Monthly Archives: October 2014

We Be Clubbing

Once a month I get together with a group of friends, whom over the years have become family, and spend endless hours laughing, crying and arguing over books. Yes, books. Not gossip or celebrity news, but books. Each month we meet at one of our homes and catch up over dinner, with anticipation to clear the table to bring out the tea and desserts so we can get down to the matter at heart.

It all started a few years ago (I want to say 3, but my old age can’t distinguish dates anymore) when, as a group of friends we realized we needed to make a concerted effort to see each other more often. We were all getting busier with our careers and finding time wasn’t as easy as it was when were all in university together. Since we’re all avid readers to begin with and were often passing books back and forth amongst each other, it was a perfect fit. Why not get together, catch up and talk about the great books we’re reading instead of talking about other people?

We pick names out of a hat each year so everyone knows which month is theirs to host and they can pick a book in advance. We try to give each other a month to read the books and sometimes if the host is torn between some options, she’ll put it to the group and we all help select the choice for the month.

More than just the warmth of companionship from my sister-friends, its been great reading books that I probably would never pick up. We each have varying tastes and nuances that come out with book selections and discussions afterwards. What I might find annoying in a book character, a friend might see as a coping mechanism and through discussions we get to see two different perspectives. More than just the plot lines and character developments, but what resonates with me is that these novels teach us about each other and the world around us.

Our bond within book club has strengthened and we find ourselves constantly referring to past books and the discussions they incited.  We each make such an effort to never miss a date, even to the point our families and significant others know not to book us on those nights.

Here are some of my favourites from past book club gatherings. Again, my memory alludes me so there might be a part two post with more titles I forgot the first time around.

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If you’re in a book club, I’d love to hear about it and which books stood out to you.

Event – Mirror Images

A few weeks back my girlfriend Sara @ me in a Tweet about an event happening in our city. The event was ‘Mirror Images: Conversations on Diversity & Representation In Media’, and just by the title alone I was intrigued. Then I saw the panel included a range of black Canadian women who work behind and in front of the camera as well as on radio and in print. Producers, writers, stylist, reporter, blogger – just few of the titles of the women who were going to be speaking at this event.

So on the afternoon of Sunday Oct. 26th, I made my way to Harlem Restaurant (downtown Toronto). I got there early and met some cool young ladies who also came solo. We sat up front and chatted away about our own experiences working and getting started in the media industry. It’s comforting to meet like minded women who are experiencing the same obstacles as me as they pursue their dreams and hearing how they overcome them.

The event kicked off with host and moderator Bee Qammie explaining how the event came about. She had Tweeted out an idea earlier in the year, that it’d be great to go to an event featuring a panel of black Canadian women in media who would share their experiences. Quite a few folks agreed and since this event didn’t exist, Bee took it on and made it happen.

This talented panel included CityNews producer Kim Johnson, stylist and editor of HOLR Magazine Ingrie Williams, host of Big Brother Canada Arisa Cox, G987 radio personality Tatiana King and columnist/videographer Namugenyi Kiwanuka. Unfortunately CP24 reporter/anchor Nneka Elliott wasn’t able to make it due to last minute work schedule changes but was able to send in her responses to host Bee Qammie’s questions.

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One of the many take aways that will resonate with me after this event was hearing news producer Kim Johnson discuss the importance of having women of colour in editorial and production roles to ensure stories that matter to our community get pushed to the forefront. So often we think the change occurs when we see women who look like us cover the news, but just as important are the women of colour who are behind the cameras who write the news, produce the segments and/or edit the footage. There is power in being in that decision making role.

Stylist and editor Ingrie Williams touched on how often she makes a conscious effort to bring diversity to photo-shoots by highlighting models of colour and expanding the preconceived and confining definitions of beauty, when major consumer brands often never consider it for their ads.

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It was interesting to hear just how often these women have encountered discussions about their hair at the workplace, reassuring me that I’m not alone when coworkers try to touch my hair or ask why its so big (eye roll). Arisa and Namugenyi both spoke on instances where they were told to straighten their hair for work. It’s these small daily battles that these women face and use as opportunities to bring awareness in their workplaces, that affords those of us coming up in this industry to be hopefully accepted.

After the panel discussion, we all had a chance to walk around and network. I had a great chat with Namugenyi whose career I’ve followed ever since her videographer days at MuchMusic. As I first started thinking about getting into media, seeing a fellow African sister with a unique name on the nation’s top music station was not only reaffirming, it was powerfully inspiring.

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Really hope Bee does a part two to this event, because the discussions could have gone on further and there was so much enthusiasm in the room. Overall, a great event!

