EBONNIE ROWE - ROLE MODEL & AMBASSADOR
Officially Inducted into the “National Wall of Role Models” on June 7, 2014 ( See full list www.BlackCanadianAwards.com
ABOUT EBONNIE ROWE: Throughout her career, Ebonnie has distinguished herself as a special talent dedicated to the growth of others and the support of charitable causes. She has founded and directed organizations that cater to the needs of some of society’s overlooked groups – the Each One, Teach One mentoring program for Black Youth and PhemPhat Entertainment Group, a dynamic, all-female non-profit company that provides promotional and educational opportunities for upcoming female artists and to support and promote women’s charities. Listed in the Who’s Who of Canadian Women, Ebonnie’s work has earned her many awards, including a Special Achievement Award from the Urban Music Association of Canada, an Ontario Voluntarism Award and the YWCA's Women of Distinction Award for Arts & Entertainment.
While Ebonnie was studying English literature at the University of Toronto, a friend of hers committed suicide. The loss was devastating; it made her realize the shortness of life, the silent despair suffered by many, and fuelled her need to do something that meant something and would leave a significant legacy. Determined to have a constructive influence on the lives of others, she left University to co-found and direct a mentorship program, Each One Teach One, which matched black youth with black professionals.
She produced a 3-hour radio special on DJX’s CKLN Power Move show in 1994 to discuss how women were portrayed in Hip Hop lyrics and videos after complaints from her female Each One Teach One mentees. As a result, she was asked to edit an all-female edition of the now-defunct Mic Check entertainment magazine. The celebration party for that issue in 1995, intended to be a one-off show, was called “Honey Jam.” The success of the show pointed to a void in the artistic community. Ebonnie was then inspired to form PhemPhat. Honey Jam has grown to become a much-anticipated annual multicultural showcase of upcoming artists in all genres of music, where talents such as Jully Black, NellyFurtado, Reema Major and others have performed at the beginning of their careers.
Our Exclusive Interview with Ebonnie Rowe
What many people may not know about you? As a small child of 6, I was proficient at playing piano but I haven’t played since then and now I cannot read music anymore. I would love to return to playing the piano. In terms of what I would love to do but never did, I’d like to swim with dolphins, learn another language, travel the world.
What's your inspiration and how do you get motivated? If you are asking about my inspiration and motivation to do my work with Honey Jam, the feedback I receive from the artists about how much they benefit from the initiative is the fuel that keeps me going. In terms of what inspires me, in general, it is the desire to have a purpose-driven life and to leave a positive legacy. I am also inspired by many people who I meet, by their struggles and how they overcame, by the contributions they have made, by their optimistic attitude in the face of adversity. I am inspired by the natural beauty that exists in the world, the innocence of a child, the things that make you feel there is hope for something better
How did you get to where you are now and what more should we expect? I would say through struggle, perseverance, luck and the support of family and friends. Expect that every day in my life I will do all I can to improve myself and to be involved in projects which assist others in their development.
What would you like to be remembered for? My contribution to the development of others.
How do you balance work, family, friends and leisure? I don’t. It is a daily struggle which I have been losing for some time.
What's your favorite food, book, music and movie?
Book: The Autobiography of Malcolm X changed my life at Age 12. His "By Any Means, Necessary" mantra and his belief that before you point a finger at someone first point it at yourself and ask what you are doing to be a part of the solution resonated with and inspired me.
Food: among many many choices, I love julie mangoes, ackee & saltfish, my mother's cucou (a Bajan dish).
Music: I love many genres - rock, hip hop, jazz, country, RnB, classical
Movie: I love comedies, documentaries, dramas, romance, not a fan of action flicks or horror films.
What's your experience as a Black person in Canada? Like many others, I have experienced racism throughout my life. However, I address it and just put one foot in front of the other and keep it moving. Racism comes from ignorance. Integration is part of the solution – not being marginalized, being included, having full participation, becoming familiar, engaged, having fellowship.
Are there as many opportunities for Blacks in Canada that can produce role models and institutions like Beyonce, Tyler Perry, Obama, BET, etc? Opportunities need to be created and yes I do believe it is possible to have a black Canadian rise to that level of influence. Drake has achieved international success and can choose to use his voice and money to further causes. There are filmmakers on the rise, blacks in politics but no Black TV network yet. However, there is no lack of talent in Canada – It just needs to be nurtured and recognized. Whoever thought we would see a black president elected twice in the U.S. in our lifetime! Anything is possible.
Mention a few of your favorite Black Canadian Leaders, Artists and Role Models? Bev Salmon, Bev Mascoll, Owen Rowe, Joan Rowe, Charles Roach, Tonya Lee Williams, Maestro Fresh Wes, Glenn Lewis, my artists from Honey Jam
Should and do Blacks support black music, events and businesses? From what I have seen I believe that they do but probably there would need to be an official study to qualify and quantify that. In terms of if they “should” I believe in free will and individual choice. If an event/business/music is good and deserves support then it will attract support. For myself, there are initiatives that I support because they cater to blacks or to women because I self-identify and because they may not be receiving a certain level of support and require a boost.
What’s your understanding of Black History in Canada? I cannot say that I am an expert here. I was taught decades ago about the Maroons landing in Halifax, the underground railroad, Harriet Tubman and Maryann Shad, Africville. About Harry Gairy, Charles Roach, Stanley Grizzel, Bev Salmon, Dudley Laws and many others who have been instrumental in the fight for rights and equality and against discrimination and police brutality. I'm very passionate about each one of us realizing we can all be heroes and warriors in our own lives and communities. We should all take an active part in leaving a legacy and being a part of history, present-day and always looking towards the future.
- 2011 - Wombmanifesto Pioneer Award.
- 2011 - Nominated for Chatelaine’s Woman of the Year.
- 2011 - Canadian Black Business & Professional Association Woman of Honour Award.
- 2009 - Recipient of Black Pearls Cultured Pearl Award for Community Involvement.
- 2008 - "Mille Femmes” - One of 1000 women photographed by Parisian photographer Pierre Maraval from all artistic fields. Co-produced by Luminato and Lancôme, the exhibit captured inspirational women who embody the passion, heritage and inspiration behind Toronto's artistic community.
- 2005 - The University of Toronto, Black Alumni Association Award for Arts and Culture.
- 2005 - YWCA Woman of Distinction Award.
- 2001, 2002 & 2003 - Nominated for Best Promoter by Urban Music Association of Canada.
- 2000 - Special Achievement Award, Urban Music Association of Canada.
- 1997 - Volunteerism Award, Province of Ontario.
- 1997 - Phenomenal Woman Award from Exclusive Entertainment.
- 1996 - Community Service Award, Ryerson African Canadian Organization.
- Since 1996 - Listed in Who's Who of Canadian Women, also listed in Who’s Who of Black Canada.
- November 1995 - Toronto Sun Woman on the Move Award.