Power and culture

I had an interesting conversation with my cousin who lives in the Bahamas. As I stood there in admiration while she talked about her business and its possible expansion, she went on to reveal that unless her husband is present she has a hard time showing authority to her female employees. Why? Because they just don’t seem to take her seriously as a female boss.  So basically she worked hard on her education then worked even harder to establish herself; yet these women who should respect her accomplishments and ultimately her decision to hire them… don’t take her seriously… simply because she’s a woman. And they would respond in the expected manner to her husband… because he’s a man.

Really? Excuse me but the last I checked it was 2012. Feminists everywhere would develop ulcers if they read this.

It’s interesting to know that in a culture so rich, women are oppressing each other. But this brings to mind the question: how many continue to have this mentality in this day and age? Sadly enough – I think it is more alive than we realize, perhaps just not as blatant as it is in the Bahamas. Now of course as we normally know it, most women are automatically respected because after all they’re the boss. And on the other side of this, research has repeatedly shown that women leaders aren’t taken as seriously and even earn less than men in the same positions. And for some reason they seem to think we’re just not as smart or savvy. So add to that being a woman of colour and we all know what happens. So with the repeated obstacles, it would be nice to have agreeable staff – especially staff who should understand the difficulties.

It is disheartening to think that if I hire women – supposed “sistas” – and give them the chance to work hard and even earn promotions that they can not value my decision enough to respect my wishes. But this isn’t because I’m a horrible boss, but because they’d rather a man tells them what to do.

I cringe every time I type that.

So even in 2012 the slow climb to overcome the various forms of oppression continues. But this particular stereotype is reinforced as quickly as it is knocked down. Talk about regression.

Colourful Woman Wednesday: Masia One

This is the eleventh post in our “Colourful Woman Wednesday” series, which features stories of colourful women surviving and thriving. If you’d like to share your story, or nominate a colourful woman for this feature, email us or get in touch via TumblrTwitter or Facebook

Masia One

Masia One is a remarkable performing artist. She’s the first female nominated for a Much Music Video Award (Rap) and winner of the Chinese Canadian National Council Pioneer Award. Her music has edge and passion and her style is undeniable. In an interview with the Coloured Collective’s Lisa Rajkumar-Maharaj, Masia has this to say:

How would you describe your musical style? What are your musical inspirations?
My music is based in Hiphop and has dancehall, reggae, and pop influences.  It is also very influenced by my nomadic lifestyle.  The message is with the intention of making people feel brave and positive to balance out the amount of degradation in mainstream sound today.
To say you are multi talented is an understatement. Other than singing, what other types of work do you do? 
I’m currently the Creative Director of a NYC based high end men’s outerwear line M71 that will be launching at Magic in Las Vegas this Fall. My company The MERDEKA Group is a branding boutique where we take events, artists or products and create the brand identity through graphic design, manufactured merchandise and events.  We’ve worked with Redbull, Adidas, Mobile Jam Fest (Youth Creativity Festival) and facilitate opportunities to bring the grass roots community and corporate interests together.  Finally, I really like painting and I hope to get a gig one day illustrating a children’s story book.
Tell us a bit about your upbringing and how you fit into and perceive the urban music scene.
I was born in Singapore and grew up in Vancouver, BC.  When I found a bootleg Public Enemy tape in Singapore at the age of 8, I knew I had discovered something unlike anything I had heard before. When I put out my first album Mississauga in 2003, I’m don’t think I fit into the perceived urban music scene at all – because of the way I look I was told to either be a spoken word poet or car model. Today Hiphop & Urban music is undeniably international and I’m hoping to bring my experience in music & culture back to SE Asia, the place of my birth.
Any performances, albums or anything you’d like to share with our readers? Where can we buy your album?
I have 2 upcoming releases for 2012.  The first is BOOTLEG CULTURE, produced by Grammy winning producer Che Vicious (Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, 50 Cent, Kanye).  Guest appearances include The RZA, Isis of Thunderheist and Talib Kweli.  The second is a record done live at Tuff Gong (Bob Marley’s studios) in Kingston Jamaica together with an incredible band Dubtonic Kru.  My music can be purchased on iTunes or on my website www.masiaone.com (store opening at the end of the month).
The first single Warriors Tongue can be viewed here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_b8QMVJVQjs

Masia One Album cover

Finally, since the theme of our blog is Colourful women, that is, women who create a unique space for themselves in the world – powerful women of varying racial and cultural backgrounds, what would you say makes you a Colourful woman? 
Every woman is a colourful woman, but what is exposed in the media is an extremely skewed monochrome vision.  Only 24% of news subjects are women.  In a vast mainstream of Hiphop music, there is a spotlight on only 1 female – who incidentally glamourizes being a Barbie.  At the ground level, casting couches are happening every day in order for women to break through in this industry.  I guess what makes me able to show that I am a colourful woman is that I have been able to be independent and self sufficient in the business from reading my contracts to booking shows, where there’s usually a male “gatekeeper” for every female act.  My business MERDEKA is the Malay word for “independence & freedom” and this is certainly something I champion for all women.

