Before emigrating to Canada at 26, I lived in Guyana, the United States, Trinidad, and Jamaica, where I was born. Migration to Toronto in 1993 was initially fairly painless given that moving countries was a regular feature of my life from as early as I can remember.
My work history spans an eclectic mix of mostly small for- and non-profit organizations. My most fulfilling work was as a personal care aide for people with disabilities and HIV, a job I took for two months as part of a successful strategy to secure an entry-level position in an AIDS service organization.
In 1996 I job-shared that position and started full-time law school at the University of Toronto. Law and its role in articulating privilege are enduring interests of mine, however based on mental health considerations I was reluctant to practise. In my second year of school, when the conservative Ontario government deregulated tuition resulting in a four-fold increase, I decided to leave law school. In 1998 I became the executive director of a small but vital community organization in crisis. It was the first of three charities that I led between 1998 and 2009. Between 1996 and 2007, alongside employment, I freelanced as an LGBT community presenter and workshop facilitator for the Toronto Police and Ontario Police Colleges, and eventually as an associate consultant in non-profit strategic planning and program evaluation.
After four years running organizations for others I wanted to try running my own business. Gardening and flowers have been strong interests since childhood thanks to an aunt who was a florist. I studied horticulture in university and in 2002, with minimal capital, I successfully founded Blooming City, a small, initially part-time business that over eight years gradually evolved from a focus on floral design to exclusively providing bespoke gardening services. Between 2002 and 2009 I grew Blooming City while also freelancing and taking interim executive director contracts in the winter months. This worked well because I thrive when I have multiple, concurrent work opportunities catering to a variety of interests.
Back in 1986, at the start of my second semester of my Bachelor of Science at Cornell University, I had a brief, acute psychotic episode that resulted in a 20-month leave of absence and a series of psychiatric diagnoses. The subsequent three decades coping with a serious psychiatric condition, and my experiences of psychiatric care, led me to become involved in service user education. I am a founding member of a community of practice for mental health service users involved in the education of service providers that started in 2017. Based on this involvement I founded Hope is Health in 2019. Hope is Health develops, promotes and delivers training for health service providers, facilitated by mental health service users.
Currently, I volunteer as the Empowerment Council representative on the Integrated Care Steering Committee at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, and as a service user reviewer of applications for residency at the University of Toronto Department of Psychiatry.
I think if you asked most people who know me what the most memorable thing about me is, they would say my laugh.