Born in New York in 1952, and raised in the South Bronx, Canada is no stranger to poverty and it's damaging effects on the lives it consumes. With a first-hand hatred of poverty, Canada became a powerful activist and an empathetic influencer. It was his grandmother who taught him of dignity even in poverty, and how to "have a deep and spiritual love of life" that was not tied to material things. After earning his Master's degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Canada went on to become the director of the Robert White School, an institutions for adolescents who were labeled "emotionally disturbed." Next he took the position of director of the truancy-prevention program at the Rheedlen Centers for Children and Families, in New York City. Though the budget was increased during his tenure from $2.5 million to $15 million, Canada knew this was not enough for the some 7,000 children the organization served. In 1997, with the help of an aggressive, business-like strategy, Canada launched the Harlem Children's Zone, a constantly growing, much more expensive program aimed at revolutionizing the community from the inside out. It employs more than 650 people who work through 20 different programs. The program's original parameter was 24 blocks, but was expanded to encompass a 60 block zone in 2004. His most recent, and most ambitious project is HCZ Promise Academy, a charter school that opened in 2004. Canada received the Heinz award in 1995, and has also received the Robin Hood Foundation's Heroes of the Year Award, the Spirit of the City Award from the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Bowdoin College's Common Good Award, a Children's Champion Award from Child Magazine, and the Harold W. McGraw Jr. Prize in Education. He works to always remember what it was like to live in the South Bronx, so as to better enable the at-risk children he serves today.
"We are in a state of war in our inner cities."
- Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence in America (1995)
- Reaching Up for Manhood: Transforming the Lives of Boys in America (1998)