The RBC® Black History Month Student Essay Competition

Reach for the Top

Being an African Canadian woman, it is a pleasure to study more about my ancestors. African Canadians account for approximately 2.5% of Canada's population. Even though we are a small minority, we have helped to shape and mould this country we call Canada through our many great achievements. Who can forget Donovan Bailey winning the 100 meter Olympic Gold medal in world record time and lifting the Canadian flag, making all Canadians of every race and colour proud? In politics, African Canadian women have made great strides in the political arena. The focus of this essay is going to be on an African Canadian woman has inspired me, and her name is Jean Augustine.

Jean Augustine is an incredible African Canadian woman. My mother and father always told me that you have to invest and believe in yourself, despite all odds. In 1960, Jean Augustine migrated from Grenada to Canada and earned her living as a domestic worker. While in the position as a domestic worker, she had saved up all her money so that she could go back to school. Jean Augustine attended the University of Toronto where she completed a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Masters of Education. Ms. Augustine soon went on to become a school principal for the Metropolitan School Board in the city of Toronto. In 1993, Ms. Augustine became the first black woman in the Federal Cabinet.

Her story is very inspiring because she was able to accomplish so much, even though the odds were stacked against her. Jean Augustine is also a huge advocate of women's rights and multiculturalism. She contributed to the broader society by making Black History Month recognised all over Canada when she introduced a motion in the House of Commons in 1995. Black History Month started in the United States by Carter G. Woodson. This celebration takes place in the month of February. The mandate of Black History Month is to commemorate great Africans who have made a difference in the lives of their people and the rest of the world. In a country that is very Eurocentric, this motion was significant, for it made the rest of Canada aware of the rich heritage of people of African descent.

Shardae Keane, 17
Grade 12, Harbord Collegiate Instiitue