Tamara Steele is Executive Director of the Black Cultural Society of P.E.I. Ulinwa Vivian Onyinye photo.
By Ulinwa Vivian Onyinye
April 15, 2021
Growing up as a black person in Birchtown, Nova Scotia was challenging for Tamara Steele.
She lived in a multi-racial community and in high school it was tough for her to make friends.
“The black students didn’t like me because I wasn’t black enough and the white students didn’t like me because I was black.”
When she moved to P.E.I. there were very few Black people and she found it tough.
“I have lived in Nova Scotia all my life, I have nothing to compare it to.”
Steele got involved with the Black Cultural Society of P.E.I. in 2019, three years after it was formed. She started off as a board member and then they approached her about becoming the first executive director.
“I never saw myself as a leader.”
“ I was one of those people that asked, where do I start from.”
Working with the society means long hours, but she doesn’t mind.
“I enjoyed it and never felt like giving up,” she said.
Though she is now in a position of power, Steele still experiences racism just as she did while growing up.
Since Steele has been in this position, the society has received several racist and hate-filled direct messages through instagram.
“There was one time we had to send someone’s name to the police so they have the name on file.”
It’s hard for Steele to read comments on CBC and The Guardian, with articles involving the society.
“People are calling us Terrorists,” she said.
“I don’t go through it but my husband does.”
“Individuals being racists is hurtful but I don’t let that get to me,” said Steele.
Some Black people living on P.E.I. have reported racist incidents to the society, said a board member, Daniel Ohaegbu.
“That is something we have been looking into. Racism isn’t something you handle in one day.”
But Steele and Ohaegbu remain positive.
The society has started an annual luncheon for men and women of colour to meet with people for the first time and network, said Ohaegbu.
“There is still a lot of work to be done,” he said.
Ohaegbu has seen an increase in the number of Black people on P.E.I. in the last few years and looks forward to creating more programs to help people in years to come.