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Black in Halifax: Guest editor Carlos Beals on levelling the playing field for his community

The well-known community advocate says it's 'survival mode' for many Black people living in Halifax.

Now is the time to reform the systems that hold us back, to break the cycles, writes Carlos Beals, the guest editor for Black in Halifax.

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Now is the time to reform the systems that hold us back, to break the cycles, writes Carlos Beals, the guest editor for Black in Halifax.

It hurts to see so many Black Nova Scotians forced to remain in chronic survival mode – a result of broken systems, oppression and limited opportunities.

I, too, could’ve been caught in these traps.

But I was fortunate enough to get a job at the age of 14 working with Halifax’s parks and recreation department.

Many Black Nova Scotians are not as fortunate, and despite their willingness and eagerness to work, they still remain significantly underrepresented in the labour force. This triggers a cycle of poverty and makes it even harder to work your way out, driving Black people into a state of survival, making it impossible to support yourself, to raise healthy families and to make good choices.

Now factor in living in a stigmatized and marginalized community and being Black – it’s nearly inevitable to find yourself trapped.

A lack of viable opportunities forces people to break the law to get by, constructing the prison pipeline, giving permanent justification for their exclusion from the labour force.

The cycle continues.

It's time we break the cycles that trap too many of us.

We need to start listening to the experience of Black Nova Scotians, and acknowledging that we are not starting on the same level playing field. We are much further behind then our white counterparts.

I am calling on government to do business differently. We need to embrace Black leadership. We need to be in positions of influence. We need to have equal footing.

It's time we get this right.

Our neighbourhoods in Halifax are changing. This is especially true in Black communities, where many continue finding themselves trapped in a dreadful cycle of poverty, violence, and precarious employment.

But I’m optimistic for the future. Here is what I want and need to see.

First off, we need to ensure that we have mentors with shared experience that can inspire and motivate. We cannot continue to simply treat the symptoms; we must get to the root of the problems.

Second, we need good employment opportunities to get Black Nova Scotians back to work.

We need to confront and acknowledge systemic racism and how it impacts the hiring and advancement of Black Nova Scotians. We need to value the lived experience and expertise of Black Nova Scotians.

Let’s give government contracts to businesses that promise to hire and train our people. Let’s create a citywide campaign to educate businesses to understand the significant value diversity brings to the workplace. And as consumers, let’s support businesses where the staff reflects the diversity of our city.

Lastly, people with privilege need to work alongside us to tackle the systems that continue to disable our progressive agenda.

We continue to be tasked with describing our experiences, but not with how to solve the problems that create those experiences.

Now is the time to reform the systems that hold us back, to break the cycles.

I am an example of what happens when a young Black man is given the right opportunities, offered at the right time, delivered under the right circumstances.

I’m now a university educated, established community advocate, working on the next poverty reduction strategy for Canada.

There are many more community leaders just like me, waiting to be inspired, waiting for the right opportunity, waiting to be liberated from the systems that hold us back.

This story is part of Metro's ongoing Black in Halifax series. Let us know your thoughts on the series, and share your own stories using the hashtag #HalifaxWhileBlack with tweets, Instagram posts and Facebook comments. We may just share it in a future edition.

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