MEET: Chantaé Candize
CAREER: Founder and Content Director
I am Ingrid’s Daughter. My hero hails from the immaculately beautiful, rich and lively island of Jamaica. At the age of 24, my mother moved to Canada to pursue a new life and 4 years later, I was blessed with the opportunity to be introduced to the world as Ingrid’s daughter.
As her first, last and only born, my mom and I shared every moment of my upbringing together. A single mother with the best and most pure intentions for me, my mom shined nothing but bright as she did and continues to do everything and more for me. I participated in every activity possible such as dance, swimming, ukulele lessons, karate, gymnastics and Girl Guides. My mom aspired for me to be an educated, well versed, experienced, and open young black woman. A young, single mom, doing this all for me.
Always trying to provide beneficial opportunities and a better life for me, my mom always made a house a home wherever we were and was always determined for us to reside in the best neighbourhood and enrol me in the best schools as I was growing up . Two homes and a condo later, my mom purchased and owned all properties on her own..
My mom would surprise me with trips so I could explore beyond Toronto with her and break down the protected mentality of my surroundings. She forced me to challenge societal norms and know my grounds. She always taught me to know my worth, protect my heart and always give back–three concepts you can never do enough.
Through the challenging times of our lives when things were tight, my mom never let a sense of fear or hopelessness crack or dampen into my dreams. Every step, my mom encouraged me to do what I love in hopes to find my greater purpose for being on this earth. My mom always supports me with my education endeavours and thriving career, however, most of all, my mom is with me for every step as I evolve into my best self.
My mom is outstanding to say the least. To see a woman have so much love, compassion, strength, ambition and wit never fails to amaze me as I aspire to have such a desirable character as she does.
As I have grown to see my mom give it all for me, even now as I am a nearly 21 year old full time university student, leaves me at a loss of words. I know there are times when I can challenge my mom, but my undeniable and purest love for my her is endless and goes beyond words. I owe my mom the world and more.
Here’s a toast to the one and only queen in my life; My hero- My Mom. I love you.
MEET: Chenelle Lewis
To Others She Is Connie But I Am Blessed To Call Her Mom
My mother is the brightest shining light in my life. As I sit here writing this I can hear her laughing in the other room and it is like music to my ears. Her happiness brings me joy; it is the driving force behind my desire to be successful and for this reason I consider her my hero.
She is the most loving, tolerant and supportive person I know and I admire her for these traits. When I was a child I was very mischievous, like the time I burned my right forearm with her curling iron or the time I stood on a chair trying to sneak crackers from the top shelf in the kitchen, fell off and fractured my skull. During these two episodes and many others like them, my mom remained patient and never lashed out at me. As I grew older these childhood antics turned into teenage angst as a result of puberty, I went from being the bravest little girl in the world to timid and quiet. It was during these years that I really appreciated my mom for her words of encouragement to pursue my passions despite my fears. If it weren’t for her I would not have applied to my dream university or even attended for that matter because I didn’t think I was capable of doing so.
She believes in me possibly even more than I believe in myself and because of this I do not want to let her down. In my adult life, I have made some poor decisions. One situation involved a young man, and while I didn’t tell my mother about it right when it happened she wasn’t as angry as I thought she would be when she found out and she supported me through it. This was the moment when I knew my mom is my hero because she is always there when I need her to hold my hand, wipe away my tears or tell me exactly when I need to hear right when I need to hear it.
I can only hope I adopt her level of patience and understanding when I am ready to have children of my own.
MEET: Katie-Ann Wallace
New Girl on the Block Mentee since January 2017
CAREER/PASSION PROJECT: Public Relations
SHE SAYS: This might be a bit of a cliché, but I would have to say that I don’t have just one woman I would consider my hero. I idolize all the strong-hearted, knowledge -lending women I’ve encountered to date. No matter what age, creed or colour, I can honestly say every woman currently in my life has impacted my growth tremendously. From my mother, aunts, and grandmothers, to my younger sister whom I look up to in ways she will never understand. Then you have my best friends, my girlfriends; the ladies I hold dear to my heart. My mentors and teachers, the women who have helped guide me without ask. All these women would be considered my heroes for many reasons. I am inspired by the way they love and take on life full force every day without hesitance. I am grateful for the way they have sacrificed for those they love. No matter what I am going through there is always an ear to listen and someone to embrace.
