In Greek, Bernice means “one who bears good news of victory.” Bernice Moreau’s life is a testament to achievement in the face of struggle.
When Moreau first came to Centretown in September 1991, she was called a “nigger” y three white youths at the corner of Bank Street and Laurier Avenue.
She walked away from the experience feeling great.
“Because I can walk as a black woman, and they have the problem. I don’t, it’s their problem, it’s not mine. It’s given me more power. They didn’t know who I am,” she says with a voice filled with the sound of the West Indies.
Black rights activist Rosa parks pose on Moreau’s walls, along with other black and white photographs of black women.
At work, Moreau wears no makeup or any visible jewelry.
She’s a natural looking woman who appears to hide nothing about her.
Moreau is the only black female lecturer at Carleton University on the tenure path. After certain specified conditions on length of service and performance, tenure will secure Moreau a permanent status in her job.
She teaches courses such as theorems of gender, race, and class and the history and philosophy of social work.
Moreau was born in Trinidad. She came to Canada to do a BA in sociology at Dalhousie University.
“When I got my first degree, I sent a picture home to Mom. She walked all through the community and showed it. It was a celebration. What I did, I did for my community,” she says pushing her glasses higher on her nose.
“Social mobility, political or any kind of mobility was more by the way of education than any other route. As a black woman, I could be the prime minister of Trinidad if I wanted to do it.
“Being a black woman wouldn’t have hindered me. Maybe in days gone by being women would have hindered me, but not being black.”
Moreau does not let being black hinder her in Canadian society. She is currently working on a Ph.D. in sociology through the University of Toronto.
“For many white students, I’m the first black female professor that they’ve had.”
She asks her class on the first day how they feel about having a black female professor.
“I deal with it head-on. I know the society in which we live; I know that colour and race are major issues. Colour of skin equals intelligence. Worse again to society, I’m a black woman.
“I say here I am, if you have problems with me that’s alright, you can talk about your problems and your difficulties. That is my way.”
One of the first things Moreau does when she gets into a community is find a “PRO-tes-TANT” church, as she pronounces it.
“Spirituality helps me with the daily pressure, particularly in this society being far away from home. It gives me community.
“I drifted across this country quite a lot. From 1976 I’ve lived in Nova Scotia, Toronto, New Brunswick and here. Finding a church gives me an immediate community. I can share what I have, and they can share what they have with me.”
She attends the Ottawa Church of God on Wellington Street, which is a mainly black church.
She teaches Sunday school, ages eight to 11. She plans to start teaching the history of black people to her class.
“When you know your history, you can stand proud.”
Moreau is proud of who and what she is.
“I’m a model for black female students. I know for sure that in this department of social work the black women are encouraged.”
Her victory as a black woman expresses good news of the victory others can also have.