'Keep building, every day, little by little.'
An Interview with CHC Board Member, Councillor Courtney Walcott
Before being elected Ward 8 City Councillor, Courtney was a teacher and basketball coach at Western Canada High School. He graduated from Mount Royal University with a degree in history focusing on African American History, in particular, the long journey of civil rights in North America.
Courtney is a community builder and community organizer; his life has been dedicated to helping people realize their place in the world. In 2020, Courtney petitioned the Calgary Board of Education to form an anti-racism task force, and then went on to bring together 15 community organizations to successfully advocate for $8 million in additional community funding from The City of Calgary to support changes to the way we respond to people in need.
Courtney brings this same energy today to his new role as a City Councillor. In October 2021, after being elected Ward 8 City Councillor, Courtney joined the board of Calgary Housing Company.
What drew you to joining the board of Calgary Housing Company?
I believe that, far too often, we ask people to carry the weight of the world on their own. I’ve seen a culture of people who are taught to not ask for help, and even further, taught to believe that they shouldn’t need help. In my experience, we all need support from time to time.
So, the question becomes, how do we best support people to live a sustainable life? How do we best support people in whatever context they may find themselves in? From the macro perspective of an entire society, housing is a foundational step in a robust support network. I’ll continue to advocate for housing as the most basic necessity for people to live with dignity.
As a community leader what achievements are you most proud of?
The one I’m most proud of took place in a small community of my classrooms at Western Canada High School. My students nominated me for the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence, and, because of them, I was awarded a Certificate of Achievement for Leadership on Social Issues. This, for me, was one of the proudest moments in any work I’ve done.
I always viewed teaching as an opportunity to try and make the world better. So, to be honoured by my students for the work. I’ll carry that with me for a long time.
Who most inspires you as a community builder?
It is the potential of people. When you really dig into the possibilities of what we can do together, how people can contribute to amazing work, how can you not dedicate yourself to building community.
I’ve also seen the alternative. When people don’t feel connected to each other, it becomes so easy to fail in our responsibility to care for one another.
We have to do the work. We have to do everything we can to build that capacity in each other. So we keep building, every day, little by little.
What does Black History Month mean to you?
Black History Month is about restoration and celebration. Black culture and history often stand in opposition to the stories told about the world. Our history is a narrative, a story told to craft an image of where we came from in an effort to shape where we go. But stories are fallible, and while we endeavour to tell our stories in full, it is our responsibility to actively build out the narrative to better reflect the realities of our world to ensure our future is reflective of the people who’ve stand with us.
This is what Black History Month is. It is an effort to restore a part of our narrative that was actively hidden, actively untold. It’s a powerful opportunity for Canadians to come to terms with the fact that our history is shared.
It is also an opportunity to be seen in a society that doesn’t always want to see you. Being seen is exceptionally empowering. We all need to be seen a little bit more.
What Black Canadians do you find inspirational, and why?
The list goes on. Let me just hit you with a link: Noteworthy historical figures – Canada.ca
As we wrap up Black History Month, what have been your highlights celebrating Black History, particularly as a new City Councillor?
I’m just proud to be present in these moments as a City Councillor. I know that I am not the first Black City Councillor. I’m the second. Which is in itself powerful for me; I’m the first to continue in the legacy of Virnetta Anderson. I look forward to inspiring the next generation.