Aaron Parry’s passion for social justice has earned him a prestigious Lincoln Alexander Award from the Province, and a $5,000 scholarship to put toward his education.
The Blessed Trinity Catholic Secondary School graduate, who is currently studying Social Sciences at McMaster (on his way to a Combined Honours program in Anthropology and Indigenous Studies), was one of three young Ontarians honoured at Queen’s Park by last week for their efforts to eliminate racial discrimination.
The Award pays tribute to the late Honourable Lincoln Alexander, the first person of colour elected to the House of Commons, Canada’s first Black cabinet minister and Ontario’s 24th Lieutenant Governor.
Her Honour, the Honourable Elizabeth Doudeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, presented Aaron and his fellow recipients with their awards.
Aaron was nominated for the Lincoln Alexander Award by his teacher, Anthony Gambale, who was impressed with the student’s commitment to various social justice activities at the Grimsby school.
Aaron’s social justice resume at Blessed Trinity included:
- Serving as the first First Nations/Metis/Inuit, Equity and Advocate for Those Who Need a Voice Representative on Blessed Trinity’s Student Council for my Grade 12 year (2016-2017)
- Co-founding the student Social Justice League with friend Alexander Bugarija. Aaron served as leader of the club, which met regularly after school and participated in ventures around the community that focused on creating equality and justice within the world.
- Creating a course plan for a Grade 11 Black History course, which he hopes to have integrated into Niagara Catholic classes in the future.
- Organizing events at his school and the Board focusing on cultural awareness, including Orange Shirt Day, Black History Month and Indigenous Peoples’ Day), including creating a video that spoke about the experience many Indigenous people had in residential schools and designing a t-shirt worn throughout the Board on Orange Shirt Day to raise funds to preserve First Nations culture at the Woodland Cultural Centre.
Aaron said he first learned about Orange Shirt Day and the residential schools experience during his Law and Contemporary Native Studies class, taught by Mr. Gambale. He found the injustices against Indigenous people was similar to that experienced by African-Canadian students.
“I was inspired to become a leader in my school for Indigenous and African-Canadian issues because I realized the lack of representation that there was in my school community for minority students and cultures,” said Aaron. “As the school community is highly homogenous, the curriculum leaves out a lot of information involving the history and current status of Indigenous Peoples in Canada, as well as Black Canadians. I realized that to first create a change in making things more equal for minorities in society as a whole, I had to start small and begin to create awareness within my own community. This not only allowed me to embrace and delve more into my own culture as an Black Canadian, but also to learn more about the culture of our local Indigenous Nations at the source.
“Becoming a leader not only meant that I had to teach others, it also meant that I myself had to do some learning as well. As I want to participate in work that allows me to be an ally to Indigenous communities in the future, I participated in community led programs and events that allowed non-Indigenous people to be taught by elders and Indigenous leaders, to allow us to delve into the culture to become more culturally aware. I also wanted to represent my culture as an ethnic minority, specifically a Black Canadian. I wanted to show other students at my school that you can be a proud Black student and be able to hold a position like student council, able to make a change in your community and have an influence on a whole student body. My work allowed me to have the best of both worlds; to be able to wear my student council jacket on school team days and to wear a dashiki on out of uniform days. I wanted to show other (minority) students that they can do this too and not be judged by their school community. It feels truly amazing to be honoured in this way by receiving the Lincoln M. Alexander Award. I really appreciate such an honour. It’s really a privilege to be given this, as the award was created in honour of the truly groundbreaking and positive social change created by Lincoln Alexander. He’s such an inspiration in many ways, particularly how he was the first Black member of parliament. The award not only helps with my education, receiving this it inspires me to keep going with my work so that I can hopefully create change for the better in the wider Canadian community. I am super grateful for the award and could not be more ecstatic.”