KAREN BISHOPS- 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 and what people may not know about you?
My name is Karen G. Bishop and I’m a writer/blogger/brand manager and recently added facilitator to my title. Entertainment and music have always been a love of mine. I remember while in college, wanting to desperately work at a record label. I fortunately, was able to land a volunteer position in the Country Western music division, at BMG Music Canada. This gave me my first real experience of the entertainment and music industry. More recently, I owned and operated entertainment, art & culture blog site www.iamwhatshot.com. The primary focus of the blog was to promote Canadian talent and special events. During that time, I had the pleasure of writing articles for the Heart & Stroke Foundation “Heart Truth” fashion show, The Children’s Aid Society “Teddy Bear” fundraising event and the Contact Photography Exhibit, among others. I had the opportunity to interview known celebrities: Tre Armstrong, Arlene Dickerson, CeeLo Green and local artist; Rich Kidd, Reema Major, and many other artists. Through various other blogging opportunities, I’ve contributed to the Caribbean Tales Worldwide Distribution Newsletter and listed as a Style Democracy blog “Influencer”. Today, I work with the Canadian Cancer Society as the National Senior Coordinator - Corporate Development, managing the Relay For Life National Caring Company brand.
With my past and present experiences as a writer, blogger and brand manager, I’ve recently embarked on the creation of a new brand; B. Legère Lifestyle – brand management and event production, which is also host to a new women’s networking series “Getting to Know You”. This tri-annual event brings together 25 entrepreneurial women to “Inspire, Motivate & Encourage” one another, as they embark on new journeys, in both their personal and business lives. Most people don’t know that I’m actually a very shy person. I love to write poetry, read and color. Often times, I would rather sit and watch a good movie verse going out to party.
What’s your inspiration and how do you get motivated?
I’m motivated by the success stories of others and life’s trials and tribulations, which somehow made me stronger in the process. I’m inspired by every goal that I’ve accomplished, lyrics from a great song, a good book or a meaningful quote. However, my biggest motivator is the thought of making my family - specifically my children – proud and knowing that I’ve made a meaningful impact in the lives of others.
How did you get to where you are now and what more can you expect from you?
I can definitely credit the fact that I knew from early on, that I wouldn’t spend my entire life building someone else’s corporate dream. I’m driven by my mother’s entrepreneurial spirit; she was caterer, cook and prior to her passing, owned a local parlour (our equivalent to a convenience store) in her hometown of Trinidad & Tobago.
The lessons learned from managing an entertainment blog, understanding the dynamics of the Canadian entertainment industry and building effective relationships, have all contributed to my new direction.
I look forward to contributing more time to small non-profit organizations, building upon the “Getting to Know You” Women’s Networking Series and adding experienced Speaker to my repertoire. I recently had the opportunity to speak on the topic of “Branding & Marketing” at the Black Business Professionals Association: First Friday’s event and loved the opportunity of engaging with an audience. I want to spread my entrepreneurial wings to work in fashion and online merchandising.
What would you like to be remembered for?
I want to be remembered for giving my time, energy and resources without expectation.
How do you balance work, family, friends and leisure?
I’m still trying to figure it all out. Balancing several areas of my life is tricky, as no two days are the same. Thanks to the support of family members, my iPhone and my Gmail calendar; I’m a bit more organized. I’m not one to schedule personal time. However, I’ve quickly realized its imperative that you do. I’m getting better at including every aspect of my life in my scheduling, no matter how big or small the task.
What’s your favourite food, music, book and movie?
Wow! It’s difficult to name just one but I would say my favourite dish would be Chicken Alfredo (with broccoli) and if desserts count – Red Velvet cake or cupcakes, preferably from the Cake Man in New York City.I’m a lover of all music genres but I do favour R&B, Hip Hop and Old School music. I’m a huge Jay Z fan but I’m also a lover of Coldplay, Maroon 5 and grew up on Phil Collins. I don’t have one book that I could call my favourite but I do have a few that I’ve read several times: The Brethren by John Grisham, Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Best movie of all time is Usual Suspects!
What’s your experience as a Black person in Canada?
As a black individual, I’ve come to the realization that even within a country as diverse as our’s, we are still subjected to old stereotypes. I’m often reminded, that we are viewed as a minority and that may never change. As Black Canadians, we need to determine our self-worth, continue to develop our strengths and have a clear understanding of who we are as a culture. Once we are clear about our role in Society, it is only then we can look past the stereotypes and labels, even if others won’t.
What is the Black Community doing right or wrong in Canada?
I’m not one to say what individuals are doing wrong, specifically when it relates to their community efforts. I definitely see more of our community members taking an interest in our community, through mentorship or developing charity programs to support one another.
Should & Do Black Canadians support black music, events and businesses.
I do believe we support black businesses, wherever possible. As a consumer myself, there are several challenges that prevent me from consistently supporting a Black owned business such as; the business location, receiving more value for my money and requiring a specific level of customer service, for my business. It’s not always feasible to support a black-owned business but I do believe as a community, we try.
I’ve seen growing support for our Black Canadian music. Community talent shows promoting a local artist, are increasing. Obviously, Drake and Melanie Fiona’s international fame, has given us tremendous exposure but there is local support for black music.
We still have a ways to go, to create a large demand for our music locally but again the support is there. We still face the challenge of Canadian Record Labels not promoting, signing or financially supporting the local black artist but that is a topic for another conversation.I find our black community will support party/club events. Many of us (not all) are not willing to experience something new - broaden our horizons, so to speak. I think we could do better by supporting events that promote black photography, visual arts and fashion. We need to get to the point where we can attract large numbers to black special events, similar to what we do for clubs.
Some claim that we have musical artist and talents in Canada that are as good as or better than those in the US.
Yes, I agree. However, I think location has very little to do with our talent to be honest. I believe that our talent was always been comparable to that of the US. Again, thanks to the international exposure of Kardi, Drake and Melanie Fiona the world is paying close attention to us. I think it’s fair to say, we are definitely on a level playing field. Local artist, Shi Wisdom is a perfect of example of an artist as talented as, or better than a few US artist out right now. But it’s very much about the timing.
Mention a few of your black favourite Canadian Artist?
Kardi, K-os and Saukrates have always been a few of my favourites. Of course, Drake & Melanie Fiona, and local artist; Shi Wisdom, Rich Kidd and Kim Davis are definitely talents to look out for.
What’s your understanding of black history in Canada?
Unfortunately, I’m guilty of having little understanding of Canadian Black History. We are not known, to promote the accomplishments of historical Black Canadians - beyond the month of Feb. I think it’s fair to say, that we know more about American black history than that of our Black Canadian History. For example, we host one of the largest festivals in the world “Caribana”, which is a great event. But how many people really know that the original purpose of Caribana and what Caribana, really represents? Not many, I’m sure. So beyond the posters in school hallways, that display unrecognizable historical Black Canadians, not much is done to promote our numerous historical accomplishments, throughout the year.