Cause for Ap­plause

Meet­ing a black fe­male chi­ro­prac­tor for the first time was a true in­spi­ra­tion

Our Canada - - Features - By Nekessa Remy, Toronto

Ire­mem­ber the first time I met Dr. Golden. I had just com­pleted uni­ver­sity and was not ex­actly sure what I wanted to do in terms of a pro­fes­sion in health care. I de­cided to work at a phys­io­ther­apy clinic to find out if this was the pro­fes­sion for me. When I walked into the of­fice on my first day, the first per­son to shake my hand was Dr. Ni­cole Golden, who prac­tices chi­ro­prac­tic medicine. What made this mo­ment so spe­cial was that it was the first time I had ever met a black fe­male doc­tor be­fore, ac­tive in any field or spe­cial­iza­tion. I im­me­di­ately wanted to know ev­ery­thing about her.

You see, while grow­ing up in Toronto, I of­ten found my­self the only black girl in the classes or ac­tiv­i­ties I at­tended. Mov­ing to Canada in the late ’70s, my par­ents came to this coun­try with dreams of a bet­ter life for them­selves and their chil­dren. My mom en­rolled me in ev­ery af­ter-school pro­gram, sport or ac­tiv­ity she could af­ford. She wanted me and my brother, Em­er­ick, to have ac­cess to as much as pos­si­ble. How­ever, whether it was in skat­ing class, pi­ano lessons or school clubs, there were no other kids who looked like me. Sadly, the more I pro­gressed in my ed­u­ca­tion and ac­tiv­i­ties, this pat­tern stayed the same. Hence my ex­cite­ment at meet­ing Dr. Golden —her abil­ity to use her hands and help peo­ple not just feel bet­ter, but help them run marathons or lift up their ba­bies with­out pain, had me in­trigued.

Fast for­ward ten years and I am now a chi­ro­prac­tor with my own clinic in Mis­sis­sauga, plus I run a busy prac­tice in down­town Toronto. As thrilled as I am about my suc­cess, I be­lieve there is more for me to do. As a black wo­man, I find my­self ex­pe­ri­enc­ing added pres­sure to be my very best, be­cause I feel a bur­den to rep­re­sent my en­tire race. This may not be ra­tio­nal, but it’s a feel­ing I have had my en­tire adult life—and I know I am not the only black per­son who has felt this way. That is why is it so im­por­tant for me to make my com­mu­nity a part of my suc­cess: I don’t want to be the only black chi­ro­prac­tor work­ing in the down­town core. I don’t want to be the only black stu­dent in chi­ro­prac­tic school. I don’t want to be the only black fe­male in my uni­ver­sity grad­u­at­ing class. Things must change, and I want to be part of that change.

I look at my niece Emelia—at four months old—and I am al­ready imag­in­ing her fu­ture and the ca­reer paths she may fol­low. Along with her par­ents, I hope she never feels that her race re­stricts her from achiev­ing her dreams. I want her to have ex­am­ples of other women of colour who ex­cel in their fields. I want her to see peo­ple who look like her fol­low­ing their dreams and achiev­ing suc­cess.

With that in mind, I vol­un­teer at The Ex­cel­lence Con­fer­ence, a yearly event that is geared to­wards stu­dents ages 11 to 21 and their par­ents of

Caribbean des­cent, pro­vid­ing in­for­ma­tion on suc­cess in ed­u­ca­tion and the work­force. Founder Celia Meikle be­gan the project af­ter read­ing a Globe and Mail ar­ti­cle called, “The Myth of the Brainy Im­mi­grant.” She was stunned to learn that only about 23 per cent of chil­dren of Latin Amer­i­can and Caribbean des­cent in Canada go on to ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion. She also dis­cov­ered that part of the rea­son for this low per­cent­age was due to the lack of “cul­tural cap­i­tal,” which refers to a sys­tem or net­work of in­flu­ence that sets up a stu­dent for suc­cess. It also refers to the at­ti­tude and knowl­edge par­ents pass on to their chil­dren.

The con­fer­ence fea­tures suc­cess­ful mem­bers of the Caribbean com­mu­nity from var­i­ous fields, who pro­vide ca­reer ad­vice and guid­ance to the stu­dents. As a par­tic­i­pant, I am able to con­nect with stu­dents, one-on-one, to tell them about my jour­ney. Par­ents are also able to meet with school board pro­fes­sion­als, and learn how to help their chil­dren ex­cel in ed­u­ca­tion. By building upon this cul­tural cap­i­tal, stu­dents are able to rec­og­nize them­selves in the pro­fes­sion­als, as well as gain a net­work of in­for­ma­tion and sup­port to en­cour­age them onto higher ed­u­ca­tion, all the while pro­vid­ing par­ents with the tools to bet­ter sup­port their chil­dren.

I also con­trib­ute to By­blacks.com, an on­line mag­a­zine that show­cases the work of black Cana­di­ans, and brings their sto­ries into the main­stream me­dia. Started by Camille and Roger Dun­das in 2013, the web­site fea­tures sto­ries of black en­trepreneurs, artists and ac­tivists in their own au­then­tic voices. Its suc­cess has led to col­lab­o­ra­tions with the Huff­in­g­ton Post, and Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau re­cently of­fered his con­grat­u­la­tions on achiev­ing five years in busi­ness. The ac­co­lades are wellde­served, but to me, hav­ing a place for black Cana­di­ans to share their sto­ries is the most im­por­tant.

As I re­flect on the first ten years of my ca­reer, I think about peo­ple like Dr. Golden and my mother, who in­spired me and helped me to achieve this mile­stone. Ev­ery­thing worth hav­ing is worth fight­ing for. My goal is to pay it for­ward to the next gen­er­a­tion of young black women.

As well as be­ing an ac­cred­ited chi­ro­prac­tor, Nekessa holds cer­tifi­cates in acupunc­ture.

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