By Brian Daly
Trevor Hampden and I are the only black males at Ryerson’s School of Journalism. That’s all. Two of us, out of 500-plus students. One in the undergraduate program (me), one in the graduate program (he).
This cold, hard statistic really hit home a couple of weeks ago, when I did my yearly informal tally of nubian faces around the Rogers Building. Things have to have improved from last year, right? Three or four sisters in first year, three in second year, Vera’s in third year, me, Marcie and Jasmine in fourth …that’s it?
I couldn’t believe it. We are in the most multicultural city in the world, and the journalism school looks like the Boston Celtics roster from 1958!
I tried to brush it off. After all, I was in the most prestigious journalism school in the country, right? Now that I was here, I could help bring more of us in.
Well, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. Sure I’ve talked to the chair of the program a few times. We discussed drawing up a list of recommendations to bring more diversity to the program. He even told me that he was appointing a Native Canadian to serve as the school’s first Chair of Diversity. Not bad, but why do I still feel as though more needs to be done? What can convince young African-Canadian students that the second-least-respected profession in the world isn’t all the bad?
The call to action beckons: “If you don’t think there are enough blacks in journalism, get off your booty and do something about it!”
Well, ease up — I’m doing my best! How can a full-time student with two part-time jobs and bills to pay shoulder the burden of an entire community? Should I be saddled with the responsibility of speaking for my people every time I put pen to paper?
It seems I have no choice. I can’t count how many times I’ve told someone what I do for a living, only to see a look of surprise, followed by a smile. You go, boy. Make our people proud. The sentiment should swell my head pride, but somehow it rings hollow. How can we make a difference, when there are hardly enough of us to fill a room? Blacks have made inroads in many professions in this country — law, education, business, but so far, journalism lies unconquered.
In seven short months, Trevor, Marcie, Jasmine and I will set out into the world, the ink still wet on our journalism degrees, the weight of the world upon our shoulders.
As some of the few African faces in the media, our every action will have to be justified, every word scrutinized. Not just by others, but also by our own. Got to make our people proud. It’s a burden I choose to bear, for better or for worse.