Celebrating My Black History

A message from Stephen Thomas to the Black Community to celebrate our recent history.

By Stephen Thomas

“I have developed new associations witht he colour black that has helped me overcome great personl and professional insecurity. I embrace these new feelings of heightened positivity and celebrate as a modern-day Black King, reigning sovereign over my life with full control of my destiny” – Stephen Thomas

As I reflect on and celebrate the conclusion of another Black History Month, this year feels special.

With unprecedented events happening across our country and around the globe, “historic” certainly sums up the start of 2022. These national and global events transcend race and unite humanity, and I am so grateful to be alive at a time when the Black community is being uplifted and celebrated.

The world is starting to acknowledge many of the prevalent inequalities, injustices and systemic barriers we face in everyday life – indeed, we have faced them throughout our history. We are being afforded opportunities to demonstrate our strength and equality in all areas of life and business.

“Black” has a wide range of associations. It is often linked to death, darkness and systemic negativity. But black can also symbolize elite, elegance, power and wealth.

In 2020, I signed the BlackNorth Initiative CEO pledge on behalf of HALO Advisory, to do my part to end anti-Black systemic racism in Canada. As part of the initiative, signatory organizations developed an organizational anti-racism strategy. At HALO, we decided to honour the colour and normalize Black excellence and wealth in corporate Canada and the commercial real estate industry, through leading by example as the Best Commercial Brokerage.

On Nov. 26, 2021, I was honoured to be named the industry’s Best Commercial Mortgage Broker at the Mortgage Awards of Excellence. This award was historic for a couple of reasons.

First, the 2021 award covered the most challenging period of the COVID-19 pandemic; indeed, it was the most difficult time in history to be a professional in this industry. Second, I was the first Black recipient of this prestigious award in an industry that does not traditionally include significant Black representation.

To experience monumental growth in a year when most of the industry was down; was an incredible achievement for HALO. In 2022, we are off to our best start in company history, fueled by our client loyalty and innovative approach to commercial lending and mortgage brokering.

During this period of personal and professional growth, I have developed new associations with the colour black that has helped me overcome great personal and professional insecurity. I embrace these new feelings of heightened positivity and celebrate as a modern-day Black king, reigning sovereign over my life with full control of my destiny.

I celebrate my Black history, starting from the early years in my native Trinidad & Tobago, through to immigrating to Canada and living in Toronto’s inner city. Shortly after my arrival in the mid-1990s, I was declared a Crown Ward. I had to overcome systemic barriers at every milestone, but I conquered those challenges and excelled in areas where Black people are grossly under-represented.

I am free and living my ancestors’ wildest dreams. The colour Black has never shined so bright in history. I recognize how far we’ve come in recent years and hope we can keep the celebration going beyond just the month of February.

It took me a lifetime to understand and embrace the Black within me. It is elite and not a disadvantage. Financial services and commercial mortgages have never been options presented to the world’s projects and inner cities.

For many kids that look like me, or who face these statistics, our “hard knock life” can be a gift and a curse. It takes the strength of a black diamond and Kobe Bryant’s Black Mamba mindset to rise against systemic injustice and break generational curses that have impacted Black people.

I’d like my Black history to be a legacy that inspires the next generation of Black youth – and young people of any colour or race – to aspire to commercial real estate, finance and entrepreneurship, just as Kobe and LeBron James made me aspire to basketball and business as a kid and young adult. I want them to know this industry has the power to change their lives, and the lives of the people they want to help the most, if they stay hungry, stay humble, and are willing to do the hard work required to be successful. To get there, they must become the best version of themselves, embracing and living the teachings found in Kobe’s Black Mamba philosophy.

When it’s all said and done, I want my Black history to be viewed as a model and a symbol of change, not just in the Black community, but in all communities, especially for the Wards of the Crown. I am living proof that Black can be exceptional in the fields of entrepreneurship and commercial real estate, regardless of where you start in life and what hurdles you need to overcome today or tomorrow.

I thank God for granting me this “Moment of Clarity” as Jay-Z put it; this moment of honesty, so the world will feel my truths. My “hard knock life” is my gift and my curse. I gave the mortgage and finance industry volume after volume of my work. I built a dynasty by being one of the realest brokers out, way beyond a reasonable doubt.

For the first time in my life, it feels truly amazing to be a Black Canadian.

STEPHEN THOMAS

Founder & CEO

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