STORMA SIRE - ROLE MODEL & AMBASSADOR
Officially Inducted into the “National Wall of Role Models” on June 7, 2014 ( See full list www.BlackCanadianAwards.com )
Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I was born in Vancouver, Canada, but my father's family is from Ghana in Africa and my mother’s family are North American, (from both Canada and the US). I am a visual artist, a published poet and a children's author/illustrator. I teach creative writing and art, off and on in Vancouver. I am working toward my degree in psychology in order to become an art therapist for those suffering from trauma. I am formerly a suicide prevention distress-line crisis counsellor for the Vancouver Crisis Centre as well.
Tell us what many people may not know about you?
What people may or may not know about is that I'm forming British Columbia's (BC) first Sickle Cell Association for those who suffer from the genetic blood disorder Sickle Cell Anemia / Disease with two other women, Beverly Ndukwu and Adobie McAllister. I too was born with Sickle Cell (SC), so I felt it was important to have some sort of support for others suffering from the disorder. BC has a smaller population of African Canadians, so there were no associations set up for us here.
What's your inspiration and how do you get motivated?
I am inspired and motivated by a lot of different things; friends and family, art, writing, reading, music, meditation, dance and nature. I am motivated and inspired by great people, great projects and ideas as well. I love to listen to new points of view and new ideas. Whenever I'm feeling low or tired I always feel better gardening or walking in nature, or sitting in quiet silence, or painting something, or reading or writing poetry. I would say that poetry is big lifeline for me.
How did you get to where you are now?
I got to where I am today by the wonderful friends and family I have. I would not be as blessed as I am today had it not been for the support of my family and friends. I also got to where I am in small steps over a long haul. Bit-by-bit, step-by-step I do my best to do one thing every day toward my goals. Even when I'm not feeling well I will at least visualize, pray, or meditate on my dream. I believe you create your own luck when you put your energy towards something over a long period of time.
What plans do you have for the future?
As for what to expect in the future...I'm not even sure of what to expect from me sometimes; more art, poetry, and kids’ works; more advocacy work with the Sickle Cell Association of BC. I am in the beginning stages of shooting a documentary about my upcoming trip to Ghana next year to meet my family and to learn indigenous integrative healing practices for the treatment of Sickle Cell (which are becoming extinct) as well. I will be working with a film company called Elevate. They make a lot of socially conscious documentaries from around the world. I am hoping that this film will be a platform to help raise money and awareness for my Sickle Cell Association here in BC. I am also writing a book of poetry called "The Blood Poet" about my own personal healing journey with SC, as well as a holistic how-to manual for those with SC.
What would you like to be remembered for?
I would like to be remembered for being a good person; a person that wanted to help others; a person that made fun and colourful art; a person that wrote and spoke from the heart.
How do you balance work, family, friends and leisure?
Balancing work, family, friends and leisure is always tough. I think as I get older I get better at it, but I still struggle with it sometimes. I'm one of those people who have to write everything down or I forget. It’s terrible, I know, but if I don't write it down in my date book I wouldn't even know my own name. When I wake up in the morning all I have to do is remember to grab my date book or calendar and all is well. I like to pride myself on being oddly disciplined and organized despite the fact that I'm a “creative” type.
What's your favorite food, book, music and movie?
It would take a week to list all my favourite foods, books, music and movies, and I can’t think of just one. I love spicy, organic, food; I love sushi; I love food that can be prepared simply with minimal ingredients; I love food from mother's garden as well as my own. I love how-to books and kid’s books, especially books like the Artists Way by Julia Camerion and The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstien. I love anything by authors Alice Walker and Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes as well.
I listen to a lot of world music; African, Indian, First Nations, Middle Eastern, Spanish/Mexican, Turkish, etc. I love music with natural sounds and percussions. I find this type of music very healing. I gave up watching cable around 2001 during the time of Sept 11th and the terrible footage they aired over and over. I couldn't sleep, so I cancelled my cable. Now that I don't have cable anymore I can't seem to tolerate commercials anymore. Now, I just go to the library and rent the latest movies and tv shows - commercial free. I love it. I watch a lot of how-to films, documentaries, foreign films and fun tv. I like to have some measure of control over what I allow my eyes to see, especially before I go to bed. I don’t like a lot of violence in my movies, tv, books, and music.
