Jemelle Williams - ROLE MODEL & AMBASSADOR
Officially Inducted into the “National Wall of Role Models” on June 7, 2014 ( See full list www.BlackCanadianAwards.com )
Jemelle Williams is a community activist who is employed fulltime as a Child and Youth worker at Kennedy House Youth Services. In 2011, Jemelle founded a men’s focus group by the name of “Breaking Bread & Building Up Men”. Its focus is to develop leadership skills through effective dialog among the men to encourage significant changes in negative thinking and stereotypes of their generation. The objective is to help them become more responsible men of character and accountability within their communities.
Jemelle has been working alongside multiple community service agencies for the past ten years such as: Kennedy House Youth Services (CYW/outreach), Tropicana Community Service (outreach/program facilitator), Jewish Family and Child Services (program facilitator), and Word of Truth Christian Centre (mentorship), to name a few. Some of his training includes the prevention and management of aggressive behaviour, therapeutic relationship building, teaching life skills, and understanding and counselling youth in the LGBT community. Jemelle’s work with youth has given him many knowledgeable and enriching experiences that he enjoys sharing within the Toronto community.
Jemelle has been working in the arts and media for almost ten years. There are many different aspects of the media industry that he has been a part of, such as organizing and hosting local events, talent shows, and community functions, with a background in print modelling, acting, film, and television.
He has been writing, recording, performing, and distributing his own music for five years. Previously, Jemelle has recorded with Trinidadian super producers Precision Productions, HD engineer/producer Bayete Williams, Canadian Reflex Music Studio. Furthermore, his music has been featured on several mixtapes and has been played on the radio in Japan, USA, Canada and Europe. In 2012, Jemelle helped develop HaiYah Movement, a collective of musicians, performers, songwriters and poets which he still manages today.
What is your favourite food, book, music, movie?
Food? I am a vegetarian, so I like veggie treats. Also, I am Trinidadian and so my favourite is Caribbean ital roti which includes channa, pumpkin, potato, mango and something we call badji.
Book? Just because I’ve been reading it for so long and I have turned to it so many times in my life, I would say the Bible.
Music? I like all types of music. In particular, I am a fan of Afro beats and Caribbean sounds. I also like Rock and Roll. I am a big fan and supporter of local talent from the city of Toronto. So anything with a positive message and with a good beat; I am a fan of.
Movie? Matrix! Any given time or any given day. I also like Spike Lee’s: Malcolm X.
How did you get to where you are now and what more should we expect?
Hard work, many obstacles, faith and a solid foundation of people that believe in me. They also continue to inspire me and motivate me to be the best that I can be in personal greatness. I have started a couple of things and I believe I am a visionary; It’s always community-based to provide a service for my community. I usually cater to youth; male however, I am open to servicing everyone that I can. What you can expect from me is that I will continue building on the brand of Urban Evolution Entertainment. As well as, speaking and using my skills as a public speaker, as a mentor and as a community activist in advocating for youth that are underprivileged or uneducated about their rights.
What’s your inspiration or how do you get motivated?
My biggest inspiration is my daughter and she is also my biggest motivator for me to be an overachiever; and to be a provider for her because she is deserving of everything that is needed in her life for her to be a wonderful and well-rounded individual. Other than that, I am definitely inspired by life itself. I’m a people person. I love to observe people. I love to be of service and to help others that I care for whether in my small circle of confidants, my family or social circle. Helping others to accomplish their dreams is a big motivator for me in my life’s work.
Tell us something that most people don’t know about you.
I love nature. Specifically, elements: air, water, earth and space. I’m a big lover and advocate for the rights of animals.
How do you balance work, family, friends, and leisure?
Laughs. Again, my core circle they remind me. Even though I’m always working on something new or continuing on something I’ve already started, they always remind me to take some time out for myself, relax and to hold a meditation. Meditation is a practice that is very helpful on very hectic or stressful days or times and periods in my life. Taking some time out, taking breaths. Rest is something that is very important and it’s also something I don’t get enough of. However, it does help me as far as my mental and emotional state. Other than that: planning, writing things down and strategizing. Structure is very important to me.
What’s your experience as a black person in Canada?
