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*Geoffrey Canada was born on this date in 1952. He is a Black social activist and educator.
Born in New York City, Canada was raised in the South Bronx. He is the third of four sons of McAlister and Mary Canada. His parents' marriage ended in 1956, after which his father played little part in the children's life and did not contribute financial support. Canada holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Bowdoin College and a master’s degree in education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. While studying in Cambridge, Canada became a third-degree black belt in the Chang Moo Kwan style of Taekwondo under Dennis Goldsmith.
He has used this skill to connect with young people as a mentor. Canada's first book Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence in America was first released in 1995. In the book, Canada recounts his exposure to violence during his childhood and offers a series of recommendations on how to alleviate violence in inner cities. Since 1990, Canada has been president and CEO of the Harlem Children’s Zone in Harlem, New York, an organization whose goal is to increase high school and college graduation rates among students in Harlem.
In 1998, he published his second book, Reaching Up For Manhood: Transforming the Lives of Boys in America. Starting as president in 1990, Canada began working with the Rheedlen Centers for Children and Families which evolved into the Harlem Children's Zone. Unsatisfied with the scope of Rheedlen, Canada transformed the organization's makeup in the late 1990s into a center that would actively follow the academic careers of youths in a 24-block area of Harlem. Due to the success of the new model, the area has grown to 97 blocks.
The Harlem Children's Zone was profiled in 2004 in the New York Times Magazine, which described it as "one of the biggest social experiments of our time." In 2008, a book entitled Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada's Quest to Change Harlem and America was published. Additionally, U.S. News and World Report named Canada one of America's Best Leaders in its October 2005 issue. Along with having been featured in a number of print publications, Canada has made a number of high profile television appearances including a profile interview on 60 Minutes two televised interviews with Charlie Rose, a guest appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show, and two appearances on the Colbert Report.
Having seen the success of the Harlem Children's Zone, in 2009 US President Barack Obama announced plans to replicate the HCZ model in 20 other cities across the nation. Canada is featured in the film Waiting for Superman (2010), the documentary on the state of American public education. This film received the Audience Award for best documentary at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. He was offered the position of New York City Schools Chancellor by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, but he declined the job. In 2013, Canada toured college campuses urging reform in taxation, health care, and Social Security to ensure intergenerational equity. In July 2013, The New Yorker Festival released a video entitled Geoffrey Canada on Giving Voice to the Have-nots.