I am Julie-Ann McCausland, a sole parent of an eight (8) year old son and a final-year New College student, who is pursuing a Specialist in Women and Gender Studies and a Minor in Equity Studies at the University of Toronto.
Arriving in Canada in January 2016 as a single mother presented me with many challenges. Primarily, my son and I were adjusting to being in a foreign country, while I was also learning about what it means to be the parent of a young black boy in the Toronto education system. I recall that one of the first things my son – who was five (5) years old at the time – was told by a teacher at his school when he started Senior Kindergarten, in 2016, is that he does not speak English, he speaks Jamaican.
While this experience acted as a stimulus, it was not until after my son was placed in the Behavioural Education classroom without my knowledge or consent that I was greatly inspired to write this book. I only found out about my son’s unauthorized placement in the Behavioural Education classroom about two months after the initial placement. Fortunately, my studies and research in gender and equity studies equipped me with the social justice and anti-oppressive lens that I needed to advocate for my son, through meetings with the Superintendent of my son’s school, to ensure that he was immediately removed from this classroom and given additional resources in his new classroom.
While I had the support and guidance of my Professors in Women and Gender Studies and Caribbean Studies, to challenge the school and advocate for my child, many other Black mothers do not have this opportunity because of the socioeconomic inequalities they face. Consequently, my book is intended as a tool to open conversations about the difficulties faced by Black single mothers who are newcomers or refugees (especially those working minimum wage jobs that limit their time and availability to advocate for their child/ren) in the Toronto education system.
I also hope that my book will serve as a rejoinder to how my son was pathologized in the Toronto education system, where his Blackness as well as his Jamaican identity have acted as a form of disability. What this meant in my case is that my son became a “problem” that needed to disappear through his segregation into a special education classroom. My son’s Blackness and Jamaicanness were characterized as evidence of his ‘abnormality’. However, my book offers an alternate positive depiction of my child. The book challenges this depiction as it is an example of resistance, liberation, and self-affirming reclamation/definition which reflects a feminist, anti-racist ethic that resists the negative narratives/portrayals of young Black, disabled boys while at the same time celebrating the young Black, disabled boy for his uniqueness and autonomy.
The book is written in my son’s voice and focuses on his body, his thoughts and his overall experience in school. The book is intended for boys with intellectual disabilities and it is particularly geared towards the young Black, male, disabled child. I funded, self-published and distributed the book for free because I want it to be accessible to everyone especially to as many disabled Black boys as possible.