By Joseph Mathieu
Jordan Gray, a first-year student in Carleton’s Global and International Studies program, has received a Lincoln M. Alexander award for community work in his hometown of Mississauga, Ont.
Gray was nominated for the award and $5,000 prize by Donna Berzaitis, his high school guidance counsellor from St. Francis Xavier Secondary School, for founding and organizing the Mississauga-Malton Youth Association at the age of 13.
In 2012, Gray heard Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne speak to a group of youth from across the province. “She said that Ontario was in an interesting spot, that we were in need of new investments and to re-engage in communities. She said: ‘We can’t wait to drive change.’”
That line stayed with Gray, who saw issues like an increased minimum wage for students, rising tuitions fees, and even physician-assisted suicide as top-of-mind for many young people in his community. “These were ideas and concerns that needed to be addressed, and I wasn’t going to wait anymore.”
Diverse Youth from Many Backgrounds
With the help of classmates, the association formed and began to hold workshops on the public policy process. Now numbering about 60 members, the diverse group of youth from different backgrounds and experiences come from more than 15 different countries and speak 11 languages.
“Our mandate was to initially promote public policy process through volunteerism, but also to recognize and celebrate diversity and youth,” said Gray.
The association strived to become a platform for young women, Indigenous peoples and LGBTQ members.
Since 1993, Lincoln M. Alexander Awards have been presented to young people who have demonstrated exemplary leadership in promoting positive social change in eliminating racial discrimination.
“I already knew a fair bit about Lincoln Alexander,” said Gray. “I thought he really was an inspirational character who was a big advocate for education and opportunities.”
Alexander became a Conservative MP for Hamilton West in 1968 and was appointed Ontario’s 24th lieutenant-governor in 1985, the University of Guelph’s seventh chancellor from 1991 to 2006, and in 1997 he was appointed by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien as first chair of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, an organization tasked with identifying racism and finding ways to combat it.
Lincoln M. Alexander: Keep Talking about Racism
“Given the abundance of ethnic groups in this country, along with our reputation as an inclusive and tolerant society, it’s easy to be complacent and believe such an anti-racism campaign was overkill,” Alexander wrote in his 2006 memoir. “It was not . . . It is important to keep talking about racism because it has not gone away . . . We all need to work together to make certain Canada is the great nation it can be, and in many ways already is.”
In Grade 12, Gray visited Carleton’s campus. He enjoyed the small class sizes and the school’s location in the nation’s capital, but was really hooked by the Global and International Studies (BGInS) program, the only one of its kind in Canada. Gray specializes in global and transnational history.
“I get the joys of a history degree, with so much more,” he said. “I get to explore political economics, global literature and take other courses that tie in to give a more holistic view.