Jahnoah Wood has a unique perspective on Black History Month. As a biracial woman who grew up in a predominantly white neighbourhood in Oshawa, her exposure to education, history, or Black culture was limited.
“I didn’t have any Black friends until I was in high school, so I didn’t have someone to relate to who had a similar life experience, even a similar look, and that was very challenging,” she said. “As a women of colour, I struggled with a sense of belonging in my community because I always felt different and othered. I constantly felt this pressure to fit in.”
Jahnoah works as an intake and care navigator at Community Care Durham (CCD). Growing up, she was an only child raised by her white mother. She said her mother provided her with as much education as possible about Black culture, but “I did not have someone to relate with or a role model to look up to in the Black community.”
Black history was also not widely taught in school when Jahnoah was growing up. It wasn’t until her teens that she got a better sense of what Black History Month was all about.
“Becoming an adult, growing into my own self, having a better sense of who I am, that’s when I’ve had a deeper connection to that significant month (February),” Jahnoah said.
Despite being raised by a white mother, that didn’t shield her from racist attacks. She’s been excluded due to her skin colour, called derogatory names, and felt the pain those words inflict.
“It was difficult coming to terms with why people have that mentality or why there are still some racist attitudes. That was a big challenge for me,” she said.
However, it’s also what motivated her to get involved in social justice and advocacy issues and to pursue higher education to make a difference. After graduating high school, Jahnoah earned her diploma in Social Service Work from Durham College before getting her Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from Trent University. Her goal is to earn her Master’s Degree in Social Work.
“It’s why I became a social worker to enhance my world view and get the formal education to advocate, not only for myself but for individuals in the community whose voices go unheard,” she said.
Education plays an essential role in Black History Month.
“Education really is the key to enhancing all of our awareness,” Jahnoah said. “It’s a real key component of this month.”
Despite Black History Month raising awareness about the struggles people of colour have endured, there’s still much that needs to change in society Jahnoah said. She said she’s experienced systemic racism in previous jobs and hit a glass ceiling that women, in particular Black women, have a hard time breaking when it comes to promotions.
“There are other jobs where I have not gotten the same opportunities as my white counterparts,” she said.
Jahnoah came to CCD three years ago, starting out as an Assisted Living navigator, helping high-risk seniors get the supports they needed to live in their own home. It was a perfect fit that allowed her to utilize her social work skills in a community setting.
“I wanted to veer away from the mainstream social work fields like addictions and mental health, and focus my work on a niche need, so that’s why I got involved in geriatrics,” she said.
She admitted she has good days and bad days just like everyone, but her resiliency has kept her positive.
“Every day, I want to do a great job. My end goal is to help as many individuals as I can, just connecting them to the right person or giving them a piece of information that they may not have; that’s my main motivation, my driving factor to be there to support them,” she said.
A fun fact about Jahnoah when she’s not working is that she enjoys watercolour painting, baking and music production. She has a MIDI keyboard and produces songs and beats.
“I like to tap into my creative side, that’s for sure,” she said.