HEATHER SEAMAN - ROLE MODEL & AMBASSADOR
WRITER / REPORTER / SEGMENT PRODUCER
Officially Inducted into the “National Wall of Role Models” on June 7, 2014 ( See full list www.BlackCanadianAwards.com )
Heather E. Seaman is an accomplished news writer, reporter, anchor, segment producer and videographer with more than a decade of experience in the Radio and TV industry. She’s also hosted/narrated “Structures” – a program exploring Toronto’s history and architecture - on Rogers TV for several seasons. A bilingual Montreal native, she was the recipient of a writing award from Seneca College and a scholarship from the Canadian Association of Broadcasters. She’s written, produced and reported for 680News, CHUM Radio / CP24 / Citytv, CPAC, Rogers TV, The New VR (now CTV Two Barrie) and the CBC. Her work has also aired on CNN Radio International.
She’s interviewed a diverse range of people across Canada from politicians to entertainers to sports figures – including former Prime Minister Paul Martin, late NDP Leader Jack Layton, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, activist Craig Kielburger; Hollywood actor Jude Law, writer/director Paul Haggis, singer Deborah Cox; Hockey icon Don Cherry, Olympic speed skater Catriona Le May Doan – among hundreds of others.
Heather is an avid traveller who has lived and worked in Japan and travelled throughout Asia. She has also worked as an entertainment host on three cruise ships sailing throughout the Mediterranean, Caribbean and North Africa.
Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I was born and raised in Montreal to parents who hail from the Commonwealth of Dominica. They’ve been in Canada for over 50 years. My two siblings and I were raised in middle class suburbs of Montreal – often the only black children in our schools and activities. We led busy lives – which included after-school clubs, hockey, figure skating, dance, piano lessons, theatre. We often took family vacations – in Canada, the US and overseas. We always had friends of different races and cultures, which I think was instrumental in making me a voracious reader – curious about the world - and in later years, an avid traveller in my own right.
The Dominica (Cultural) Association in Montreal and Laval Black Community Association, both of which my mom founded, were highlights for me as a youth. We participated in annual talent and fashion shows. I also began doing dance choreography for several high school and community events. As a University student, I was a volunteer tutor, working with troubled youth; also a volunteer ESL teacher working with newcomers.
I graduated from Dawson College with a Diploma in Creative Arts, then later a Bachelor of Education Degree, with a Specialization in Teaching English as a Second Language from Concordia University. After moving to Toronto, I received a High Honours Diploma after studying Radio and Television Broadcasting at Seneca College.
Even before I graduated from Seneca, I had completed several internships in radio and television newsrooms in Ontario. That led to a job as a TV traffic reporter immediately after graduation.
Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of working as an audio editor, traffic reporter, news writer, line-up editor, reporter, anchor, segment producer, TV host and videographer for 680News, Rogers TV, CHUM Radio/CP24/Citytv, The New VR (now CTV Two Barrie), CPAC and the CBC.
I was the recipient of an Outstanding Service Award as Vice-President of the Garnet Key Society at Concordia University, a Ruth Hancock Scholarship from the Canadian Association of Broadcasters and a Susan Anton Clark Memorial Award for Writing from Seneca College.
What many people may not know about you?
I’ve had the opportunity to travel the world, as well as live and work abroad. Before my studies in broadcasting, I worked as an Entertainment Host/Line Dancing Instructor for a well-known cruise ship line, sailing throughout the Mediterranean, Caribbean and North Africa.
Putting my TESL skills to good use, I later lived and worked in Japan. I was based in Osaka and taught English to children and adults. My down time was spent traveling across Japan, as well as throughout China (Beijing, Hong Kong, Macau), Taiwan, South Korea and Thailand.
Another fun fact: I performed with the Montreal Jubilation Gospel Choir for a few years, recorded a couple albums with the group (one of which won a Juno Award) and even had the unique opportunity to sing at Celine Dion’s 1994 wedding with the 50 member choir.
I was a volunteer dance choreographer/talent coordinator for several pageants, including the Quebec Amateur Netball Federation Pageant and Miss Black Ontario. As a teenager, I took part in and was crowned the winner of the QANF pageant and in later years the (now-defunct) Miss World of Ontario pageant.
What's your inspiration and how do you get motivated?
Really my parents are my inspiration – knowing the sacrifices that they made for me, my brother and sister are major motivations. Challenging myself and trying new things others might not consider is another motivator i.e. traveling abroad solo, running 5K’s, checking out out-of-the-way festivals, historic sites, etc. All of this keeps life exciting and interesting!