Marriage: The Later, The Better

“So, why aren’t you married yet?” There is no phrase in the English language I hate more than that sentence.

There are generations that still believe a woman’s life is unfulfilled until she is someone’s ‘better half’, that a man hasn’t made something of himself until he has found an ‘honest’ woman to marry. All fables of a time when folks could believe they would work at the same place from graduation to retirement.

For women, there was a time when marriage signified security and stability. However that traditional idea of marriage evolved over the years as women excelled in higher education and gained more visibility in the workplace. Tie this in with an economy where employees change jobs, even careers, every few years or go back to school to gain further skills. With that much instability in the economy, it makes it difficult to plan the house with white picket fence and 2.5 kids.

Author Stephanie Coontz in her book Marriage: A History, pointed out that ‘for thousands of years, people had little choice about whether and whom to marry and almost no choice in whether or not to have children.’ We now live in the era of too many choices, which can be good or bad, making the idea of jumping into anything let alone a lifelong commitment hard to do without weighing one’s options.

In a Cosmopolitan magazine article titled How Marriage is Changing: Getting Married Later in Life, sociologist and Johns Hopkins University professor Andrew J. Cherlin pointed out that “a half century ago, if you went to college and weren’t engaged by the time you graduated, you got nervous….today, if my Hopkins undergraduates do get married while they’re in college, their parents get nervous.” It was simultaneous with my university commencement when my parents and their siblings kept asking, ‘so when’s the wedding?’, as though now that I’ve gotten school out of the way I should be ready to plan a life with someone.

A study by the National Marriage Project (what a name right?), called Knot Yet: The Benefits and Costs of Delayed Marriage in America, found that women earn more money if they wed later in life, 30 years old or older. For college-educated women in their mid-30s, this premium amounts to $18,152 per year.” The study also found that ‘the divorce rate in the U.S. has gone down partly because couples who marry in their teens and early 20s are more likely to divorce than couples who marry later.”

The variables that made marriage an option for someone in their 20s 50 years ago, have completely changed for today’s single person. As opposed to marriage being a thing that one just does due to tradition, obligation, cultural norms, etc. societal evolution has made marriage more of a partnership of two individuals mutually agreeing to build a life together. And the stats stand to show this agreement has a lower divorce rate and higher income for women (bonus!).

Just to drive home how archaic some of the older notions were around marriage, there was a quote in a Popular Science Monthly magazine in 1905, which claimed that education gave women a “self-assertive, independent character” that made her “impossible to love, honor, and obey.” Obey has to my favourite word in that. Because the idea then was that a married woman was the property of her husband. Yet once access to education for women became equal to men, marriage no longer appeared as the only option for security.

Whenever it appears that I’m about to lose an argument with my parents about anything, but most often when it comes to my choice to marry later in life, I like to back up my points with research. Huffington Post shared findings from the National Bureau of Economic Research, that points out a few of the reasons Millennials (those of us that came of age around the year 2000) are getting married later; it can be attributed to ‘a decrease in “shotgun” weddings, an increase in education and more societal acceptance of being single at an older age.’ The last point doesn’t include my parents but pointing out to them that society has accepted it while they’re clinging to the dark ages, might just be in my favour.

 No matter the reasons for any of the choices you make in life, let them be your own conclusions and not those of a feeling of societal pressure or obligation. Marriage is one of the oldest institutions in our society, so it should be given the respect it deserves. At your own pace.

Jessie Ware

There is something about British soul singers; they cross colour lines and sing from a gritty place that anyone on either side of the pond can connect to.

I first heard of Jessie when I came across her hit ‘Wildest Moments’ in 2012. Her album, Devotion, was instantly a hit to me. I couldn’t stop listening to tracks like ‘Sweet Talk’, ‘Keep Me Running’ and ‘Night Light’. I saw her live in 2013 and adored her candor joking around with the audience between songs.

Her second album, Tough Love, came out today and I’m already hooked on the single ‘Say You Love Me’. Very simple and stripped down ballad that shows her singing poweress. She’ll be performing her in Toronto on Sat Oct 25th and I’m hoping to catch her show.

Enjoy.

Alice Smith

Super latepass on this singer, but I just came across this. Alice Smith‘s voice reminds me of a smoky jazz club where you go to forget about your broken heart. She’s a singer, songwriter and producer from the US (Washington D.C.) with an album out now, She.

Her song ‘The One’ has been on repeat ever since I found it. Perfect song as the rain pours out the window and I try to forget.

But its her cover of Cee Lo Green’s ‘Fool For You’ that caught a lot of people’s attention. What makes a cover captivating to me is when a singer adds another layer to the original song that is unique to them. Alice found it and this version is hers alone.