To celebrate Black History Month, we’re shining a light on one of ProCom’s brightest stars, fourth-year student Christina Smith, Caribbean Students’ Association President, and 2019 Viola Desmond Award winner.
What inspired you to become involved with the Caribbean Students’ Association (CSA)?
When I first came to Ryerson, I wanted to be part of a community that honoured my heritage. The amazing thing about studying at Ryerson is that you get to know people from so many different cultures and backgrounds. It allows you to see things from different perspectives. But there is also something really beautiful about connecting with people who share a lot of your lived experiences.
After leaving a high school for the arts, I wanted to be part of a dance team at Ryerson. So, when I heard that CSA had a dance team that performed all over Ontario I jumped at the opportunity. The following year, I joined the Executive Team as Artistic Director, a new role to the team. Through that experience, I got to learn firsthand how culture-focused student groups really make a difference in the overall student experience, especially for international students.
Since then, CSA has become such a big part of my life. During my time in the group, I've met some of my closest friends and learned so much about myself and where I come from.
What does it mean to be a Caribbean-Canadian woman in communications and the arts?
I consider myself really fortunate in that I see the world from so many different, and yet very similar narratives. I see myself as both a producer and a product of stories and ideas that have been passed on throughout time.
One thing I've found that holds true in Canadian and Caribbean cultures is that people connect with people.
As Marshall McLuhan would say, "The medium is the message." As a performer, you're automatically a communicator because your body is the medium that you use to convey a message. How we convey a message or idea is just as important as what we convey. Effective communication in any culture gives people something to walk away with — something to care about, and in turn learns something from them. And that's not a job we can or should solely entrust technology with.
It's often been said, "People don't always remember what you say. But they will remember how you make them feel." And I really try to remember that with every story I tell: as an artist, a communicator, a Caribbean-Canadian or even simply as a woman.
What do you think when you hear “Black History Month”?
When I think of Black History Month, I think of the unsung heroes that we don't always talk or even know about. I think as North Americans we tend to have a skewed perception of Black history that sees it as existing only within the geographic margins of North America. And unfortunately, that history starts with slavery and ends with Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
But we forget that even now, we are making Black history, and it's happening on a global scheme. People like Usain Bolt, The Honourable Jean Augustine, and even Rihanna are making huge waves and breaking all kinds of barriers for Black people all over the world. Not to mention the ordinary people who are doing extraordinary things for our communities every day. I think it's time that we start acknowledging those contributions as Black history in the making.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
People would probably be surprised to know that as much as I love dancehall, soca, and everything Caribbean, I'm a classical singer. It's been a huge part of my life since as long as I can remember. My mom used to play Handel and Mozart in our home and I guess it just kind of grew on me.
What’s next for the Caribbean Students’ Association?
We're currently planning our pub night on March 22, as well as our elections for the incoming 2019-2020 Executive Team.
Connect with Christina
Connect with the Caribbean Students’ Association
By Susannah Maxcy
Photos: courtesy of Christina Smith.