Victoria resident Kerice Richards outshined hundreds of contestants from the Island and southern B.C. recently to win the district-level competition of the Toastmasters International Speech Contest, from her speech Hey, Black Child. Contributed photo

Victoria resident Kerice Richards outshined hundreds of contestants from the Island and southern B.C. recently to win the district-level competition of the Toastmasters International Speech Contest, from her speech Hey, Black Child. Contributed photo

Speech sheds light on raising a minority child in majority society

Kerice Richards won the district-level competition of the Toastmasters International Speech Contest.

It’s a moment Kerice Richards knew she would eventually have to deal with, but one she didn’t think would come so soon.

A few weeks ago, Richards and her 20-month old daughter were enjoying an afternoon at a play area in Victoria, when her daughter spotted a few kids she wanted to play with. She ran over, but the other kids pushed her away. Richards, who was born and raised in Jamaica, could see her daughter didn’t understand why they didn’t want to play with her.

As a woman of colour, Richards knew the day would come when she would need to teach her daughter why she didn’t look like the blonde-haired, blue-eyed children in books, and on diaper and commercial baby food packages.

Growing up in Mandible, Jamaica, Richards was surrounded by people of the same ethnicity. She was never taught about the colour of one’s skin and was instead encouraged to achieve anything she set her mind to. It wasn’t until she moved to Victoria and when a friend called her a minority, that it struck a chord and made Richards much more self-aware.

“I want her to teach people who she is, not what she looks like,” she said. “I don’t want her to be shy. I don’t want her to be self-conscious. I have to now be purposeful with the things that I say, the things that I do, so that she can see she has a strong mom.”

Now, every morning Richards and her daughter sit in front of a mirror and recite the lines: “I’m kind. I’m beautiful. I can do anything I want,” to instill that sense of pride.

Richards’ experience of raising a minority child in a majority population is the basis for her new speech, which she recently performed in front of hundreds of people during the Toastmasters International Speech Contest in Surrey.

Her speech, “Hey, Black Child,” which was inspired by the poem written by Countee Cullen, has earned her a spot as a semi-finalist, vying for one of 10 spots to compete in the World Championship of Public Speaking later this summer.

It’s a speech Richards, who is a member of Victoria’s Advocates Toastmasters Club, noting she joined the contest to challenge herself. “At the end of the day, they (the audience) taught me something that it wasn’t about what I thought it was about — it’s about being different.”

says isn’t just about being black or white, but being different — something many people are able to identify with.

If selected Richards will perform her speech on Friday, Aug. 25 in Vancouver during the Toastmasters International Convention.

kendra.wong@vicnews.com