2 Islanders make Chatelaine's Black Canadians Making Change list

Two Prince Edward Islanders have been recognized by Chatelaine magazine for their leadership.

‘I was initially quite speechless’

'I am humbled that someone thought my work was important enough,' says Shamara Baidoobonso. (Submitted by Shamara Baidoobonso)

Two Prince Edward Islanders have been recognized by Chatelaine magazine for their leadership.

Shamara Baidoobonso, a provincial epidemiologist, and Tamara Steele, president of the Black Cultural Society of P.E.I., are on Chatelaine's 33 Black Canadians Making Change Now list.

Steele was recognized for her work on a petition tabled in the P.E.I. Legislature this spring asking government to perform "an extensive review of all provincial legislation and policies, applying a racially-focused lens, with an immediate focus on education, health care, well-being, and job security." 

Island Morning host Mitch Cormier spoke to Baidoobonso about making the list.

"I was initially quite speechless when I saw the full list and saw the people that are included on that list. Some names that I was familiar with, people that have been doing very high calibre work for decades," she said.

"I am humbled that someone thought my work was important enough, that my work should be highlighted."

A sense of responsibility

As an epidemiologist, Baidoobonso is interested in how different communities are affected by viruses, and has a particular focus on how HIV has a disproportionate impact on members of African, Caribbean and Black communities.

"As someone who was studying epidemiology, and a member of that community, I felt a sense of, for lack of a better word, responsibility, to use my skills and my position to learn more about the virus's impact on my community and help with the response," she said.

After a decade of research and advocacy, Baidoobonso said she is noticing a difference. 

More attention is being paid to HIV in Black communities and more importantly, more people from those communities are studying the subject in universities, getting involved in advocacy organizations, and rising up the ranks of those organizations.

Baidoobonso said she believes getting more help to communities that need it starts with data, with gathering more socio-economic information about disease in Canada.

"It's so important to be able to measure the effects of systemic racism," she said.

"We can't measure without the data."

The work is just beginning, she said. Looking to the past, she recognizes it is easy for initiatives such as this to lose momentum, and for opportunities for change to be lost.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of.

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With files from Island Morning