Start a conversation with Leo and you’ll instantly notice is his depth, undeniable passion and commitment to social justice paired with his unassuming nature. I was honoured to attend his convocation ceremony in June at the University of Toronto. Leo was celebrating the end of a chapter and welcoming a new one. He is such an inspiration and a true beacon. Take a look…
Leonard D. Edwards
Social worker /Community Advocate
Master of Social Work at The Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work University Of Toronto,Â Bachelor of Social Work Honors York University, a Certificate in Anti-Racist Research & Practice (CARRP) -York University, a Diploma in Community Work & Development – George Brown College
Beautiful sunny island of Grenada In the parish of St Georges
Currently I live in Toronto, Canada
I love music and movies from the 60s. I actually own all Jim Reeves and Patsy Cline albums
Life’s not a paragraph and death I think is no parenthesis
For me it means that life is not just a paragraph, because it is our entire story, it embodies our versatility and diverse experiences. Death is not contained in parenthesis, because our spirit lives on beyond death into infinity it defies everything. I live my life deeply framed in this mantra.
What did you want to be or do when growing up?
I have always wanted to have a career in the “helping” profession. I remember as a child pretending to be a teacher. Back then I had no idea what a social worker was but I remember when I attended The T.A Marryshow Community College in Grenada I immediately became very much interested in the work of Karl Marx and other sociologists. I believe that’s when I began thinking about social issues on a broader scale. These sociologists gave birth to my social consciousness.
Who or what inspires you?
Like I said before, I was inspired by the work of Karl Marx and people like Jane Adams but my motivation to become a social worker was influenced by diverse experiences; personal, family and community experiences. I believe in order to be an effective and efficient social worker; one must possess certain personal attributes. A social worker must enjoy working with people. Having worked in the human service field both locally and internationally for over 8 years, I can truly say that I am committed to work with individuals from all walks of life, diverse backgrounds and experiences and who at-times share different values, ideas and beliefs systems than my own. This is a critical attribute, as it will allow me the opportunity to understand and be sensitive to the issues clients face.
What has been the most challenging and exciting part of your journey?
I think the biggest lesson I have learnt is the experiences of being an immigrant of color and the multiple ways in which race, gender, sexuality and being able bodied influences my everyday experiences. Now I am able to understand how my experiences are driven by normalization and how this process has situated me in both a position of privilege and marginalization. For example, I am male, able-bodied and university educated. Hence, I am in an advantageous position as the qualities I possess allow me to feel a sense of comfort in my environment and I am able to blend in with the norm and not be singled out. On the other end, I am an immigrant and person of color. Based on this social identity I have some experiences of exclusion and marginalization. What is most ironic however is otherness that I have felt within my own community (African Caribbean diaspora) because of my position on issues that are often times difficult and taboo to address. Throughout these experiences I was able to find my authentic self, discover my voice and became an advocate for other groups within our communities that are marginalized and oppressed such as members of the LBGTTTIQQ community and sex workers.
So, what’s next for Leo?
Perusing an honours degree in social work, a cross discipline Certification in Anti Racism Research and Practice and a MSW have given me the opportunity to accumulate a solid knowledge base in numerous areas of social work and research. I therefore as a result have a greater appreciation for how fascinating the professional and academic discipline of social work is within the context of social change, social welfare, research, policy development, advocacy and direct practice to name a few. I therefore feel inclined to continue onto post graduate education and in the near future will be looking into a Doctoral degree in Social Work that will further allow me to acquire the skills needed to conduct research both theoretically and practically, as well as apply interventions and best practices that could benefit individuals and communities suffering from social and physical inequalities.