How did you get to where you are now and what more should we expect?
I can attribute my achievements to hard work. But, I also think being raised to understand race was not a limitation - that it’s important to be open to stepping out of your comfort zone – have been big influences in my success. As a result, I’ve always had a genuine curiosity about the world around me – the people, places and things that I encounter.
In the future, I hope to continue using my skills as a writer, reporter, videographer, editor and producer in telling stories that have an impact not only in the Black community, but for people of all backgrounds.
What would you like to be remembered for?
Nothing specific, but I’d like to be remembered for my work in telling impactful stories …my commitment to excellence and strong work ethic.
How do you balance work, family, friends and leisure?
That’s one of my biggest challenges! Because I mainly work from home (currently), balancing my schedule so I’m not overworking, but allowing adequate time for work and meaningful time for family, friends and leisure is a bit of a juggling act. I’m big on lists and schedules, so that’s been helpful. Time management is key!
What's your favorite food, book, music and movie?
Favorite Food: Thai food
Favorite Book: I’m a big fan of biographies.
Favorite Music: R&B, Zouk, Calypso, Soca
Favorite Movie: I enjoy all types of documentaries, as well as Hollywood movies.
What's your experience as a Black person in Canada?
Fortunately, I’ve had mostly positive experiences as a Black person in Canada.
However, growing up as a Black child in two predominantly white neighbourhoods, my family and I encountered some incidents of racism, but we always persevered. It made us stronger and better able to cope in tough situations. I learned it’s important to stand your ground and not let anyone or anything discourage you from achieving your goals.
Even in my capacity as a news anchor/reporter, I’ve encountered blatant racism. In one memorable incident, while on my day off in a “small town” a police officer approached me in a vehicle during daylight hours, siren blaring. His exact words to me after I questioned him: “We have reports of a suspicious person in the area”. I was stunned, considering I was wearing my brand new beige wool coat and was simply headed to a bus stop! I turned the tables and questioned his motives, took his badge number and reported him to his supervisors.
Not all challenges work out that well, but it’s important to know your rights! Don’t be afraid to question authority (in any environment), but do so in a diplomatic and well-thought-out way. Follow through and get answers!
Mention a few of your favorite Black Canadian Leaders, Artists and Role Models?
My mom, Althea Joseph-Charles Seaman, who was the recipient of a 2012 Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for her decades of community service, is a major role model in my life.
I had the chance to meet the late Lincoln Alexander – Canada’s first Black Member of Parliament and 24th Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. Other Black Canadians I admire for breaking down barriers and changing the face of Canadian politics: Senator Anne C. Cools, Senator Donald Oliver, Senator Don Meredith – all of whom I’ve had the privilege of interviewing in person - and the late Senator Calvin Ruck. Each of them is inspirational for what they’ve accomplished - personally and professionally.
I have no favorites, but the aforementioned struck a chord with me recently after I researched their lives and careers for a Black History Month TV segment I produced.
Should and do Blacks support / patronize black music, events and businesses?
Black Canadians do support Black events, music and businesses to a certain degree. Not enough though. All too often there is division among us, infighting within our own cultural communities. I think we need to make more of a conscious effort to patronize Black businesses and events. That’s the only way our communities will become stronger. We need to focus on the big picture and rise above pettiness. In saying that, however, it’s important for Black businesses and events to first focus on delivering quality, rather than quantity! If we raise our best practices and standards, quantity… and success will be the likely result.
What’s your understanding of Black History in Canada?
As a reporter covering a diverse range of stories over the years, my eyes and ears have been opened to the accomplishments of so many Black Canadians – things we rarely, if ever hear about in mainstream history books. I have a better understanding of how we’ve helped to shape this country – everyone from Mathieu Da Costa in the early 1600’s to Michaelle Jean in the 2000’s! It’s important that these stories are shared and preserved!!! Check out Black History Canada, the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia, the Ontario Black History Society, the Buxton National Historic Site and Museum, Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site, the Black Settlement in Oro Township, Black Ottawa 411, Ontario Heritage Trust also includes a wealth of information and links on Black historical figures and events that helped to shape Canada. There’s so much more Black history information out there that we need to learn ourselves and pass on to future generations. It’s empowering!
A few words from you to an uninspired person:
Never settle. If there’s something you want to do in life, follow your passion! Step out of your comfort zone. If everyone’s doing the same thing, with similar results, find a way to set yourself apart. Ask questions, do your research. Don’t focus on your limitations. Focus on your strengths. Rise to the challenge!