When Stephaney Williams was a young girl in Grenada, her father got a job as a school professor in Canada. Once he was set up in his new country, Stephaney, now 10 years old, joined her father, along with her four siblings and her mother.
As a new Canadian resident, Stephaney struggled to fit in right away.
“When I first came to Canada in the 1970s, I had an accent and was the only Black person in my classes. I suffered a lot of verbal abuse and racism because of this. Comparing back then to now, it’s so much better in 2018. When I first came to Canada, you wouldn’t see a Black woman dating a White man, or a White woman dating a Black guy, but now, people don’t look twice when they see that. Racism still exists today, but we’ve come a long way since I first came to this country.”
Stephaney has been a personal support worker at Sienna Altamont Care Community for the past 30 years and also currently serves as the chief steward of her workplace and as the Region 4 representative on SEIU Healthcare’s executive board.
One of Stephaney’s biggest passions is Caribana, a festival of Caribbean culture and traditions held each summer in Toronto. She’s attended the festival each year since she was a young child. As an adult, Stephaney now designs and makes costumes for the festival.
“By creating costumes for Caribana, it allows me to get involved in something that has meant so much to me over the years. Each year, I also donate some of my costumes to families in need who would like to participate but cannot afford to do so.”
With February being Black History Month, Stephaney sees this as a perfect time to educate others on the history and culture they may not be aware of.
“It’s important that we all are aware of where we came from. Our heritage and culture are very important and need to be remembered and celebrated. Canada is such a diverse country that allows everyone to embrace their own culture and show it off to others. We need to take advantage of that.”
Despite her struggles with racism as a child, Stephaney wouldn’t change any part of her own personal history.
“I am a proud Black woman. I am proud of my culture, my skin colour, and who I am as a person. To be a Black woman in Canada, you have to be a strong person, because things will be harder for you than others, but despite that, you can still achieve anything you put your mind to.”