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DLSPH Professor Honoured by TTC During Black History Month

February 28/2024

Dr. Roberta K. Timothy is one of 11 Black Torontonians being celebrated for their leadership, with likenesses captured by artists for display in subway stations and buses for Black History Month

By Elaine Smith

Walk into Toronto’s St. George subway station in February and you’ll see a mural of a Black woman, holding a book, a diploma and a quill, set among palm trees and flowers. It’s not a generic figure, however; it’s a portrait of Dr. Roberta K. Timothy, an assistant professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health (DLSPH), Black Health Lead, and Program Director for the MPH in the field of Black Health.

Professor Timothy is one of 11 prominent Black leaders being celebrated by the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC)during Black History Month, and the mural literally confirms that she’s a woman on the move: it also appears on the side of a TTC bus on the Queensway route.

“I was so touched,” Prof. Timothy said. “I didn’t expect this. To be recognized by folks in the community for supporting the community, is better than winning the lottery.”

Dr. Roberta K Timothy stands before a TTC bus with her image on the bus for Black History Month

Dr. Roberta K. Timothy standing at the Africentric Alternative School in front of a TTC bus with her image, in honour of Black History Month. Photo courtesy of Dr. Timothy.

Prof. Timothy is honoured to be chosen along with a list of prominent Black figures in Toronto. She acknowledges coming from a “blacktivist space,” where if you see something that needs doing, you simply do it.

Founding the MPH in Black Health program is only one of her accomplishments. She is currently busy reviewing data collected during COVID-19 as part of a Black Health Matters project, which aims to determine how the Black community was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. She sees it as a step toward creating a learning institute that could improve Black health overall. In addition, she is launching a Black Health Library Pedagogy and Research Guide and working on Black maternal health issues, hoping to increase birth justice. In her teaching, her goals are to create culturally safer spaces for intentionally marginalized communities to prevent or lessen experiences of harm.

She was especially delighted to receive this honour from the TTC, because her mother raised her to give others their flowers – an expression meaning to show your appreciation to someone while they are still alive. Her mother, a divorced, sole-parent, who immigrated to Canada and worked as a domestic worker, eventually becoming a university educated anti-violence counsellor, believed strongly in giving others their flowers.

“I just want to show other folks who are like me that they can do this too,” Prof. Timothy said. “We don’t always know the names of people who do so much work in the community. But I’m here standing on the shoulders of so many other folks, who have helped me climb, and have supported me to be able to do what I’m doing.”

Watch Professor Timothy’s interview about the honour on CityNews.