10 Powerful Quotes by Black Canadian Leaders

People from all races, religions, sexualities, gender identities, ages and abilities have the power to make a difference in our society. It’s up to us to listen and learn from our diverse communities. In honour of Black History Month, we’ve compiled this list of ten powerful quotes by Black Canadian leaders who inspire us to keep growing, understanding, and lifting each other up.

1. Jean Augustine

Black history is not just for black people. Black history is Canadian history.

Jean Augustine was the first Black Canadian woman to serve as a federal Minister of the Crown and Member of Parliament. Her impactful words remind us that the stories of Black Canadians creating positive change in our society should be told to people of all backgrounds and recognized as our collective history as Canadians.

Photo of Jean Augustine

2. Rosemary Brown

We must open the doors and we must see to it they remain open, so that others can pass through.

Rosemary Brown was the first Black Canadian woman to become a member of a provincial legislature and the first woman to run for leadership of a federal political party. This quote from Rosemary is a reminder that an “open door” that allows BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour) to hold a position of power is a triumph, but that door should remain open for more BIPOC to have a seat at the table.

Photo of Rosemary Brown

3. Janaya Khan

Privilege isn’t about what you’ve gone through; it’s about what you haven’t had to go through. And right now, we are in a time that is calling on us to learn the stories that we don’t know.

As co-founder of Black Lives Matter (BLM) Toronto who also identifies as Black, queer, and gender nonconforming, Janaya Khan is a prime example of a leader who reminds us of the importance of listening to others’ stories and listening intently to accounts of racism or any other form of discrimination. True privilege is about not being forced to go through these types of situations.

Photo of Janaya Khan

4. Sarah Jama

If we want to create change in Canada – if we want to have more people from communities who aren’t only represented – the answer isn’t to move towards tokenization and propping people up. The answer is to give people the tools to prop themselves up.

Sarah Jama is the co-founder of Disability Justice Network of Ontario. She said this during an engaging speech at an event held by the Broadbent Institute. It is truly so important that we support people with disabilities by providing them with the tools to live their best life. At Surrey Place, our Self-Advocacy Council is one way for people with disabilities to share their feedback and help us improve our services.

Photo of Sarah Jama

5. Cameron Davis

The hardest thing about being Black in Canada is the prejudice I face and that’s where my fear comes from.

Cameron is a 15-year-old YouTuber who uses the platform to make videos about what it’s like to be a Black teenager living in Canada. Cameron’s quote is a painful reminder that despite Canada being renowned for its inclusivity and diversity, prejudice still exists today towards Black individuals of all ages.

Photo of Cameron Davis

6. Donovan Bailey

Follow your passion, be prepared to work hard and sacrifice, and above all, don’t let anyone limit your dreams.

Donovan Bailey is a retired Jamaican Canadian sprinter and the first man in history to be world champion, Olympic champion and world record holder at the same. Donovan Bailey inspires us to keep working hard to achieve our dreams, regardless of anyone who might tell us to give up.

Photo of Donovan Bailey

7. Dr. Chika Stacy Oriuwa

I draw inspiration from my own personal adversity and triumphs and things that speak to my authentic truth and rawness and vulnerability.

Dr. Oriuwa is a physician, spoken word artist, and advocate against systemic racism in health care. She was the only Black medical student in her graduating class at University of Toronto’s medical school in 2020, and she was also valedictorian when she graduated. This quote connects back to how she allows herself to reflect on her unique experiences and channel her vulnerability into her spoken word art. Like Dr. Oriuwa, we can all aim to rise above adversity through creative methods.

Photo of Dr. Chika Stacy Oriuwa

8. Aaron Parry

As someone who is still kind of a youth, I think that it’s our responsibility to carry those stories. Sometimes people in my age group might forget to honour the people that have come before us … but I think that it’s very important to honour… the people who are still here and honour our ancestors in any way and honour the history of our community.

We wholeheartedly agree with these wise words from Aaron Parry, a university student from Hamilton, Ontario. Aaron’s research for the Afro-Canadian Caribbean Association of Hamilton (ACCA) and the Hamilton Black History Council last year led to the creation of the Hamilton Black History Database, which pays respect to the histories and stories the Black community in Hamilton.

Photo of Aaron Parry

9. Laverne Jacobs

We need to pay attention and understand the challenges faced by those who experience not only disability, but also a range of social identities and circumstances, such as being a woman, an older person, racialized, Indigenous, homeless, [transgender] or a person from the LGBTQ2+ community.

Laverne Jacobs is currently an associate law professor at the University of Windsor, as well as Canada’s first nominee for the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. She’s known for being the first editor and lead author of the first Canadian textbook on the law and disability and has first-hand experience with disability due to a spinal cord injury. This quote reminds us of the importance of intersectionality – people with disabilities come from a variety of cultural backgrounds and have unique life experiences.

Photo of Laverne Jacobs

10. Andre De Grasse

You [can be] physically tired… but at the same time, you’ve got to just tell yourself, ‘I can do it. I can’t give up.’ You’ve got to go out there and perform. Just make magic, make it happen. I try to do that every single time I step on the track.

