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