Of these women if I had to shed light on just one, it would be my younger sister. She has a heart of gold. She is one of the most emotional people I’ve ever met and I love her for it. She wears her heart on her sleeve in every aspect of her life. Whether it be her family or her work as a student and interior designer, she, takes it on with her heart as her shield. She has taught me so much about having patience and taking the time to find the passion in the things I do. At least once a week, she gets quite emotional and expresses how much she looks up to me as her older sister, which is expected as a younger sibling. But at 20 years old she is still yet to understand why I look up her though she is the younger one. While she tells the world she wants to be just like me, I always say I want be just like her when I get older. I want to love like her, and see the world the way she does.
MEET: Breanna Phillip (@journeying_djeli)
New Girl on the Block Mentee since January 2017
SHE SAYS: As a little girl I was never one who had idols or role models per se, however, I have always been drawn to and inspired by the unfiltered things in life – “unattractive” gut bursting laughs, ugly crying faces, loud satisfied burps. Seeing the results of people experiencing life in all of its realness without any filters has always made me happy. In my teen years I began to realize that as we grow older and gain life experience we are tainted, and this often causes us to shield ourselves from vulnerability. We laugh with more reservation, we hide our tears and we are never truly satisfied.
Due to this, the innocence of children has become my inspiration. I have learned and continue to learn so much about the walls I have built as a result of my experiences by observing the freeness that children exist through. Free to love without fear, free to trust without doubt, free to laugh louder than is deemed appropriate, free to cry and protest the things that upset them with no thought of ruining their reputation, and free to learn without fear of making mistakes.
Even more inspiring than these beautiful children are the women who birth them and give them room to grow, explore and express this freedom. Despite their own pain, despite the fear of their children succumbing to the disappointments that this life will deal them, despite the ability to use their authority to control, they facilitate opportunities for freedom.
Of the many dreams and goals I have for myself in this lifetime, being a mother is most important to me. I want to be a mother to children who will understand the value of discovering who they are and the purpose that God assigned them to long before they were brought forth in human form. I want to teach them to unapologetically own their existence and to stop at nothing to express the fullness of their being.
In preparation for becoming the mother who provides platforms for liberation, I look to the examples set by mothers who let their children roll across grass fields to experience being grounded, the mothers who let their babies wear princess dresses to the mall to affirm their royalty, the mothers who provide rain boots for their children and jump through puddles with them, the mothers who allow their babies to eat as much candy as they wish for just one morning (knowing the consequences), and later rub their sore bellies explaining the importance of self-control.
You all are my example, you are my [S]heroes. I look up to you and I hope to one day be even half of the woman and mother that you all are. Before looking to celebrities, I look to you. Thank you for providing a view worth looking at.
MEET: Candace Shepherd
New Girl on the Block Mentee Alum (February 2016)
CAREER/PASSION PROJECT: Pursuing a Doula business
Maya Angelou holds a special place in my heart as an inspiration and icon due to her resilience, tact and fearlessness towards life. Like myself, Maya Angelou became pregnant with a son when she was only 16 years old, becoming a teenage, single mother. She was molested early on in life by one of her mother’s boyfriends and also experienced abuse at the hands of a romantic partner who beat her and almost left her for dead. Maya Angelou experienced racism from early on in life and became heavily involved in the Civil Rights Movement as an activist and worked with both Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. She did not let the curveballs life threw at her stop her from progressing and pursuing her dreams
I am able to identify with Maya Angelou immensely considering I am mutable and would feel bored in the absence of learning new skills or information. Maya Angelou wasn’t a live-by-the-rulebook type of person, she undertook many professions including a cook, waitress, San Francisco’s first African American female cable car conductor, a night club singer, a film director, an assistant administrator, a dancer, an instructor, an editor, a writer/poet (which she is famously known for) and, shockingly, even a sex worker and brothel manager.
Maya Angelou lived quite a difficult life and grew up in a difficult era for black people but it did not prevent her from becoming successful. She wasn’t perfect and she didn’t pretend to be either, she showed her humanness openly through her writing. Transparency and sincerity are two traits I deeply value, and to me, Maya Angelou seems to have embodied them. Maya Angelou, a woman who had many odds against her and wasn’t afraid to put her troubled past on display without shame, became a legend. In her lifetime, she earned more than 50 honorary degrees, received dozens of awards, published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, various poetry books, and has been credited with many plays, movies and television shows. Various presidents including Bill Clinton had requested that she write and/or perform for them at events. In 2011, President Barack Obama awarded her the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom
The life and legacy of Maya teaches you that it is very possible to come back from the many hardships you experience in life and that there is no straight and narrow path to success or happiness. From my perspective, Maya Angelou lived a full life, and stayed true to herself which in turn caused others to respect and accept her entirety, seeing past the negative and applauding her genius and excellence.
Her words will forever teach, unite, and inspire.