Andre De Grasse is a Canadian sprinter who’s made headlines for his Olympic feats. He’s best known for being the first Canadian to win three medals in a single Olympics. This quote reminds us of the importance of perseverance – moving forward even when things feel difficult. You might be able to conquer tough circumstances with an incredible accomplishment, or “magic” as Andre says!

Photo of Andre De Grasse

And there you have it – ten powerful quotes by Black Canadians who are paving the way for Canadians from all races, religions, sexualities, gender identities, ages and abilities. Follow Surrey Place on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube for more inspiring content throughout Black History Month and beyond!



By 2 months

Has your baby had their hearing screened? YES NO

By 6 months

Does the child?

Startle in response to loud noises? YES NO
Turn to where a sound is coming from? YES NO
Make different cries for different needs (hungry, tired)? YES NO
Watch your face as you talk? YES NO
Smile/laugh in response to your smiles and laughs? YES NO
Imitate coughs or other sounds such as ah, eh, buh YES NO

By 9 months

Does the child?

Respond to their name? YES NO
Respond to the telephone ringing or a knock at the door? YES NO
Understand being told no? YES NO
Get what they want through using gestures (reaching to be picked up)? YES NO
Play social games with you (Peek-a-Boo)? YES NO
Enjoy being around people? YES NO
Babble and repeat sounds such as babababa or duhduhduh? YES NO

By 12 months

Does the child?

Follow simple one-step directions (sit down)? YES NO
Look across the room to a toy when adult points at it? YES NO
Consistently use three to five words? YES NO
Use gestures to communicate (waves hi/bye, shakes head for no)? YES NO
Get your attention using sounds, gestures and pointing while looking at your eyes? YES NO
Bring you toys to show you? YES NO
Perform for social attention and praise? YES NO
Combine lots of sounds together as though talking (abada baduh abee)? YES NO
Show an interest in simple picture books? YES NO

By 18 months

Does the child?

Understand the meaning of in and out, off and on? YES NO
Point to more than 2 body parts when asked? YES NO
Use at least 20 words consistently? YES NO
Respond with words or gestures to simple questions (Where's teddy? What's that?)? YES NO
Demonstrate some pretend play with toys (gives teddy bear a drink, pretends a bowl is a hat)? YES NO
Make at least four different consonant sounds (p ,b, m, n, d, g, w, h)? YES NO
Enjoy being read to and sharing simple books with you? YES NO
Point to pictures using one finger? YES NO

By 2 years

Does the child?

Follow two-step directions (Go find your teddy bear and show it to Grandma.)? YES NO
Use 100 to 150 words? YES NO
Use at least two pronouns (you, me, mine)? YES NO
Consistently combine two to four words in short phrases (Daddy hat. Truck go down.)? YES NO
Enjoy being around other children? YES NO
Begin to offer toys to other children and imitate other children's actions and words? YES NO
Use words that are understood by others 50 to 60 per cent of the time? YES NO
Form words or sounds easily and without effort? YES NO
Hold books the right way up and turn the pages? YES NO
Read to stuffed animals or toys? YES NO
Scribble with crayons? YES NO

By 30 months

Does the child?

Understand the concepts of size (big/little) and quantity (a little/a lot, more)? YES NO
Use some adult grammar (two cookies, bird flying, I jumped)? YES NO
Use over 350 words? YES NO
Use action words such as run, spill, fall? YES NO
Participate in some turn-taking activities with peers, using both words and toys? YES NO
Demonstrate concern when another child is hurt or sad? YES NO
Combine several actions in play (puts blocks in the train and drives the train, drops the blocks off.)? YES NO
Put sounds at the beginning of most words? YES NO
Use words with two or more syllables or beats (ba-na-na, com-pu-ter, a-pple)? YES NO
Recognize familiar logos and signs involving print (Stop sign)? YES NO
Remember and understand familiar stories? YES NO

By 3 years

Does the child?

Understand who, what, where and why questions? YES NO
Create long sentences using five to eight words? YES NO
Talk about past events (trip to grandparents house, day at child care)? YES NO
Tell simple stories? YES NO
Show affection for favourite playmates? YES NO
Engage in multi-step pretend play (pretending to cook a meal, repair a car)? YES NO
Talk in a way that most people outside of the family understand what she/he is saying most of the time? YES NO
Have an understanding of the function of print (menus, lists, signs)? YES NO
Show interest in, and awareness of, rhyming words? YES NO
Read to stuffed animals or toys? YES NO
Scribble with crayons? YES NO

By 4 years

Does the child?

Follow directions involving three or more steps (First get some paper, then draw a picture and give it to Mommy)? YES NO
Use adult type grammar? YES NO
Tell stories with a beginning, middle and end? YES NO
Talk to try and solve problems with adults and with other children? YES NO
Show increasingly complex imaginary play? YES NO
Talk in a way that is understood by strangers almost all the time? YES NO
Generate simple rhymes (cat-bat)? YES NO
Match some letters with their sounds (letter b says buh, letter t says tuh)? YES NO