I know that it has been a while since I spoke to you. I seem to have just popped on the scene. Over the last 20 or so years, I have been busy raising a family and growing a business, and we have lost touch. I have not been to the bar-b-ques, community meetings or get togethers in my “busy-ness”. Now, I know what you are thinking, “Well, Celina. We have all been busy, and yet some of us still attended the community meetings and gatherings”. Yes, I know. And that is why we (I) owe you a debt of gratitude. You stayed connected, where I did not. You sacrificed your energy, time and spirit, and we (I) owe you.
That is why I am writing. To tell you that even though we may have been distant, and I may seem far away, I love you and #ISeeYou. I have tried to reach out through my posts and blogs and speeches and the work I do, behind the scenes, related to policy. I have tried to break the status quo and talk about mental health issues, micro-aggressions, and the fact that body shaming includes our hair, the size of our thighs, the size of our hips and the size of our lips.
I may not be doing everything you want, as fast as you want. I am trying my best. It is no excuse, but from time to time, my depression and anxiety get the best of me, as I try to navigate this political beast that is very new territory for me. But, the outreach was my way of saying that I see you, and through this position, I see you clearer than ever.
I see you Elders. You paved the way. You have lessons to teach and skills to pass down, if only we would listen. Your wisdom runs deep, because it is connected to this land, our home lands, and the mother land. #ISeeYou
I see you Moms. Single or otherwise. Holding it down for your children. Trying to protect them from the streets, and the institutions that keep them down, and funnel them into prisons and foster care. I see you praying to God HE doesn’t get stopped and carded, and SHE doesn’t have somebody put her hair in elastic bands because it is too puffy. Both actions, damaging to their little souls. I pray too. #ISeeYou
I see you Wifey. Loving so deeply and strongly that it hurts. Because you have a partner that you want to inspire, protect and support, yet want to show the door every given day, and Sunday. (I have one at home too. Love him fiercely one minute, then want to throw him out the next. Yet when I look into his eyes, all I see is love and my #rideordie). #ISeeYou
I see you Corporate. Holding it down. Producing the results. Bringing the strategy to management, then to fruition, all while being second guessed, passed over for promotion, and silenced when you face aggressive behaviour. I know what that is like. #ISeeYou
I see you Entrepreneur. Trying to make a dollar out of fifteen cents. Trying to get your hustle going. Putting it out there in the hopes that it will be successful and brilliant and everything you imagined. Hoping that they do not steal your idea(s), or pass your brilliance off as their own. Trying to get loans that may never come through, investors that cannot see your vision and nay-sayers trying to hold you down. #ISeeYou
I see you Activist and Protester. Yes, I am speaking to you Black Lives Matter – Toronto and others like you. You. Doing what this democracy affords you the freedom to do, yet you are met with hate and resistance. You with your brilliant minds and passionate hearts, who know your history, have done your research, occupy and protest not just for the Black community, but for Indigenous rights, LGBTQ2 rights, and simply put, human rights. #ISeeYou
I see you Journalist, Policy Advisors and News Anchors/Bloggers/Deliverers. We do not always see eye to eye. Do we have to? You need to hold my feet to the fire. You need to keep me accountable. That is your job. That is your calling. Don’t water it down or go easy on me because we are sisters. Go hard, because you want me to produce the best policy for everyone, and I want YOU to be the best damn person in your field. #ISeeYou
I see you Book Store Owner, Historian, Educator and Author. I see you documenting and preserving our history and telling the stories of our present. It is a story that is erased from the consciousness of the world, and your work will be in your legacy. It is important. Our people are story tellers and you are the keepers of this beautiful gift. #ISeeYou
I see You. Grinding every day, no matter the occupation or task. Hustling and grinding. Grinding and hustling. Being twice as good, twice as fast, twice as everything, because that is what we were taught. That is the only way we can succeed. I also see that it comes at a cost. The wear and tear. The exhaustion. The mental drain. I see that you are tired. And yet still you rise.
My sisters, in the face of all this you rise, and I see you. I see your brilliance and courage and unconditional love.
I see you with your black velvet, dark chocolate, jamocha almond, caramel latte (with a sprinkle of freckle) and all shades of skin in between, that, when it is kissed by the light, makes your melanin shine brighter than the sun. #ISeeYou
I see you when you walk into a room and the air has no choice but to gravitate to you, as you suck the oxygen out of the space. #ISeeYou
I see you with your curves and shape. The ones that have a price tag now, but yours have been divinely bestowed, rightfully placed, blessed and cursed at the same time. #ISeeYou
I see you saying that everything is going to be alright. I see you supporting me, even in our distance. I see you praying for me and keeping me in your thoughts.
I see you. I thank you. I love you. And this Black History Month, it is my privilege to honour you.
Love and Hugs,
About the writer
Celina Caesar-Chavannes is the Member of Parliament for Whitby, Ashburn, Myrtle and Brooklin. She currently serves as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development. Her interests include, but are not limited to, mental health, inclusion of marginalized populations, equality, and global development.