CHRISTINE KITOKO - ROLE MODEL & AMBASSADOR
Officially Inducted into the “National Wall of Role Models” on June 7, 2014 ( See full list www.BlackCanadianAwards.com
BIO: Christine Likwekwe Kitoko holds the title of Miss AfriCanada 2012. She has one year to go before completing her Bachelor Honours degree in International Development Studies. She is the founder and administrator of Hands for the Heart Charitable Organization (HFHCO). Hands for the Heart is a nonprofit organization that focuses on drawing attention to the conflicts happening in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and alleviating poverty among the Congolese in-need.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what many people may not know about you? I was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 1992, and I am the second eldest of five children. Something that people may not know about me is that I am very interested in learning about things on a global scale, and I very much enjoy traveling. I am fascinated by other cultures and ways of life, and I have a passion for social justice. I am also a born-again Christian and I love serving the Lord.
What's your inspiration and how do you get motivated? I get my inspiration from observing my parents. I praise them for all the love and effort they have (and continue to) put into cultivating us, their children, in order to become responsible and successful people in our own rights. My parents are a motivation to me because they possess the kinds of characteristics found in strong, persevering and wise people. I always strive to achieve their kind of character.
How did you get to where you are now and what more should we expect? I got to where I am now not only by my own efforts but also due to the encouragement of those who love me and who value what I try to do. Going forward, people can expect to see me continuing to invest my time and resources into completing my education, and growing HFHCO and the work we will be doing in the DRC.
What would you like to be remembered for? I would like to be remembered for being a woman of faith, who served God and other people faithfully, and who worked to constantly expand her horizons and develop herself.
How do you balance work, family, friends and leisure? Balancing the different aspects and relationships of your life can be challenging, especially when they overlap. For me, my family takes priority over everything else; and the other things and people that I value come secondary to that.
What's your favorite food, book, music and movie? My favorite book to date has been "The Book of Negroes" by Lawrence Hill; it was so captivating that I plan on reading it again someday. However, when it comes to food, music and movies; I would say that I like whatever pleases me. I really don't have any favourites or any restrictions in those regards. I'm open to most things.
What's your experience as a Black person in Canada? I believe that it would be challenging for any person to live in a society where they are not only a visible minority but also underrepresented in the important areas such as politics, the media and the professional workforce. With that being said, growing up in Canada as a Black person has definitely had many challenges. However, it has not made my overall experience a negative one; I am very proud of my nationality. I have experienced hurtful things such as racism and prejudice, but I have also been helped, supported and welcomed by many Canadians who were not of my race, just as I have been rejected by Canadians who were Black. I think that it is normal (not necessarily acceptable), because everywhere you go you are going to have kind and unkind people, accepting and ignorant people.
Suggest solutions to some of the issues in the community?
Something I am really appreciating among Black Canadians is the spirit of innovation. I have noticed upon becoming Miss AfriCanada 2012, meeting new people and being introduced to their work, that Black people are really forging their own way in our society. As a group, we are rising to a level that is comparable to other visible minorities, in the professional field. In terms of what Black people are doing wrong; I am not sure how to answer that question. From a very personal standpoint, I think that many Black people do not take education seriously enough. And I disagree with that. I believe that knowledge acquisition is not only important for personal growth, but also very necessary if you are going to be competent in our world.
Are there as many opportunities for Blacks in Canada that can produce role models and institutions like Beyonce, Tyler Perry, Obama, BET? Musical talents exist everywhere; it is more a question of opportunity. The United States is not only the center of show-business but also the mecca of consumerism. So it is understandable why American artists have a greater chance of success than artists who start out in Canada. Moreover, we know that artists who want to "make it big", from anywhere in the world, must always find a way to tap into the American market. We can take the examples of Shaniah Twain, Drake, Justin Bieber, Avril Lavigne etc. In comparison to Canada, the U.S. not only has a much larger consumer base, but it also has numerous and better-established support networks for artists who want to work in show-business.
Mention a few of your favorite Black Canadian Leaders, Artists and Role Models? Black Canadian artists that I appreciate are more so the ones who are doing things to benefit the community at large. An example of this is Lawrence Hill, whose novel "The Book of Negroes" gives Black Canadians from everywhere a fantastic idea of the historical experiences of Black slaves in the Americas and abroad. I found it to be very educational.
Should and do Blacks support black music, events and businesses? I really think that whether Blacks support the works of other Blacks, or not, depends on variable factors such as marketing. If a person is successful in getting their product or business out to the Black community (which can be broken down even further) then I believe they will be supported, vice versa. Now, whether or not Blacks should support the works of other Blacks is another question. I simply think that individuals should support what they believe in. I, personally, will not support anything that does not appeal to me or reflect my moral standards, regardless of the target audience it is intended for or the race of the person(s) behind it.
What’s your understanding of Black History in Canada? This is unfortunate, but I think that Black History in Canada is poorly advocated if recognized at all, and also highly dependent on American Black History. I went to high-school in Guelph, Ontario and I remember having to go ask my Vice-Principle, out of frustration, if the school could purchase Black History books for the library and also recognize it during the month of February. Today, however, I wonder if they continued to celebrate Black History Month where I went to school. And it is too bad. I hate to have to keep mentioning this, but until I read "The Book of Negroes," as a young Black Canadian I had never really given much thought to Canadian Black History. Our society at large needs to be making greater efforts to promote Black (Canadian as well) History, outside of the GTA, where I suspect it would be most celebrated. What about communities of Black people who are Canadian, in the sense that their families have been established in this country for multiple generations as the descendants of runaway/freed slaves? We never learn about them in schools, and we never hear about them in general either. There are fascinating things to be learned about Black Canadian History, and just Black History in general if we take the time to engage with it.
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