President Elect Darrell Smith introduced today's speaker, Mark Phillips, a local businessman and entrepreneur.  Mark started his fireworks company, Mystical Distributing, more than 35 years ago.  Through hard work, he has grown it to become Canada's largest distributor of fireworks.  In addition, Mark has invested in other businesses in our community including Wooler Homes, Trenton Self-Storage and Property Guys.com.  Mark has received the honour of a Life Time Membership with Quinte West Chamber of Commerce as well as the 2020 Children's Foundation Guardian Angel.
 
The subject of diversity has long been one of Rotary's core values and continues to serve as a foundation for how Rotarians interact with each other and our communities.  In 2019 Rotary International adopted a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Statement with the clear goal of wanting everyone who engages with Rotary to feel valued, respected and welcomed no matter who they are, where they are in the world or how long they have been connected with Rotary.  Valerie K. Wafer, Rotary International Director 2020-22 is the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force Chair.
 
Mark Phillips is a husband, dad and business person who has lived in this area for the past eighteen (18) years.  He was asked to speak about diversity and inclusion and he admits he is not an expert on this topic, but it is a topic that is important to him and very personal.  Mark came to Canada forty (40) years ago from Jamaica and he notes that Canada is a nation of immigrants.  We all came here from somewhere, perhaps not recently, but through history over the years.  Mark is a visible minority and came to Canada as a young man, when the country was not as diverse as it is now.  But Mark considers himself blessed and successful in business in a country that has given him opportunities.  Has he been discriminated against?  Absolutely.  Racially profiled?  Absolutely.  Confronted by the law?  Certainly.  Lost a job or opportunity because of his colour?  Of course.  Stopped in his car?  Yes, more than once.  Would he expect these to happen again?  He hopes not, because it hurts.  Mark recalled a trip him and his son took to attend a football game in Cleveland.  They were worried about being stopped.  They drove the exact speed limit, there and back.  That is the reality of what it's like and the further south one goes, the worse it is.  Mark defined inclusion as the measure of a culture that enables diversity to thrive.  In a nutshell, diversity is a group of people who are different in the same place at the same time.  It is about empowering people by respecting and appreciating what makes them different in a safe positive environment.  Inclusion is where people of different backgrounds are culturally and socially accepted and welcomed and most importantly treated equally.
 
Mark and his wife have travelled across Canada and there are problems that surface in this country, but Mark acknowledged that this area is special and unique and people here are welcoming.  They felt so much at home when they first visited Belleville and the area.  At the time, they were living in Abbotsford, B.C. and were looking to expand their warehousing with no intention to move here.  The end result was that Mark and his wife Jen moved here along with their parents.  That was 18 years ago.  Marked thanked everyone for listening to what he had to say today and for making his and his family's experience more welcoming.
 
Many Rotarians thanked Mark for discussing this important topic and bringing it to the forefront and being vulnerable to talk about it.  Mark was thanked for opening our hearts to look at things differently as well as for the great work he does in the community, humbly and sincerely.