Meet Tasha Clarke, BCCA Co-Founder & Steering Committee Member
An acute care Registered Nurse and candidate for a Master of Arts in Health Leadership at Royal Roads University, Tasha Clarke grew up as a second-generation Black Canadian in Coquitlam’s Maillardville and is no stranger to the challenges racialized youth face in this province. Her experiences have helped shape her work as a community leader and passionate social justice activist, sitting on the Board Directors of The Unity Centre Association for Black Cultures and driving the vision as Co-Founder of BC Community Alliance. Recently we asked Tasha to share who inspires her, how she approaches self-care amid her busy schedule and what the community can do to support anti-racism work in British Columbia.
Why did you start the BC Community Alliance?
As the eldest of a Jamaican immigrant family, I often struggled to establish my identity being born and raised in BC. My peer group was vastly diverse and inclusive, being that our Maillardville (Coquitlam) school community was multicultural. However, as I grew older, I became conscious of the varied societal, cultural, familial and environmental influences which contributed to our differences and the often unfavourable lenses that Black and other racialized groups were perceived through by the broader society. These differences became even more apparent when I began encountering the harsh realities of anti-Black racism, stereotypes, discrimination and microaggressions during my formative years and into adulthood.
The violent anti-Black racism that occurred at Lord Byng Secondary School in 2018 hit close to home. Most disheartening was that, although several children were victimized and traumatized, their experience and concerns were invalidated by those entrusted to provide a safe, welcoming and positive student environment. It was undeniable evidence that racialized students – often underrepresented, marginalized and vulnerable members of our community – do not receive the adequate support required to ensure their physical and psychological safety in our local schools when confronted with racism and discrimination.
I desire to proactively foster safe, engaging and inclusive communities that will afford Black and racialized youth the same opportunities as their counterparts to realize their intrinsic potential and thrive beyond intergenerational trauma, racial discrimination or perceived limitations.
What are you most proud of BCCA accomplishing in 2020?
2020 was truly a solidifying year for BCCA because we began to see a rapid demonstration of broad community support for our vision of progressive change within BC. I would say that I was most proud of our petition to the Ministry of Education calling for mandatory inclusion of Black Canadian History in the K-12 curriculum; anti-racism training for teachers, administrators, staff; and formal collection of race-based incidents within school settings in order to appropriately monitor and address these occurrences in a way that minimizes harm. The wide support for these calls was evidence of a shift in our collective consciousness which is needed to realize such systemic change.
Who is one activist / thought-leader / change-maker you’re inspired by and why?
Wow! Just one?! That’s tough because I look to so many amazing leaders and trailblazers for my inspiration. However, if I could narrow it down to my top three, it would include:
Brené Brown – her research on shame, vulnerability, and leading with courage and bravery was the catalyst for my own personal healing journey and continues to serve as a framework for how I choose to show up in the community
Barack & Michelle Obama – To become the first Black President and Black First Lady of the United States of America for two consecutive terms despite the constant barrage of hatred, vitriol and racism they faced, they remained grounded in their core values, demonstrated integrity and put the needs of others ahead of their own. I feel their presence in the White House was emblematic of hope, progress, innovation and evidence of how diversity positively impacts broader society.
My Aunt, Wilma Clarke-Moseley – She is the epitome of servant leadership! She has been a trailblazer in my family and our community over the last several decades as a public servant in various capacities, original co-founder of The Unity Centre Association for Black Cultures and 2012 recipient of the Rosemary Brown Award for Women. She has demonstrated to me the importance of standing in your truth, honouring your core values, maintaining integrity, advocating for what is right and providing a voice to the voiceless. I am eternally grateful for her humanity, legacy and illustrating what is possible for young Black women, as myself, to aspire towards. Love you, Auntie!
Tell us what book you’re currently reading or podcast you’re listening to:
Some of the gems that I am absolutely loving during my current studies are Brene Brown’s, “Dare to Lead” and Kouzes & Posner’s, “The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations ”. I’ve also been listening to an audiobook by Mary-Frances Winters’, “Black Fatigue” which offers a phenomenal view of the detrimental impacts that racism has on the mind, body and spirit. It has reinforced to me the importance of BCCA’s ongoing work. Also, the Sisonke Podcast, created by my girlfriend and her husband has been just amazing!
With all of the work you do, how do you approach self-care?
Self-Care is CRITICAL. As a nurse, unfortunately I’ve learned the hard way that we must put on our own oxygen mask before we can truly be of service to others and, will admit, there is always room for improvement in this area. As of late, the power of saying “No” has been key, for self-preservation and boundary-setting. I’m also a big fan of getting out in nature for walks and jogs but also love aimless, solo, dance parties in my apartment! Music is life.
What is your goal for BCCA for the year ahead?
I would love to see BCCA expand in terms of our foundational capacity. Our work is all voluntary which means between our own full-time jobs, schooling, family and other commitments, we have also been pouring our energy and passion into this work. We recognize that in order to sustain the organization (and prevent our own burnout) we need more hands at the table. More volunteers are necessary and welcome.
Tell us one thing parents, teachers, or students can do to help support BCCA’s work?
I think the community can support BCCA’s work by becoming more involved in their school districts (PAC committees, School Board Trustee Meetings) to advocate for the many calls listed in our ongoing petition for Canadian Black history and anti-racism efforts in BC schools. Donations are welcomed for operational costs (hiring paid staff to share the workload, legal fees for ongoing BC Human Rights Tribunal Complaint, etc), and volunteering knowledge, skills or time to further our mission. This work truly requires a village to be successful!