what I thought of myself. I conditioned myself not to believe what their assessment of my academic ability would be. So I fought back not with my mouth or a piss poor attitude or a victim mentality but through self education, perseverance and determination to prove something.
I remember asking my dad to get me out of the trade school that they placed me in because that’s not what I wanted. I especially understood that if everyone else can dream and have goals with no limits so can I. So my dad helped my get into the high school of my choice but due to labeling and academic records they held me back in the remedial classes. This was frustrating but once again a challenge for me to overcome.
I proceeded through high school and graduated with enough credits to get me into college. Again I remember how my friends and other students were dreaming with no limits. Talking about all the universities they got into and making choices. This drove me more.
I decided to attend college for 2 years with plan to transfer to university. Let’s say the university was another big challenge. I applied to every university in the Ontario and was rejected. I personally believe that the label that was placed on me in grade school with the academic standing really impacted my future but it never highlighted my determination, my will to succeed and work ethic.
So I decided that there was 1 more university that I didn’t apply to and I made the decision to try one last time. However, this approach was going to be a little different because I wrote a letter expressing how bad I wanted an opportunity, how much it would mean to my family and going through a number of challenges impacted my academics.
Once I mailed out the application I prayed about it and let go. I must mention that know one new about this part of my journey including my parents. This was between me and god.
4-6 weeks passed it was mid summer. It was hot that day. I recall it being about 4pm in July 1996 or 1997 I was coming back from the gym and as I pulled into my mothers drive way I noticed that mailman was approaching my house. I waited in the car until he left. I went through the mail and noticed a letter for me from a university that I applied to. I went inside took the letter with me upstairs into my bedroom and contemplated opening it for 45mins. I was not sure at this time if I could take another rejection and knowing that a lot of my friends where looking to move to there universities they got accepted into the next month.
I remember my mother calling me but I told her I will be downstairs in a minute. I decide at that moment to open the letter and read it. I am smiling as I am writing this because I can still see and feel what I was going through. I started reading the first 6 word ….“We are happy to offer you….” Once I saw that I fell to my knees and slammed myself to the ground because it was not a rejection letter but an offer. All I wanted was an opportunity. I can hear my mom saying to me “Mark what is that….” (Related to me dropping to the ground). I went down stairs showed my mother the letter and she was happy and called my dad.
This small aspect of my life was just one significant event that people don’t really know about me. It was about the dream, struggle and victory process.
What's your inspiration or how do you get motivated? My inspiration is drawn from a number of places. I feel I come from a generation of people that demonstrate hard work, determination, ambition, faith, pride, perseverance and a never give up attitude. This said it really starts with my family. I have a picture in my house of mother, father and my grandfather that I look at everyday for a reason. The reason is to keep in mind all the sacrifices that have been made for me to be where I am at and understanding that path of opportunity I must take. Through story telling of my grandparents and seeing the legacy, work ethic and will to succeed is based on the generations before them. So it is a must for me to always make sure I never leave no rock unturned and not die with my potential in me.
I still face challenges in my life and I still find myself going through a cycle of feeling hurt, maybe becoming angry or frustrated, getting resourceful and getting back into the game of life with a different mind set. I am still a work in process because I am not perfect. I tend to find inspiration also through books, CD’s, DVD’s through my L.I.F.E business, movies and sports.
I believe that my journey is not complete at this time. My journey consists of faith, seeking opportunities to improve myself, putting myself out there and blossoming where I am planted. This being said my work ethic and be humble has helped me get where I am at today. I have always kept in mind never forgetting where I came from and who I represent. I have been told that I am a workaholic but I tend to see this as a part of my work ethic that I have been taught through my parents, family members and close friends.
What more should you expect from me? Well I don’t really know because life is a journey not a destination. Sometime we may have an idea what we expect but due to life being unpredictable I will just live 1 day at time with the expectation of being the best that I can be. Moreover, I will continue looking for opportunities to grow, develop and to serve others through business opportunities and investing my time into causes that can help the youth of today.
What would you like to be remembered for? I would like to be remembered for my character, integrity and a willingness to contribute beyond myself to help someone be better. If I have the privilege of helping 1 person become a valued citizen with values, beliefs and morals through my example I have fulfilled a special purpose.
