Speaking from experience, award-winning television broadcaster Dwight Drummond implored students at a Black History Month celebration last week not to allow their neighbourhoods to define them.
He transitioned from public housing in the Lawrence Ave. E. and Allen Rd. community, sometimes referred to as “The Jungle”, to become a public broadcaster who last week won a Canadian Screen Award for Best Local Newscast.
“I had a lot of people around me that were making bad choices,” he told Lord Dufferin Public School students at the Toronto Police Service and the Chief’s Black Community Consultative Committee event. “Dealing drugs come with the occupational hazard of death. I am telling you guys this because I grew up in a neighbourhood which had a lot of that stuff around me. The best choice I made in life was not to get caught up in the world of drugs, guns and gangs that were there where I was growing up.”
The Ryerson University graduate was raised by a single mother who insisted he take advantage of the opportunities Canada offers.
“I worked at a bakery making hollow bread and I got a post-secondary education which can be the difference between making it and being left behind,” the married father of two daughters said. “Your lives hold the potential to achieve what your talents would allow. By applying yourself, you can make the seemingly impossible probable. Don’t be ashamed of being smart. Enjoy reading, writing and academics which is the foundation in our society that everything is built on. It’s important that you dream big and not be afraid of failure.
“If you take the time to prepare yourselves, I promise you there’s no limit to what you can accomplish. And when you achieve, I hope that you come back to the neighbourhood you were raised in and spread the message for the next generation coming up behind you.”
Migrating from Jamaica in 1976 at age seven, Drummond graduated from Runnymede Collegiate Institute as an Ontario scholar and worked part-time at City TV as a security guard on “Electric Circus” for two years before becoming a full-time staff member in 1991.
Five years ago, he joined CBC as the co-host of the News Toronto supper hour newscasts after two decades at City TV.
Last year, Drummond and fellow TV broadcaster, Marci Ien, created scholarships that will be awarded annually to two Ryerson University Radio & Television Arts program second-year students.
In his spare time, Drummond – who has lost several friends to gun violence – seizes the opportunity to attend community events and speak to young people, especially Black males, about the importance of becoming useful citizens.