Two-time Gray Cup champion, CFL All-star and Corridor of famer — Jon Cornish holds many titles however his triumphs and tribulations lengthen far past the top zone.
Cornish’s upbringing might bend the limitations of what’s thought of typical nevertheless it got here with an abundance of affection and help from his single mom and his 4 siblings.
“ I used to be at all times technically the black sheep within the household,” he mentioned.
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“My older siblings had been born having a distinct dad, my youthful brother was born to but to a different father. Whereas all of us obtained alongside, visually I used to be completely different, I didn’t current white. So after I was round my older siblings and we had been going to hang around, [people] would ask ‘Who is that this child?’ ‘Oh he’s my half brother.’”
“Half — that at all times simply caught with me. I used to be at all times half of one thing,” he shared on a snowy stroll in Calgary’s Nostril Hill Park.
The previous Calgary Stampeder grew up in Vancouver. He informed International Information his dad, who was initially from Barbados, left the image when he was three and handed away when Jon was in college in Kansas. He by no means obtained to know him aside from a couple of telephone calls.
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“You don’t know what you don’t know, so it’s solely at this level now that I can see what the function of a father is in an individual’s life,” he mentioned.
“The very first thing I realized about race is: I used to be only a Black child holding my Mother’s hand and Black males strolling down the road, there weren’t many Black males on the road and they might acknowledge me — they might give me a bit of head nod,” he mentioned, including it’s one thing he nonetheless does at the moment.
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Jon mentioned his mom was very racially conscious and actually ready him however he admits he wasn’t launched to issues different Black youngsters had been launched to.
“Once I was known as the N-word for the primary time in elementary faculty I didn’t know what it meant, so I went residence and informed my Mother — this was Grade 4. And she or he known as the principal and the child will get suspended nevertheless it was really a couple of years earlier than I knew what it meant. I used to be fairly incredulous,” he mentioned.
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Only a few years earlier than that, when Cornish was simply in Grade 1, he skilled what’s his first reminiscence of racism although he didn’t understand it on the time.
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“There was a random day the place rapidly all my mates weren’t speaking to me,” he recalled. “I used to be identical to, ‘what’s happening?’ So at recess, we go outdoors and so they all run away from me. I’m quick so I may catch as much as them so I run them down, and I’m like ‘Guys, what’s happening?’ ‘Like … you’re Black.’
“That by no means left me.”
He mentioned he took half in his first observe meet in Grade 5 and was the quickest child within the province of B.C. Cornish mentioned sport helped give him construction and taught him the right way to work onerous. However he mentioned he by no means actually knew the place he slot in.
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“Once I went to highschool although, then there’s Black youngsters. And so they’re like ‘Hey you’re an oreo.’ ‘What’s an oreo?’ ‘You’re Black on the skin white on the within.’ So I needed to navigate that place of being Black ‘form of’ all over the place that I went. It was attention-grabbing.”
“You begin to develop into a chameleon, proper — an individual who can simply adapt to the altering circumstances,” he mentioned, including with the ability to adapt has been an asset.
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The soccer star remembered an evening when he was leaving an institution with some mates whereas in one other province, when he was boxed-in by police. He was the designated driver.
“Eight cops get out… ‘Cornish we obtained you! We obtained you, you’re a determine on this group and you’re driving drunk.’”
“They’re speaking smack, eight cops and I’m standing there figuring out I’m the DD — I hadn’t had a drink, proper — simply speaking,” he mentioned. “‘Can I take the breathalyzer?’ Zero-zero on the breathalyzer.”
He mentioned regardless of the end result they continued to berate him for one more 5 minutes, telling him he was a “hazard to society.”
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“I’m so mentally distraught that may’t drive residence, another person has to drive residence,” he concludes. “So yeah I needed to cope with that.
In 2019 Jon and his spouse determined to start out Calgary’s first-ever Black Chamber of Commerce, partially to present individuals who have lived via experiences just like the one simply described a protected place to share. It’s additionally an area to create and develop and to present youth alternatives.
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“One actual massive problem we now have right here in Alberta is youngsters can get streamlined, you look a sure manner in order that’s all you possibly can obtain and that’s really been an enormous downside,” he mentioned.
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Cornish is indisputably a group builder. He has spent tons of of volunteer hours attempting to make town higher. Whereas retired from the game, he flourished — he mentioned he’s presently residing his dream.
“Reaching private objectives, that’s simple. Serving to different individuals attain their objectives, that’s my motive for current.”
Whereas he’s inspired by the dialogue so many are having about racism, he desires of a day when there’s not the necessity.
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