General News

Alethia O’Hara Stephenson creating a catalyst for change

March 4, 2021   ·   0 Comments

Written By Jessica Laurenza

Local Shelburne resident and mother of three, Alethia O’Hara Stephenson understands the importance of community inclusion and diversity and has used her platform to create change. Last summer, she founded the Dufferin County Canadian Black Association (DCCBA) and the Shelburne Anti-Black Racism Task Force to advocate on behalf of minorities to ensure equal access to the community. 

Following the murder of George Floyd, O’Hara Stephenson was forced to reflect on her actions or lack thereof in fighting for change in her community. She asked herself, “what kind of world will my children be growing up in? I don’t want [my son] to fear he won’t make it home simply because of the colour of his skin.” 

She shared these fears with Mayor Anderson, the Chief of Police and other community leaders and a motion was passed in June of 2020 that required the town’s staff to analyze the feasibility of a committee which would fight for change and equality. Within a month, council confirmed they would establish a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee, unanimously appointing her as the Chair. 

The DCCBA was also formed last June, comprised of 10 community members, two members from Dufferin County’s Inclusion and Diversity staff, and three members from County Council. The association provides a platform for development and enhancement of the Black community through civic engagement, education and programs to advocate for equity. 

“By tackling anti-black racism, you’re creating that awareness of inclusion for everyone,” she explains. “It’s more than just words – you need action to affect change.”

Ultimately, O’Hara Stephenson aims to create community awareness and put measures in place to establish an inclusive environment where everyone is on the same team. 

“We need people standing side by side, hands locked, marching for change, making things different for the greater good,” she said. 

It’s important to understand the inequities entrenched in our governing system in order to actively work towards awareness. There is often an angst that surrounds talking about race. “As a person of colour, it is uncomfortable to have the conversation [about race] because you don’t want to make someone else feel bad,” O’Hara Stephenson explains. 

There is a common misconception that white people cannot advocate on behalf of people of colour because they don’t have shared experiences of oppression or discrimination. 

O’Hara Stephenson objects this claim; “it wasn’t black people who designed the sys

tem we’re in, it was white people. The people in power don’t look like me so we don’t have the opportunity to truly affect change. We rely on those in power to recognize the inequity…and do something about it.” 

As a mother, she feels as though she’s robbed her children of their innocence. She always nags at them to make sure they have their wallets, they don’t have their hood up on the streets, they don’t go into a store in a big pack (especially if every kid is black). 

The reality for parents of racialized children is that they need to have these harsh conversations about how to act in public for fear of unjustified violence. 

“He should be able to live and enjoy his childhood, but as a mom, I fear for what can happen,” she worries.

This is why she established the Anti-Black Racism Task Force and the DCCBA – to create a welcoming, inclusive environment for the community’s children to grow up in. 

Her message to youth or anyone struggling with racism or discrimination is “as hard as it is, speak up.” You can’t receive the support you need if nobody knows what is happening. 

It starts with just one person coming forward. There’s comfort and power in groups that support and uplift one another. 

“It takes that one brave voice to come out and make a difference.”



         

Facebooktwittermail


Readers Comments (0)


You must be logged in to post a comment.

Page Reader Press Enter to Read Page Content Out Loud Press Enter to Pause or Restart Reading Page Content Out Loud Press Enter to Stop Reading Page Content Out Loud Screen Reader Support