In a recently posted tweet, Paul Taylor echoed the words of Hildy Gottlieb, writing in the Nonprofit Quarterly: "If social change organizations reflected the world we want to see, relationships within organizations would resemble communities and natural ecosystems—networks of mutual support committed to a shared vision and shared values."
These are words that social justice advocate, educator, and Executive Director of FoodShare, embodies in his work as the federal New Democratic Party candidate in Parkdale-High Park. Taylor grew up in poverty in Toronto. His life-long career has been dedicated to dismantling the beliefs and systems that lead to poverty and food insecurity. A bold and critical voice in the fight against capitalism, white supremacy, colonialism, and patriarchal structures, Taylor aims to create a future where all prosper within a just society that upholds the dignity and rights due to all. “I envision a world where folks who have been the most harmed by capitalism, colonialism, racism and other oppressive organizing principles, no longer have to put their bodies on the line for the justice that they have been denied,” states Taylor. “The impacts and inequities caused by these injustices are well-documented. To avoid using one’s power to advocate for change is to be complicit in the continued injustice.” Taylor acknowledges the additional labour expected of oppressed communities to justify their fundamental human rights and says that “we should not have to do studies, prepare reports and speak on panels to convince others of our humanity. We all deserve to have something as essential to our survival (such as access to the food that we need) with dignity and joy.” This is the vision Taylor supports for our future. As we work towards building this dignified and joyful future, Paul identifies several challenges that stand in the way of our dignity and joy. As a Black community, Taylor admits that “we need space and time for collective healing and re-imagining.” Our societal structures have been responsible for much harm and disenfranchisement of the Black community; therefore, breathing room to recuperate in the community is required. Taylor continues, “All of the structures, institutions, and systems that have allowed for and perpetuated the ongoing suffering that we see need to be defunded, dismantled, and disarmed to allow for the rebuilding of a society that centres our human rights. The rights of our animal cousins and the earth over corporate shareholders, wealthy CEOS, and their lobbyists.” Taylor believes that we simply do not have the privilege of waiting for these systems of oppression that have caused harm to our community to change. He argues that “it is time to do something that our governments are unwilling to do: put people before profits.” The accumulation of capitalist hunger for wealth, power, and profit has caused “remarkable and unrelenting harm to our communities.” Taylor’s work in the nonprofit sector embodies the call to dismantle the systems of oppression that have created poverty and food insecurity. Taylor is currently the Executive Director of FoodShare Toronto, an organization that provides a quarter-million people with access to “good food” on their terms, instead of the terms of charity giving. During the summer and fall of 2021, Paul emerged as a strong political voice for the riding of Parkdale-High Park and campaigned as the New Democratic Party candidate for the riding. On the campaign trail, Paul exhibited the same joy and dignity that he wishes for all people in the future he works to create. This made him very likeable to voters who supported him because of his commitment to defending his community against social and environmental injustice. Although Paul did not win the seat in Parkdale-High Park, his voice was amplified through his campaign, making him a key anti-poverty advocate on a national scale. Moreover, his continuing work has never lost momentum since his 2021 election campaign. His values remain stronger than ever, inspiring an emerging generation of anti-poverty and social justice activists and advocates. He challenges us to continue to become empowered and use our collective community voices to disrupt and challenge the systems of injustice and oppression and believe that “better is possible.”
This story is part of our 10-part series, "Black History Month Changemakers."