Self-care a key point of Dresden symposium

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Chatham-Kent Secondary School students Kamia Barnes, Bella Dunmore and Faith Mungwadzi were part of group of students who made cornbread as part of the Lambton Kent District School Board’s 2024 Youth Diversity Symposium. Held at Lambton Kent Composite School in Dresden, the “Art, Identify and Belonging” themed event drew students from across the district to engage youth against the backdrop of Chatham-Kent’s Black heritage.

By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Dwayne Morgan had an unconventional homework assignment for high school students attending the recent “Art, Identity and Belonging” symposium in Dresden.

The Scarborough-born author and motivational speaker said he wanted every student in the room to begin to love themselves deeply.

“As human beings, we live up to – or down to – whatever it is we choose to say to ourselves,” Morgan told the group. “Sometimes we are our own worst enemy. Sometimes the only thing standing in the way of where you want to be is you.”

As per the homework assignment, Morgan told students that the next time they get out of the shower, they should stand in front of a mirror, look themselves dead in the eyes, and tell themselves, “You have got to be the hottest thing walking.

“I want you to fall deeply, passionately, magically in love with yourself,” the writer stressed. “It is the greatest love affair you are ever going to experience in your lifetime. We often don’t realize that the relationship we have with ourselves is the longest relationship we will have in our lifetime.”

The spoken word performance pioneer, poet, television host, entertainment producer and book author has been named to the Order of Ontario for 2024 in recognition of his contribution to gender and race equality. Morgan’s work has taken him around the globe and he has performed in front of world leaders, including former U.S. president Barack Obama.

During his talk, the 49 year old described what it was like growing up Black in a white culture. Citing the lack of toys and dolls that reflected Black faces, Morgan also used the example of the 64-crayon pack by Crayola that only had one crayon for “skin colour.” It was a peach flesh tone made for white people.

“What does that say to all the young people who aren’t that colour?” Morgan asked.

Morgan, who admitted he wasn’t much of a reader as a youngster, said his life changed when his uncle loaned him the autobiography of Malcolm X. He became a passionate advocate for reading – something he says young people are neglecting in the wake of social media.

“Reading is one the greatest tools to unlock your potential,” he said, adding teenagers need to be reading more than just “captions on Instagram.”

Morgan said in today’s world of social media, young people are “so not present” with what is actually happening around them and they don’t realize how much power they actually have.

“A lot of young people forget the power of reading, the power of imagination. They’re so used to consuming information that they’re not really thinking about creating,” he said. “I understand what a book did for my life.”

Students attending the symposium were chosen by principals from all 12 secondary schools within the Lambton Kent District School Board. This goal of the event, held at Lambton Kent Composite School, was to engage and empower area youth in front of the culturally rich backdrop of Chatham-Kent’s Black heritage.

Organized in conjunction with C-K’s Black historical sites, the symposium featured various breakout sessions and a trip to the Josiah Henson

Museum of African-Canadian History.

“As leaders who have been selected to be here today, I think it is very important that you understand that there’s a lot of pressure that comes with leading,” Morgan said. “So self-care is very important for people who are leaders. And you have to be investing in yourself, as much or probably more than you would invest in those around you. We spend a lot of time looking externally, but all of the answers are internal, so I really want the young people to look into themselves, and realize how much power they actually have.

“You can’t pour from an empty cup.”

Chatham-Kent historian Shannon Prince and motivational speaker Dwayne Morgan share a hug following Morgan’s keynote address at the “Art, Identity and Belonging” summit held May 10 at Lambton Kent Composite School in Dresden.

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