CBC Quebec highlights people from the provincial black communities who give back, inspire others and help shape our future. These are the Black Changemakers.
Suzanne Taffot says she would be happy if a day could only last a few hours.
Her longing for a 34- to 48-hour day makes sense when you consider that she runs a law firm and is also an opera singer. Unfortunately, like the rest of us, she only has to fight for 24 hours. So she had to figure out how to get it all done.
“You have to be 100 percent committed to what you do and have a team, because I am without my team [wouldn’t] be able to do both, “she said.
Taffot has a master’s degree in opera singing. At the same time she studied law. She has just opened Heritt Avocats, a law firm of seven black attorneys who specialize in immigration, civil, family and business law.
Heritt is an acronym, she explains. It represents inheritance, justice, resilience, integrity, transparency, and tenacity.
These words represent the qualities she values in her heroes, which includes Michelle Obama. They remind her of her mother, who she raised as a single mother in Cameroon, and of her female ancestors, from whom she believes she inherited the struggle within her.
And they represent the legacy she wants to pass on to her two sons, who are 16 and nine months old. The baby was born around the same time that George Floyd, a black man, was murdered in police custody in Minneapolis.
“I remember saying I have a mission because I don’t want my son, I don’t want my two sons to face the same discrimination. I want them to feel safe enough. I want to that they feel good enough, feel proud enough, to live in a society where they know that they can be anything and achieve anything. “
Taffot said she takes pride in taking the time to really listen to her clients, some of whom are refugees or people staying in Canada illegally, make them feel like they are being heard, and a second Give a chance.
She wants to offer internships and training opportunities and know how hard she had to work to convince a law firm to give her a chance.
She also wants to combat the idea that exists in black communities that white lawyers are inherently better.
Taffot is a lyric soprano and has been singing since she was 26 years old. She says her singing career helps her feel balanced.
The challenge, she said, is to find directors who focus on the voice rather than the image of the character they are creating in their head.
“Take a character like Mimi in La Bohème by Puccini. People who are very used to opera can imagine Mimi, a white young lady who sings. Sometimes it can be difficult because I feel like him Director Feel has to go beyond the race. “
There aren’t many black women who sing opera, and like her career as a lawyer, her mission is to ensure that there is wider representation in the arts and opera specifically.
“We have to let other people know that we exist, that it is possible for a black young woman to sing opera even if it is not part of our culture.”
For more stories about the experiences of black Canadians – from racism against blacks to success stories within the black community – see Being Black in Canada, a CBC project that black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.