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Recently, a young man asked a very interesting question. He wanted to know who black people were before we became slaves.

Well, thinking back on the history classes that we took throughout secondary school, black history was neither a topic of discussion nor was it present in our textbooks.

How could we as youth identify with our culture and history when we were only learning about pioneers such as Christopher Columbus and Sir John A. MacDonald? Although these were important lessons for us to learn it made me think to myself.

Why was it that within such a diverse community and educational system with students from diverse cultural backgrounds were we only learning about one culture’s achievements?

Many cultures have distinct and rich varied heritages that date as far back to the ancient times. Moreover, without their contributions to society we would not have the teachings, the values and some of events that marked Canadian, American or world history significantly.

To answer the question of who we were before we were slaves is simple. Before and during the time that we were enslaved we were and now are the successors of empires, kings, queens, spiritual leaders, politicians, community advocates, teachers, doctors lawyers, captains, diplomats and much more.

Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit was the first woman and first Indian president of the United Nations General Assembly. She became India’s ambassador to Russia during the 1940’s, and then a governor.

Known literally as a true lifesaver, Dr. Feng Shan Ho saved thousands of Austrian Jews during the Holocaust. When Dr. Ho arrived in Vienna in 1937 as a Chinese diplomat, Austria had the third largest Jewish community in Europe. Just one year later, however, the Nazis took over Austria and began persecuting Jews. Although they tried to flee, Austrian Jews had nowhere to go because most of the world's nations would not accept Jewish refugees. Against all odds, many would survive thanks to Dr. Ho.

Almost a century later the first Canadian woman to be featured on the country’s $10 bill will be Black rights activist Viola Desmond. She was jailed for standing up for herself. She defiantly sat in the "whites only" section of a Nova Scotia film house. Her court case was the first known legal challenge against racial segregation brought forward by a black woman in Canada. Viola Desmond was a Canadian leader who inspired other Canadians to break barriers and stand up for social justice issues.

These stories of leaders throughout history are just a few. They show that no matter where you come from you can be anything that you put your mind to and anything that your heart desires. It is important to know where you came from to make a sound decision on where it is that you want to go.

So remember to always be the best version of yourself, surround yourself with people that will encourage you to strive for excellence. We can all make a difference especially if we do it together. #keepintheloop

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