What's your experience as a Black person in Canada?
Whenever I cross the border to go to the US I am struck by an oppressive feeling. Suddenly I feel like I'm stamped with a sign across my forehead that says "Black Female". I love the states, but I feel oppressed at the same time. My race is much more of an issue there. Whenever I return to BC I feel normal again. There is racism here in BC, there is no doubt about it, but I don't feel that the racism here is as oppressive as it is in the US. I can be a person, before anything else. I don't know how others feel across Canada, but here in the west coast I find it is much more tolerable. I felt the same way in my trips to the east of Canada as well, but there is more night life, busyness, and comradie there.
What I do feel here in Western Canada is isolation as the population of Black people here is more disperse and not as large and connected as that in Central and Eastern Canada. The way I alleviate some of the feeling of isolation is by having family dinners and "get togethers" with my Black friends. When I'm feeling strong enough I try to visit and support as many black social events as I can as well, or I go travelling.
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?
I think it is still much harder for Black people to become huge within the music and film/entrainment industry here in Canada. I don't think there is a lot of support for the arts in general whether you’re white or black, and even less if you’re Black. The industry "leaders" here tend to shut projects down before they have a chance to blossom and grow a following. I don’t think it is impossible, but I do think it is a challenge. As for being a role model, I think anyone can if they are doing meaningful work and are supporting their community. I like to think that the Black mothers and grandmothers, fathers and grandfathers of this country, that have done good with their lives, are the institutions here.
Mention a few of your favorite Black Canadian Leaders, Artists and Role Models?
Most of my favourite Black Canadian leaders have been those in my family and in my own small community here like: my cousins Thelma Towns (dancer, singer, performer) and Lennard Gibson (dancer, choreographer, artist), Jenny LeGon (famous tap dancer and performer), Chidi Okoye (African Artist who lives here in BC), my mother Thelma Mcdonald (writer, artist, activist, all round amazing women), my grandmother Janet Joyce Judd (dancer, singer, entertainer, activist, and force to be reckoned with) and my great grandmother Eva, Bill Duncan (activist, leader), Winston Moxam Washington (amazing Black filmmaker I had the pleasure to work with on a film called Barbara James), Beverly Ndukwu (actress and amazing supporter / activist for Sickle Cell sufferers who I'm working with in the Sickle Cell Association of BC),
Should and do Blacks support/patronize black music, events and businesses?
I think it is important to support and patronize Black businesses whether music, film, events, art or any other kind of business. I also think that it is extremely important to create more opportunities for Black people as well. I think it is also important to unite with and support other minority communities as well, as this can open doors you could never imagine. I think we tend to forget this.
What's your understanding of Black History in Canada?
My mother's family came here during slavery thanks to the American and Canadian Indians that helped us on our long journey from the slave ships in Texas, all the way up the West Coast to Canada. Our survival was a team effort. I think Black history is about great people taking extraordinary risks so that we could have some of the freedoms we have today. I think Black history is being created in every moment one of us decides to step up and stand up for what we believe in; to leave deep footprints in art, music, writing, politics, law, business, teaching, family, etc. We think Black history is only in the past, but I think we create it in every moment. We are all extraordinary people doing extraordinary things no matter how big or how small.
A few words from Storma to an uninspired person:
If I were to say a few words to an uninspired person I would say "Dig deep. Find where your inspiration is. Learn to listen to what the heart is telling you. This may take some time, but it is worth it in the end. If you do not, then you make yourself vulnerable to the negative social conditioning around you. You risk becoming a cog in wheel of someone else's dream / inspiration; you risk getting caught up in a rat race, maze, or wheel; you risk sleeping through life like a zombie with nothing to show for your life in the end; this is a cruel deprivation for the soul and we suffer greatly for it. You risk poor health of body, mind, and spirit when we refuse to listen to the demands of the soul. Learn to leave a legacy – whatever that means to you; learn to leave deep footprints for others to follow in whatever medium you desire." I love the African proverb “You must be alive when death comes.”