BRIDGET QUAMMIE - ROLE MODEL & AMBASSADOR
Officially Inducted into the “National Wall of Role Models” on June 7, 2014 ( See full list www.BlackCanadianAwards.com )
Bridget “Bee” Quammie is a healthcare professional, blogger, freelance writer, social media manager, and speaker. With a degree in Health Sciences from the University of Western Ontario and Post-Graduate Certificate in Health Promotion from George Brown College, Bee has turned her passion for health into a career in mental health research, international health, and acquired brain injury work.
Bee started her personal blog, ‘83 To Infinity, in 2011. Focusing on areas around natural hair care, health & wellness, art & culture and more, ‘83 To Infinity has offered her the opportunity to write for digital publications such as Chatelaine and Huffington Post Canada, features on Canadian and American TV, and much more. Her blog was a finalist in the 2012 Black Weblog Awards and Bee was recently recognized by Black Enterprise as one of the “most impactful and successful voices in the online space.”
Tell us a little bit about yourself? I was born and raised in London, Ontario - the oldest of 3 children to Jamaican parents. I’m a self-proclaimed slash artist - a healthcare professional/blogger/freelance writer/social media manager/speaker. I’m a Taurus whose favourite colour is gold, who got over her fears of flying on a solo trip to Japan, and who plays Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” every morning when she wakes up.
What many people may not know about you? I went to a school in London, Ontario for advanced/artistic children. I played the violin for 6 years, and I’m dying to get back into it! I have 2 tattoos - an ankh on my back and three little birds on my inner right arm.
What's your inspiration and how do you get motivated? I get motivated by thinking of ways to do something that will help, encourage, or enlighten others. My inspiration is the girl I used to be, and the woman I see myself becoming in the future. There are so many things I wish people had shared or written about when I was younger - it would have been incredible to have voices of Black Canadian women in different spheres to juxtapose the lack of diversity I grew up with, so I try to provide that now for others. I also look forward to all of the amazing things to come, and I know that hard work, creativity, and faith are what will get me there.
How did you get to where you are now and what more should we expect? My parents inspired my passion for healthcare and my entrepreneurial spirit. My studies in Health Sciences and Health Promotion led me to work in fields like mental health research, international health, medical tourism, and brain injury.
My love of writing blossomed when I won a contest in elementary school to have lunch with Canadian author Robert Munsch, and I’ve written ever since. I started blogging in 2006, but have maintained my current blog, ‘83 To Infinity, since 2011. Thanks to my blog, I’ve been able to grow as a freelance writer, event host, public speaker, mentor, and social media manager for small companies.
In the near future, I plan to take my passions for showcasing the diversity of Black beauty and create events/workshops around Canada. I’m also planning workshops for children and adults on blogging and freelance writing. I’m also toying with the idea of writing a book - we’ll see how it all unfolds!
What would you like to be remembered for? I want to be remembered as someone who helped and who made other people’s lives better, even in a small way. I want to be remembered as someone who followed her own path and found success. I want to be remembered as a strong voice in new media in Canada. Someone who loved hard and was loved back, someone creative, someone people could trust, and someone who made people laugh.
How do you balance work, family, friends and leisure? I’m the type of person who hates to be tied to a schedule, but plotting out my time has been extremely effective. I also take an honest look at my priorities and structure them accordingly. My husband and I plan date nights, I plan work out time, and I slot in time for my 9-5 job and my personal work (blogging/writing, etc - my “CEO of Bee Enterprises” stuff). I tend to overwork myself but have learned the hard way the leisure is just as important. Balance is great, but I’ve learned that integration is more realistic - especially as different priorities shift.
What's your favorite food, book, music and movie?
Food: Anything Jamaican
Book: Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Music: 80s/90s dancehall reggae
Movie: 3-way tie between Clueless/Shottas/Coming To America
What's your experience as a Black person in Canada? What a complex question! Being Black in Canada is something that for me, defies definition. Growing up, I identified heavily with my Jamaican background, and most things that were stereotypically Canadian didn’t resonate with me. Throughout my formative years, my experience led me to feeling othered and on the fringe of being Canadian, and that really hasn’t changed all that much as I’ve grown. Racism, bigotry, and prejudice are very prevalent in Canadian society, and I have felt all of them in various aspects of life.
Most Black Canadians I know are extremely proud of their multicultural backgrounds and are happy that Canada offers some space for pride in where we’ve come from as immigrants and first/second-generation Canadians. For me, there’s always that lingering feeling of having an asterisk over my Canadian citizenship, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. Canada’s identity as a whole hasn’t ever been truly defined for me, so I just work on defining it for myself.
Are there as many opportunities for Blacks in Canada that can produce role models and institutions like Beyonce, Tyler Perry, Obama, BET ? Yes, and no. We’re missing the BETs, Ebonys, Essences, and those media institutions that speak to the experience of Blacks in our country. We’re void of a lot of the building blocks to support our own and develop talent here, which leads to a lack of Black role models and celebrities compared to the U.S. We could also do with more diversity in the corporate and political sectors as well, to provide an array of examples of what Black Canadian success looks like.
What we are blessed with is a renaissance of Black pride in our country, I think - and the motivation and opportunity to create those platforms for us to share our voices and experiences as role models. I think technology and social media are playing a major role, and we need to be creative about leveraging those things to work in our favour.
Mention a few of your favorite Black Canadian Leaders, Artists and Role Models? Herbert Carnegie, Trey Anthony, Namugenyi Kiwanuk, Michaelle Jean and Mathieu Da Costa.
Should & do Blacks support black music, events and businesses? Should we? Absolutely. Do we? Not as much as we ought to. I generally find that the lack of support comes from a lack of awareness of what Black-owned business/artistic offerings are out there. There are Black businesses, artists, and events of great quality, and I’m a firm believer in supporting them and aiding in our growth on a variety of levels.
What’s your understanding of Black History in Canada? I’ll admit that I don’t have the greatest understanding of Black history in Canada. That segment of history was and is largely self-taught. I’m aware of Canada’s role in the Underground Railroad, stories of Africville in Nova Scotia, tales of Mathieu Da Costa and Marie-Joseph Angelique. I get oral history of the rise of immigration from the Caribbean and Africa to Canada from my parents and my friends’ parents - but I’d like to learn more to pass on to the next generation.