CONNECT’s mission is to Make Lives Better, which is why we are listening to the current protests for change in the US, Canada and around the world and want to show our support for the Black Lives Matter movement. We reached out to some of our Black colleagues and the Black people we support at CONNECT to ask them how we can respond to this movement in a meaningful way. We will continue to reach out to the Black people in our CONNECT Communities to get their feedback and input. Read some of their comments below about their experiences and how they feel CONNECT should respond to Black Lives Matter:

“I came to Canada Aug 1975, my first day at elementary school the first words I heard were “get off the mountain, (N-word)” I was 11 years old. Because I came here so young, and there wasn’t much Black around I didn’t experience that much racism until my high school years. I’ve been called a (N-word) so much I can’t count it anymore, the funny thing is I don’t know a white joke to say it back. My overall experience in the white world has been pretty good, apart from looking for a job and knowing you didn’t get the job because of your skin colour. I’m very proud of the movement we see on the streets and I hope Canada will follow the United States implanting the new rules for our police force. God Bless the human race.” 

-from an individual supported by CONNECT

“This is close and dear to me being Black and a mother to 3 teenagers who will be in the community without me to protect them. As we reflect on Black Lives Matter, racism isn’t all about colour, it’s many things. So let’s open up the dialogue that whatever matters to the staff and people we care for that we will be the ears and voice to support them. As we grieve the loss of innocent lives and stand in solidarity with those calling for change, join us in sharing this time addressing racial discrimination across the world. CONNECT believes in equal opportunities and justice to all mankind. We call for peace and love to be at the centre of everything we do. We are all brothers and sisters and have a responsibility to do right by each other. Black Lives Matter. You matter. I once heard , ‘if you hear my cry don’t press mute.’”

-from a CONNECT employee

“With all that is going on the world as it pertains to police brutality and injustice towards the Black community,  CONNECT continues to strive to be an environment that supports diversity of all races including minorities. Our Mission is to Make Lives Better, not only the lives of those impacted by brain injuries but also those of the many different racial backgrounds that we employ. We send our love and support to those who are directly or indirectly affected at this time and we encourage the entire CONNECT network to be there for one another.”

-from a CONNECT employee

“Colour blindness is a term that was intended to be inclusive, seeing everyone as a soul and the idea that racial privileges no longer exist. However intended to be inclusive, it’s as it’s called blindness. Growing up I’d known Black people were thought of as lesser. As a child of interracial parents; my mom being white and my dad being black I’ve gotten strange looks as if to say “why is this white woman holding a black girls hand?” Or my opinions matter less, if compared to someone who is white. These behaviours and stereotypes about and towards Black people at times are unconscious and not intentional, however noticed or felt creates an ideology that what was experienced in Black history still is today.

I understand the topic is uncomfortable however that saying “nothing about me – without me” when learning who an individual we support at CONNECT is and the life redesign plan they’re creating for themselves applies to this Black Lives Matter movement today. I am a person who is part Black and has experienced racism or witnessed racism even into my adult years. These experiences may affect how I interact with others at times and I think that is important to acknowledge when getting to know a resident who is Black or of minority.

I think it’s important to be comfortable to acknowledge the culture behind the person. Their skin colour, accent, food preference and ancestral history etc. Speaking and treating Black people respectfully and equally is not only a thought, but within the actions, tone of voice and overall experience of inclusion.

I think it’s important to be comfortable enough to take the time to relate to Black people (and the minority) and use that to strengthen relationships with the individuals we support and staff alike. Creating an environment and truly setting the tone for inclusion.”

-from a CONNECT employee

I personally can’t compare my instances of systemic racism with what is going on in the world right now, but I have definitely felt it in the past. I think any message surrounding Black Lives Matter should have resources and ways to help and support, in the community or via social media. The below are all great platforms. There are also GOFUND me accounts related to Black community issues, fighting racism or go directly to the families of victims (like George Floyd) or petitions that can also be signed online. I’m constantly reading about or researching new information myself and am happy to share.

Below are some organizations that are taking donations etc. for the Black Lives Matter movement. They are all in Hamilton or GTA. 

  • Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion 
  • Afro Canadian Caribbean Association Hamilton
  • Rafiki Hamilton
  • African Canadian Action Congress
  • The SPACE Youth Centre 
  • Disability Justice Network of Ontario 
  • Empowerment Squared 
  • Refuge Hamilton Centre for Newcomer Health
  • Coalition of Black and Racialized Artists 
  • Black Lives Matter Toronto 

-from a CONNECT employee

Acknowledging the team’s effort to being diverse and speaking for myself I believe CONNECT Lake Country is pretty fair with being equal race-wise during my 3 years of serving. The management crew are pretty open to ideas and suggestions regardless of race from my point of view. Most of the staff members I have been in contact with have not made me feel racially-concerned about myself and I appreciate the current zero-tolerance policy the company has in place.

​The one good point I can think of is maybe having a slide in the online workshop for new employees coming on board to be coached on diversity just in case they have not been exposed to it in school or previous experiences. Another point would be for Connect to coach the residents and their families on accepting diversity with both staff and fellow residents when necessary or when needed to be reminded.

– from a CONNECT employee