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24 Oct 2014

Election Coverage: Crystal Mark (City Councillor Mississauga Ward 5)

Toronto's municipal election is on October 27th. Crystal Mark is running for city councillor in Mississauga's Ward 5.

 

She answered these questions from our editorial team. 

1. What difference would you like to make by entering politics?

My desire is always to have the community's voice reflected at the political level so that people's voice and vision - can be realized through the infrastructure and funds that they invest in the city. By entering into the race, I believed I would be a voice, from the community, who has worked for the community who would invest our hard earned dollars and shared a vision for the greater good of our Ward and our City. 

2. How do you feel this impact would affect the Black community specifically?

This is an amazing time in our history. At this time, across the GTA, we have had a surge in the numbers in driven, visionary Black Candidates who are running. Many Mayors and Councilors, as well as Trustees are changing hands. In my City, Mississauga, we will have a new Mayor for the first time in over 35 years. That's nearly my lifetime! As a first generation Canadian, I think running for office has allowed me to take full power in the dream of the Canadian vision my parents hoped I could have achieved. When I was being told as a small two year old, "You are can be anything you want to be", I have actualized the full breadth of social-political experience in both my personal and professional life.

I have been told by many that simply by running, I have been an example to our youth and future. That is an immense compliment and very high praise. The impact I think I have for the Black community is that we are empowered to move past apathy, exercising our rights to civically engage, getting out there and supporting candidates who reflect our communities. While there was certainly a former generation that paved the way for us in social and political life - Caribbean, Canadian and African - myself and candidates today represent a next generation - of change, empowerment and access.

3. Have you worked with members of the Black community prior to running for office and in what capacity?

My entire life's work has been dedicated to working in my community. Living in the community I do, Malton, there is a large population of persons of colour and I have worked in numerous capacities - as a subsitute teacher, as a tutor, a youth mentor, a mother's advocate, a community organizer, all for my community.

I am a wholehearted believer in antioppression and anti-racism and I believe this begins at home, cultivating opportunities to support and empower our community. Now that I am running for Councillor of Ward 5 Mississauga the gains are twofold: 1) multicultural representation at City Hall, and 2) an advocate who works with all members of our community to advocate for strong communities that thrive, have beauty and well developed infrastructure.

(a) How do you think your background will help you in your job as an elected representative?

In terms of my Caribbean/Black identity, I think that my background will bring fresh ideas and insight to the way politics are done at the City. As a previous Fellow of Toronto DiverseCity CivicAction, we have discussed that infusing diversity not only levels the playing field but it innovates business, as well as brings fresh ideas to social and political life. In addition to all this, it creates an equitable visage and representation of the community that people can identify with, one that acknowledges the contributions of Black Canadians, while simultaneously empowering others in the community to feel represented.

As a proud Grenadian-Canadian (married to a Trinidadian, because you know once you marry them, you become part of their group as well, *right*), I come from a people of highly engaged political prowess, who have built revolutions and even changed the landscape of the history of the Caribbean, economically, socially and politically. I took this legacy very early on as I was quite small when the Grenadian Revolution took place. This identity has been a large part of my political praxis: working for the people to serve their needs, understanding that to help one, is to help all.

4. What issues are you most passionate about, and why?

I am very passionate about the marriage of creative community development and business. I want to build our community through the dollars of local businesses with the ideas of social service and connecting our community’s vulnerable. I believe that a city must take action for its residents to thrive. I believe that the people themselves, as I witnessed through the creation of my own community development organization Malton Moms (www.maltonmoms.com ), have the answers to solve the problems they face. They are agents of change with great assets and the public purse needs to be equitably shared with the people of the community – the voters, youth, seniors and families, who reflect our society’s vision and strength.

5. As a Black candidate, do you feel any responsibility to focus your efforts on issues affecting the Black community? If yes, what do you feel the most pressing issues are?

Absolutely. Many of the issues that face the Black community are directly related to inequity, economics, jobs, law and the legal system and housing. These are city issues. We’ve all seen and heard the disproportionate statistics that reflect our community and the media campaigns that have labeled our community unjustly, ‘Black on Black crime’, and the like, my work in the community, while at times broad and wide in scope, is also very targeted because working with an antioppression framework at City Hall, I can make change that directly impacts and improves the quality of life of Black people in Mississauga. This, in turn, benefits everyone, because when one group is thriving, others have permission and access to thrive also.

6. What is the one thing you plan to achieve if you get elected?

One thing I plan to do once elected is develop the business landscape of Malton. Malton, as many may know, is behind about 15-20 years in social-economic development. I make my home in what I believe to be one of the loveliest places in the city, central to everything, the airport, neighbouring Toronto, Brampton and of course, the City Centre of Mississauga, but we are often neglected and the time has come to stop talking the talk, and start walking the walk. I plan to further develop the Malton Business Improvement Area, something that came through a vision of mine shared at the Malton Community Building Project and later developed by a colleague of mine, Niambi Martin-John. It was then championed by Bonnie Crombie, the outgoing councilor who is now running for mayor (and quite successfully I may add) and it has blossomed into a real nexus of innovation and though and a place where money can exchange for the greater good of the community. I will work to develop places to eat, shop and dine in Malton and Brittania Woods, host creative social events that connect the community and use the groundswell of that support to further build literal and figurative bridges to advance our community.

7. Why, or should members of the Black community get involved with politics?

Audre Lorde once said, “ We were never meant to survive”. This system, was never really designed to have our participation or inclusion. Though, we, African-descendants built the Americas (Canada, United States, the Caribbean and South America), through “non-consensual labour”, the architects of these systems never wanted to include Us, Aboriginals or Asians, even though we created the bedrock for so much of what exists today. Capitalism, for example, would never have been successful in the way it has without slave labour to kick start America’s economy. While we were never meant to survive, we did. And for the most part, we are thriving. We need as a people to engage in this system, to labour, again, if you will, to advocate for equity and access because no one else will take up the struggle for us. Getting involved at this level, and there are others (health care, finance, the arts, trades and education, to name a few) allows us to be changemakers of our own individual and collective destiny. For me, that creates a legacy that I can proudly pass on to my four children, sowing seeds for a tomorrow that will be even greater than today.

8. What do you think is the deterrent to economic success in the Black community, and how do you to propose to address this in your riding?

I think the deterrent to Black success is a complicated question. I think that feeling that the system has beaten you before you have even begun, can be a definite deterrent. I think that as a community, we have been invested so greatly in our own individual or familial survival that we often have forgotten to practice “Sankofa”, the Adinkra African philosophy of ‘go and bring it back’. We need every day, every season, every lifetime, to be sharing our dreams and successes, sharing our stories of shame and achievement, helping lift each other up and showing understanding, forgiveness and empathy to each other so that we can make headway into differing spheres of success.

In my Ward, I hope to address this by directly working with youth and families to incubate small to medium sized businesses that are socially and ethically viable and develop our local economy. Youth development, senior engagement, and family support are three connected assets that I intend to bring together to make our local economy thrive. Together, we can, Make Our Mark !

Read 2449 times Last modified on Sunday, 07 October 2018 13:15
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