DR. ELAINE SPENCER - ROLE MODEL & AMBASSADOR
Author, Playwright, Professor, Producer and Director
Officially Inducted into the “National Wall of Role Models” on June 7, 2014 ( See full list www.BlackCanadianAwards.com )
Dr. Elaine Braown Spencer merges her scholarly work with the Arts to tackle some difficult issues in her books and stage plays. Her ground-breaking stage play Private Pain In Public Pews and O.M.G. has become timeless productions that the church community and beyond have fully embraced. She recently received an award in “Mentorship” at the 2013 Glass Awards ceremony.
Her books illuminates many real issues that Church Leaders, pew members, youth and whoever believes in faith can relate to on so many levels.
As an Author, Playwright, Professor, Speaker, Counsellor, Producer and Director, Dr. Elaine’s scholarly but sensitive approach to serious issues of our day is refreshing and an inspiring approach to the relevance of faith in today’s society. Dr. Elaine lives in Toronto with her husband and they have three children.
Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I grew up in Ottawa, Ontario before coming to Toronto for University and never went back. My parents and older sisters are Jamaican and I was the first child my parents had upon migrating to Canada. My Jamaican upbringing was very strong, you tend to see that resonate in my stage plays. As a teen just approaching my twenties, moving to Toronto was so exciting because were so many black people within and outside the churches. It was a source of strength and identity that I cherish til this day. I completed my undergraduate degrees in Political Science, Social Science & Social Work at York University and then went on to graduate studies at the University of Toronto, where I completed a Masters in Social Work and a PhD in Sociology & Equity Studies. Just 6 months after completing my PhD, when I thought finally I can REST, I got a divine call to write a book entitled: Private Pain In Public Pews. I’ve since written a 2nd book, a novel entitled: O.M.G. Private Pain In Public Schools. Both books have been adapted into stage plays.
I have no background in the Arts whatsoever so the books and stage plays I’ve done is nothing shy of a miracle. I’m an academic by nature but I grew up in a church where gospel singing and choirs was a huge part of my adolescence years. Looking back I wonder where my creative edge comes from, and when I began probing myself, some early memories began to surface where I use to write stories in grade 3 for my Social studies teacher. I can remember always putting pressure on myself to come up with the best storyline so my teacher could read it out load to the class. I smile when I think of that memory, for when I write now, I’m very passionate about giving people a vivid illustration of a message I’m trying to convey.
Success for me is walking in humility and being open to what God wants me to do. For me, it’s the only way because when God teaches you to do something, no years of schooling can match what he can inspire you to do. By nature I think of myself as an “Encourager”. If I come across someone who says “they can’t” I try my outmost best to show them how “they can”. With God, nothing is impossible.
What many people may not know about you?
A lot of people don’t know that I’m quite the funny girl. On first impression they may see me as stern or strict, but just get to know me and you’ll see that part of me, that may shock you. The comedy storylines in my stage plays really brings that out in me.
What's your inspiration and how do you get motivated?
My inspiration is God.
How did you get to where you are now and what more should we expect?
I developed a strong sense of discipline in my twenty years in school. As a student I always worked full time with the exception of my first degree so time management was a huge deal. I set goals and strive diligently to achieve them.
My Father has also had a huge influence in my life. He constantly told my sisters and I that education is a must. When you have that ringing in your ears 24-7 it kinda sticks…lol. But most importantly, I got to where I am through the help of the Lord. My desire is to continue to do more sequels to Private Pain In Public Pews and the youth arm O.M.G. and eventually branch out to film and television.
What would you like to be remembered for?
I would like to be remembered for my heart and passion to inspire others to see their potential in God. I love people and I want them to know there is hope, and there is absolutely nothing too hard for God.
How do you balance work, family, friends and leisure?
I have an extremely busy schedule as a wife, mother, executive producer, full time worker, professor, author, I better stop listing everything. I believe that balance comes and goes at times and it’s still something I’m working at. I tend to wonder if there is any such thing as balance but I’m really trying harder to prioritize better and not get so consumed in my work. One thing I try to do with my family does is take a huge vacation every year.
What's your favorite food, book, music and movie?
My favourite book is the bible. I love gospel music, especially legends like Tramaine Hawkins. I also love sci fi movies like Star Trek.
Are there as many opportunities for Blacks in Canada that can produce role models and institutions like TD Jakes, Beyonce, Tyler Perry, Obama, BET, etc.
The Canadian black population is quite small when you compare it to our neighbours in the US, so the entertainment industry here is going to reflect that. There are definitely opportunities for Blacks in Canada to produce role models, this has been going on since the black presence has been here for over 400 years ago. Our problem, is that we tend not to recognize our own en masse as we should. Black leaders have been mentoring people here for centuries. We just need to continue to push harder and do so, like what Black Canadians is now doing.
Mention a few of your favourite Black Canadian Leaders, Artists and Role Models?
My PhD supervisor was Dr. George Dei. He is definitely a role model we can look up to. Dr. Dei is widely known in our community as a brilliant anti-racist scholar and he has mentored so many students who are today doing such pivotal work in their community. I admire him a lot for he allowed me “an academic safe space” to do my work though unconventional at the time at University of Toronto. That is where I learned theory and not be ashamed of who I am as a Black Christian scholar.
Should & do Blacks support / patronize black music, events and businesses?
Blacks do support events. I have been a recipient of their support. Every show I put on, they come in droves and I respect them and I am thankful to my community. Of course there are always going to be non-supporters, but we shouldn’t focus on that. People get it that we must support each other in order to build our community.
What’s your understanding of Black History in Canada?
My understanding of black history is that we have lived in this country as early as the 1600’s. There are black persons in Canada who never migrated from the Caribbean. I say that because till this day, many folks in our community believe blacks only came to Canada from the Islands…lol. So we have a vibrant and diverse black community including the indigenous blacks that came through the underground railroad in southern Ontario, prairie provinces and as far as British Columbia, black maroons in parts of eastern Canada, Caribbeans and blacks who came directly to Canada from different parts of Africa. We have a rich history in Canada of the Black presence.