A high school student from Windsor, Ont., has been honored in a national public speaking competition for her speech on racism and the importance of creating positive change.
Every year the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center holds a speech contest called Speakers Idol, and this year Faith Aborode from Windsor won third place.
Faith said she jumped at the chance to share her story and opinions with people who wanted to hear her.
“Growing up I was always someone who had, like I said before, all these big ideas and big thoughts and at the time I was nine and I didn’t have a lot of people to talk about racism,” she said.
“So as I got older I’ve, you know, had all these friends who had the same ideas and thoughts as me, and it was really enlightening to see what your words can do even though I sometimes feel like that your words are insignificant.”
The Grade 9 student from Assumption College Catholic High School wowed the judges with her speech.
“It was Oscar-worthy, it was inaugural poetry like the poetess from Washington who became famous for her pronunciation on Capitol Hill,” said Judge Ellin Bessner, a journalist and author, who also praised Faith for his words.
“Everyone needs to see this.”
Faith shared her life experiences of being born in Nigeria and moving to Canada at the age of five.
“I wouldn’t say I was ashamed of my culture, but I didn’t understand it very well,” she said. “The first years of my arrival in Canada, I did not speak, I had an accent and I did not want people to hear it.
The young writer said she was beginning to understand these feelings and how systemic racism contributed to these feelings.
“I don’t want other kids to grow up not wanting to talk about their culture, I don’t want them to feel like they don’t matter,” she said.
“That’s why I like to talk about these things, to show them that yes, we matter, our culture matters and you should never be ashamed because of what other people think.”
Along with bragging rights, Faith won an iPad as a prize.
“I’m very happy that I did it and I’m very, very excited.”
You can watch his full speech here.
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to stories of success within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project that Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.