How do you balance work, family, friends and leisure? I am known to be a structured person and balance for me comes with organization and prioritizing work, family, friends and leisure activities. My wife says that I am a “creature of habit” and learning how to except things that my impact my structure. I believe prioritizing for me is very important. I have my workout time, utilize technology to keep in touch with friends daily and invest quality with my family through outings, dinners, walks, date night, movie night. Furthermore, I am person who is willing to learn how to improve so if my family, friends or personal time is suffering I expect people to communicate that with me and for myself to communicate that. Communication is an important part of how I prioritize my time. I don’t like when people internalize there feelings and then explode or misinterpret my intentions due to lack of communicating. So I try my best maintain an open lines of communication with family, friends, co workers etc.
What's your favorite food, book, music and movie? My food preference varies based on my mood and how I am feeling. I tend to like seafood, European food in addition to my Jamaican food. I have a number of books that I am reading at this time but my top 5 books are: 1) the bible, 2) Napolean Hill “Think and grow Rich”, 3) Donald Trump “ Think Like a Champion, 4) Russell Simmons “ Do You, 12 laws to access the power in you to achieve happiness and success, 5) Jimmy Johnson “Turning this thing around, my life in football”.
The movies I tend to enjoy more then likely have something that I can learn from such as the qualities of never giving up, good over evil themes, hard work, morals, values and heart. My favorite movies consist of Rudy, 300, social network, Rocky movies, Pride, wall street, pursuit of happiness. Now for the record thoughs are my inspirational movies. For the record as well I love Scarface, casino, good fellas, James Bonds, 21, Batman.
My music taste is also based on my mood. Therefore I love my reggae music such as Bob Marley, Freddie McGregor, Dennis Brown, The Heptones. I also enjoy hip hop and R&B such as Jay Z, Biggie Smalls, Usher and gospel.
What's your experience as a Black person in Canada? I have had some challenges that I have learned from not just in the community but also through sports. I played hockey most of my life as goalie. I learned a lot of racism, politics and judging based not on skills and talent but on skin color. At times it was hard but these experiences help shape and mold my views on being in Canada. I found that Canadians are more secretive when it comes to really letting you know how they feel about different racial groups vs. the in the United States they are more upfront about it. I don’t feel that my challenges were not as significant as what my father and some of his friends went through when they immigrated to Canada from Jamaica in the 1970’s.
It is my humble opinion that we as black Canadians have the power as a unit to make change happen by understanding the game and the strategies needed to excel. However if we continue feeling sorry for ourselves, acting as the victims, or playing the blame game we will not change as a unit but as individuals.
We need to start doing some self education through the L.I.F.E opportunity on ourselves through reading, listening to others and associating with the right people, address some of our personal bitterness to become better, work towards ending certain generational thinking and behaviors and equip ourselves tools and resources obtained in school.
What is the Black community doing right or wrong in Canada? I feel that we are doing a number of things right but due to having a small percentage of people working on this it’s hard to bring it to the forefront of society on a daily basis. We have some great community leaders, educators, business women and men, doctors, lawyers etc. The world tends to focus on successful black people as musical artist or athletes.
A part of what is going wrong at this time is the break down in the black family dynamics, lack of accountability and responsibility. I have found that the value system, beliefs, morals and family expectations know longer are present. Hence we have more black students dropping out of high schools, more black students not completing a full post secondary education, more youth breaking the law, more black youth feeling hopeless, more black youth dying at the hands of gun violence, increase incarcerations rates, negative impact of hip hop music and B.E.T. on the black youth and the community.
For this to change we need more self education in the areas of faith, family, friends along with leadership development and personal development to reduce the feeling of hopelessness to being hopeful. My L.I.F.E. business is focused on this.
Are there as many opportunities for Blacks in Canada that can produce role models and institutions like Beyonce, Tyler Perry, Obama, BET, etc? I believe there are many opportunities in the in Canada if we choose to see them as opportunity and have delayed gratification. Success in life is never easy. Everyone’s journey and legacy is unique within its own way. Obama, Oprah and others have shown us the path of success but we must remember the journey of what we see as success never shows there struggle and challenges they faced from family, friends, communities and negative people.
People who are great or become great always go through the dream, struggle and victory process. But today I find that a lot of us have a dream, we don’t want to struggle because we want it now hence the victory is not insight.
We have to learn to change our thinking and realize that Obama, Beyonce, Oprah, Tyler Perry and others are what I call a part of the 5 percenters because they managed to overcome the struggle which sets them apart from the 95 percenters.
We must realize that opportunity mixed with difficulty is what is needed to become a success and make an impact on people, families and the world. We should strive to develop a strong enough ‘why’ that allows for us to work towards the 5% and therefore not typecasting ourselves in societies eyes as only being rappers, singers or athletes but that we can be much more then that.