I am an immigrant by way of Trinidad and Tobago. Coming here was a culture shock. I was not used to different races or cultures. I found difficult in North York at that time to identify with a culture and with a peer group. Growing up, I was almost always an outcast and a loner. As I continued to get older, the church community was very influential in my life with belonging and fitting in. Including: helping to build the morals that I carry with me today. I definitely experienced racism from the government; from an educational standpoint and at work, because I am a black man with dreads and tattoos. In pursuing a career as a police officer, I would have had to change or conform to what is the norm for that job. This gave me the opportunity to look for other ways that I could give back to my community in servicing the youth. Child and Youth Worker appealed to me, so I went and pursued that educationally. I currently work in this field. I continue to knock down doors and barriers and be an example to people, that they can achieve anything that they want to achieve; by looking at my life.
What is the black community doing right?
We have Tropicana Community Services that caters mostly to the Caribbean community; as well as, black services that they offer daily. It’s a positive thing to assist with job aid, employing people that just came to the country and need help. They also educate you on how to be successful. Also, R.I.S.E. poetry: Reaching Intelligent Souls Everywhere, is a community-based initiative that’s for performing artists to display their talents in a positive way; to build their self-esteem, courage and their skills as an artist. Not only that, but for people who are fans of the performing arts to come and have a positive space to share, be encouraged and to be uplifted.
What is the black community doing wrong?
What the Black community is doing wrong is choosing to remain willfully ignorant. One of the biggest social issues we come across in the black community is racial profiling and police harassment. Okay, facts show that it happens to more “marginalized peoples”. To me, there is enough education and information that the government and the police put out there to educate you on what your rights are, as a citizen and as a human being. If your rights are being violated it’s because in my opinion you are unaware of what your rights are and you allow your rights to be violated. You cannot control the person that is doing the violating. However, if you are informed about your rights and what you can do to either prevent or to rectify the situation, then it puts you in a position of power. It then takes away the power from those who may abuse or misuse it.
We become somewhat mentally lazy when we do not educate ourselves when the resources are there. We can go to the library and look up websites on what your rights are as a Canadian citizen. These are some of the challenges as to what we are doing wrong. So I would say more advocacy for informing us of our rights and encouraging us to be educated. But also, to not take lower paying jobs just because it’s easily accessible. Especially, when we can achieve anything we want, despite the obstacles we face. Also, there are jobs out there for us even if it’s it not publicly known; there are jobs that actually require us to be hired based on our race. It is for us to know that and apply ourselves.
Are there as many opportunities for Blacks in Canadians as there are in the U.S.?
Yes. I would refer to the former Governor General of Canada Michaelle Jean and the Deputy Chief Keith Forde of the Toronto Police. I would also refer to the Dwayne Morgan’s (entrepreneur and poet); and to the Jamaal Magloire’s (athlete and entrepreneur). I would also refer to Drake’s musical artistry as well as Harry Jerome and so forth. So I believe we have our own in Canada whether they are publicly popular or not; we have our own. These are a few examples of black Canadians with African and Caribbean backgrounds, that we can look up to and try to achieve a little bit of the success that these individuals have.
Do you agree we have musical artists in Canada that are as good or better than those in the U.S.?
I think the artistry as far as the music industry has really developed over the years, even over the past 5 years; there’s been a boom in super Canadian talent such as Drake, such as Justin Beiber, Kardinal Offishall and these folks are really doing good. As far as my favourite black artists are more underground such as vocally talented Shi Wisdom, in Toronto hip hop legend Frankie Payne who`s been around for a while and another lyricist is Tona who has been doing his thing, very talented individual. I would also include Ladies of Rebellion who are five female emcees out of Toronto. As far as spoken word: young, black and talented JV Da Poet.
What’s your understanding of Black History in Canada?
Going to elementary and high school in Toronto, I learnt about Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad; where slaves were brought from the United States into freedom in Canada. For the longest while, as a youth in Toronto I was made to understand that Canada is big for the abolition of slavery, the freedom of slaves and the right of slaves to own property; not to be owned by individuals. However, as I continued to grow older I did some more research for myself and realized that slavery in Canada actually continued to go on after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Just like certain places in the south that did not inform their slaves that slavery was over. I believe that there were some places in Canada who continued to have slaves and to advocate for the ownership of black individuals.