T&T seniors told to raise their voices, share their wisdom

by Lincoln Depradine
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MP Shaun Chen, T&T Seniors President Shane Suepaul and MP Gary Anandasangaree

Seniors need to speak up and share their voices and wisdom with young people, Justice
Donald McLeod said in his address at a recent event of the Trinidad & Tobago 50Plus &
Seniors Association.
The further advancement of the Black and Caribbean community requires that seniors not
be quiet, but lending their voices and sharing their wisdom with younger people, he added.
According to McLeod, young people with university degrees are not smarter than older
folks, including parents and grandparents, who may not have attended a university or
“Just because you don’t have a degree after your name does not mean I don’t have to listen
to you.”
McLeod was part of a packed room at TAIBU Community Health Centre, where the
50Plus & Seniors’Association hosted its annual Black History Month event.
The group was established in 1996 as a non-profit association.
The Black History commemoration was attended by Scarborough politicians – city
councilor Jamaal Myers, MPP Raymond Cho and federal Liberal MPs Gary
Anandasangaree and Shaun Chen who all delivered messages.
The theme of the event was, “Unity in Diversity”.
“Trinidad & Tobago 50Plus & Seniors’Association of Canada is a great example of unity
in diversity,” said association president Shane Suepaul. “We try and include all members of
the organization in anything that we do.”
Chen, in his message, extended greetings from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who said
that Canada, as a multicultural nation, is “made stronger and more resilient by our
McLeod, who received his law degree in 1995 from Queen’s University, highlighted the
benefits of the teachings of elders, using his own upbringing and referencing growing up
with his grandmother in Jamaica and his mother in public housing in Scarborough.
“That’s the era that I grew up in. So, that’s why I am the way I am,” he said. “I grew up in
an era when my mother said this is what you’re eating today, you eat what’s there. If it’s
bully beef, we’re eating bully beef and rice. If it’s cabbage, we’re eating cabbage,”
McLeod said.
His mother, he said, decided he should “live a particular way; that excellence is not an
expectation or a right; it is ‘you have to do that’.
“When my mother says something, that is it; there is no discussion, there is no debate”.
McLeod, who was appointed to the Ontario Court of Justice in 2014, appealed for a return
to “basics” in the community, where 45 per cent of Black males do not finish high school
and a high percentage of them are in the prison system.
“I think that what has happened over time is that, for some reason, our grandparents and
our parents have gotten quiet because we now have degrees after our names. I am saying
that you should not be quiet,” McLeod told the 50Plus & Seniors’Association members.
“What you have done is you’ve decided that you will be quiet because you’re older,
because I went to university. The smartest person I ever met was my mother, who only got
to Grade 6 when she left Jamaica.”

McLeod suggested that seniors ought to become more vocal. “We can’t listen to you if
you’re quiet. We can only listen to you if you continue to talk,” he said.
“We have to get back to the basics; the basics of what it is that we had learned for all these
years. So, I’m actually saying that even in the advanced ages that you are, you still are
important, so stop being quiet.
“If we are going to move forward as a community, it is important that we understand that
there are seniors amongst us who are wise. That means that wisdom has to be told to us;
we have to be willing to understand it; we have to be able to embrace it. We have to be
able to say to ourselves that what they’re telling us actually makes sense.”

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