#GameChanger: Cameron Davis – Black History Month
Black History Month is an annual commemoration in February to remember the many achievements and contributions of Black people throughout history. It first began in the United States because of a lack of recognition for Black people and their achievements in the country. Black History Week celebrations in Canada date back to the 1950s. In 1978, the Ontario Black History Society was established. The founders presented a petition to the City of Toronto to have February formally proclaimed as Black History Month. The motion was passed in 1995 and the first national declaration of Black History Month in Canada started in February of 1996.
February is an opportunity and reminder to celebrate Black Canadian history, Black achievements and joy, and for non-Black leaders and employees to level-up knowledge on anti-Black racism and oppression. These efforts should extend beyond Black History Month and should be backed up with action.
This month, we’re featuring #GameChanger Cameron Davis – a Canadian youth activist and changemaker.
As a recent adult, Cameron has made a name for himself as an activist, athlete, entrepreneur, teen traveler, content creator and role model for youth. He’s co-founded a youth-led organization to advocate for the needs of the many on allyship and issues pertaining to the Black Community, he’s established a platform on his youtube channel Cameron D and other media publications like CTV, The Social, Metro Morning, where he raises awareness on social issues and his experiences with travel.
He uses his clothing brand 721merch.ca to raise money for disenfranchised youth and as one way to solve international issues that pertain to negativity. The other is through international involvement at panels and conferences across the globe. He hopes to one day be the prime minister of Canada and have the ability to better everyone internationally.
We interviewed Cameron to learn more about his role in founding BYRyouth to tackle important issues affecting Black people in our education system and our community, the importance of advocacy work, and more.
Q1: As one of the four founders of BYR Youth, how did your role in the organization come to be?
In 2020 after the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor I was asked to participate in a Black Lives Matter rally in my hometown. When it was over, I – along with 3 other youth founders and our adult mentor, Vanessa Stoby – formed BYRyouth. My role in the organization has included using my experience in video editing, and my nature as being an optimistic outgoing public speaker. As a team, we use BYRyouth to tackle important issues affecting Black people in our education system and our community.
Q2: Tell us about what motivated you to want to use your voice to support Black communities around you.
In grade 10, my civics teacher told me that “racism doesn’t exist in Canada.” That statement was ridiculous. The experiences I had growing up – from having “the talk” from my parents about how to safely carry myself in public, to being called “white” because I spoke well and was good in school were proof of that. BYRyouth is one way I work to change that kind of injustice at the educational and social level. Furthermore, I used my voice to network, organize events and speak at panel discussions to get more and more people involved in the organization and involved in making their own respective positive changes in their community. I saw that people responded to the information I was sharing and that allowed for real change that helps all of us.
Q3: What is your perspective on the importance of advocacy work?
Advocacy is an altruistic form of work. That’s something that I stand by and something I hope people understand. Being an advocate – from community leadership to politics – should always be unselfish. It’s a form of service that should be meant to benefit those who need it. Through advocacy we have an opportunity to listen; we educate ourselves on pressing issues; we learn from each other; we build and create; and we improve our own issues as well as the issues others may encounter. And then we act, implementing these issues to ensure growth and success individually and collaboratively.
I know I’m not perfect and I consider my imperfections and mistakes as challenges that I need to overcome to be the best person I can be. And I hope that other people will do the same. I advocate because I’m living proof that people can learn from their mistakes and change into someone who can do better, for themselves and for others.
Q4: Have there been any challenges you have faced as a young activist, and if so, how did you overcome them?
There haven’t been many challenges that I’ve faced. I don’t keep track of the cons in my life. I always focus on using them as a building block to better myself. That incident with my teacher in grade 10 led to me taking up public speaking and advocacy work. I was told I was too young to
run a business and I once again proved people wrong when I launched my clothing company, 721 merch.ca. I always prove those who are against me wrong, and I use challenges as a way to accomplish my goals. My resilience is what allows me to overcome any challenge I encounter and never being afraid to ask for help (from parents, peers, and friends) is something I’m also proud of.
Q5: As a youth-led organization, BYR Youth is supported by a few adult mentors. What has the impact of mentoring and networking had on you, as an individual from a marginalized group?
The mentors are great! They encourage us to be our best selves while allowing the youth to run the organization. They never impose their own wills on the groups but rather they help us achieve our goals and run our events while staying on the sidelines!
Q6: Last year, BYR Youth held a Leadership Conference to address anti-Black racism across the Greater Toronto Area. Based on the discussions from this conference, what are some actions individuals can use to dismantle systems that perpetuate anti-Black racism in Canada?
It’s really simple:
- Use your voice
- Speak out with your peers to take action while avoiding performative activism
- Start private and then go public
- It should never be the goal to spark drama, the first goal should always be to educate and encourage others to benefit themselves