With her sunny disposition, Williams works tirelessly at breathing new life into the ceremony, often collaborating with community organizations to garner support outside the “normal” channels. ByBlacks.com had an opportunity to speak with her about the upcoming awards show, and her perspective on the Canadian Black community.
You’ve been at the helm of the HJA for two years now, are you looking forward to the end of your term?
It has been a wonderful journey, I have learned a lot, a lot about myself and the community, it’s been just amazing. I’m looking forward to whatever God has in store for me next.
What has been your greatest success as Chairperson?
It’s really important to tell the story of greatness in the Black Canadian community and have it be told through mainstream media. One of the greatest success as Chairperson has been having almost all of our recipients in 2014 on mainstream media; whether it be television, radio or print. It was really wonderful to see our stories told, so Canada can see and the world can see all of our wonderful accomplishments.
What has been your greatest challenge as Chairperson?
It was more of a personal one. It was learning that you don’t know as much as you think.
The greatest challenge was taking those misconceptions and ideas you have, whether it’s of your role, the community or what you’re doing, and really opening yourself up to learn, and be taught. It’s more of me shifting my perspective and taking some time to get to the core of what is needed in the community.
What changes would you like to see made to the HJA?
The BBPA is a Toronto based organization, although it is national now, and we have some members in the US, most of our Black Canadian recipients are from Ontario. I would like to see more people outside of Ontario getting awards, and more Canada wide.
The stories we want to tell, and need to tell; go beyond just Ontario, British Columbia and Nova Scotia. There are some amazing Black Canadian people doing great things, and we need to definitely recognize them as well, whether it be in Alberta, Saskatchewan, wherever just across the country.
Do you think Blacks have advanced economically over the past decade?
I think we have definitely made huge strides. It has changed also, there is a lot of growth in the young Black Canadian community with regards to entrepreneurship.
People kind of understand that multiple streams of revenue are crucial, and there are alternative ways to build wealth in our community, whether it be to have your own business or investing in real estate. I noticed even with the attendance at Harry Jerome Awards, we have a lot more young professionals, and young people in general attending, and that’s encouraging, that’s exciting. That lets me know the legacy will continue for years to come.
We are taking this economic situation into our own hands. The discussion has shifted a little bit, to be an entrepreneur or having a side hustle. You definitely see the wealth growing in young black Canadians.
Do you think we will ever have a Black Mayor in Toronto? Black Prime Minister of Canada?
I absolutely think we can have a Black Canadian Mayor in Toronto, and we can have a Black Canadian Prime Minister. But the important thing is that we don’t really focus on “let’s have this Black person in power”, but rather whoever it is, whether they be Black, White, or Asian; that we are focusing on the person’s policies, and whether they serve the Black Canadian community.
I am encouraged by the change and looking to see more people discussing diversity on the political scale, but again the key focus needs to be, is this person and their policies going to encourage and promote the development and growth in the Black Canadian community.
Are you interested in being President of the BBPA?
The seat of President of the BBPA is a huge position, and very big shoes to fill. We have had some wonderful Presidents in the past and of course in our present. I am not pursuing that, but again I will go where the universe leads me. But that’s definitely something I’m not pursuing at this time.
How do you balance being a single mom, running your own business and being the Chairperson for HJA?
Firstly I must say yes I am a single mom by general definition, but I don't necessarily see myself as a single mom. I could not be where I am, doing what I do, if it were not for my community. I understand that there is a great sacrifice. My daughter has sacrificed, my family has sacrificed a lot for me to be where I am, and doing what I do.
I’m very keen on legacy building, and understanding that my life is not my own, in the sense that, whatever I do cannot be just to serve myself in the here and now. Everything I do needs to be for the greater broader community. How I balance it; I have my village. I strongly believe in the village philosophy, and my village has carried me this far.
What advice do you have for young Black Canadian women trying to get ahead professionally?
Move with grace. Sometimes Black Canadian people, in general, have these strongholds, whether it be, you know, how we define ourselves. Some systemic barriers that we might be going through, and we can become like a friend calls it “battle heartened”, and sometimes think that everyone is our adversary.
I think if we can take each opportunity and challenge it with grace, we will definitely move forward. And understand (and now I’m going back to my personal philosophy) that everything that we are doing must be bigger than just ourselves. It has to serve the community as a whole, so when we take our egos out of it, we find that the process is, or even the challenges are worthwhile.
If in our core self we know we are contributing to the village, then we move in grace that way and operate with an air of humility.