Colourful Woman Wednesday – Phebe Trotman

This is the tenth post in our “Colourful Woman Wednesday” series, which features stories of colourful women surviving and thriving. If you’d like to share your story, or nominate a colourful woman for this feature, email us or get in touch via TumblrTwitter or Facebook

Phebe Trotman

Phebe Trotman is a graduate of Simon Fraser University, with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Kinesiology, Certificate in Nutrition and Certificate in Health & Fitness.She is the Head Coach of the CMFSC Initiation Academy which is a Coquitlam, BC Metro-Ford Soccer program catering to boys and girls in the Under 5 to 7 age levels. She is also a Gratitude & Appreciation Coach with SendOutCards (www.sendoutcards.com/Phebe), a company devoted to celebrating the impact of personal connections, in a growing impersonal world.

Coloured Collective author Veesha Sonachansingh asked Phebe these questions.

What makes you a “colourful woman”?
What makes me a colourful woman is my love for all people!  I do feel that as a Woman of Colour it is especially important to be a positive role model for others and a supporter of others as they excel in their lives…. whether its as a soccer player, soccer coach, in business or simply as a supportive friend!  My goal is to also help be a connector of people in the community so that we can support one another in our different endeavours… lets help each other and work together to rise to the top.

Phebe was truly honoured to be featured as this week’s Colourful Woman, and asked us to share why we invited her. We gravitated toward her because of her positivity. There is something about her temperament that genuinely finds the gold in all experiences and people, and her influence upon them in turn makes them shine even more.

Who/what are some of your colourful inspirations?
I am a huge reader and love personal development books, courses and seminars.  I have really followed in my parent’s footsteps and have a huge library of books.  I get most of my inspiration from learning from others who have followed their life’s passions and made their dreams their reality. Some of my favourite books are The Magic of Thinking Big, How to Win Friends and Influence People,  Excuse Me Your life is Waiting, The Slight Edge and Beach Money… the list does go on though… I love to read!!Favourite  speakers are Maya Angelou, Les Brown and Tony Robbins!I am actually reading a book right now called The Magic by Rhonda Byren and although I’ve only just started it, I can already tell it will be one of my favourite books because it is not only something to read however it also has daily action items to help you incorporate gratitude into your life… it’s fantastic!
My parents inspire me each day through their love for people , helping others and making a positive difference!

What are some of your projects right now?
My current focus right now is called The Gratitude Mission (www.thegratitudemission.com) and its to encourage 1000 people before the end of 2012 to join the Gratitude Challenge.  The Gratitude Challenge is to express gratitude to a least 1 person a day, anywhere in the world, for any reason, for 30 consecutive days by sending them a real greeting card with a heartfelt message using the SendOutCards system.

My goal is to have 1000 people between now and December 31, 2012 take the challenge so in order to do that I am also looking for other Gratitude Coaches to partner up and help spread this mission around the World! By having 1000 people take the challenge, each sending out 30 cards of gratitude that works out to 30,000 people being touched, blessed, inspired and encouraged… and that’s just the beginning because there is a positive ripple effect that happens!

What message would you like to share with our readers today?
We all are so unique and have each been blessed with God-given gifts and talents that only you have. It is your talents and gifts that when shared with the World will have a positive and lasting impact. If we each truly embrace who we are, live in our life’s passions and shared our gifts with the World, can you imagine what this World would look like? I love the quote… “To the world you are one person but to one person you are the world”  Who are the people in your life that you mean the World to and who means the World to you… do they know? Life is so short and it is so important to live each day to the fullest and cherish the relationships you have with others. Live in your life passions to the fullest and lets be an inspiration to others that they too can live their life passions!

Change is a step towards evolving

For as long as I can remember change has been part of my life. Every four years there was something new happening: a new school, new living arrangements, and therefore new friends. Growing up, I used to pretend my life was a movie that aliens watched very closely. I think it helped me look forward to whatever change was coming, and anticipate the new adventures by taking away the fear.

But in the last couple of weeks, the changes that have happened are even surprising me. In a year and a half, I’ve: moved to Paris, completed a semester at a French university, got a job at a hotel as a receptionist, and today I started a job back in journalism. Plus I  learned French, ran a half-marathon, and on schedule to run another  in Amsterdam in October. I think this is the life my mother wanted for my sister and I when we moved to New York. A life with opportunities to choose what we wanted. A sense of adventure that embraces change and enjoys the challenges that come with it.

During my training session at work today, someone said: When I started working here, it was the first time that I saw blacks, Arabs, and whites talking, laughing and interacting. Apparently, that was unheard of for a French company.

It was the very first time I heard someone mentioned diversity in France. You always hear about diversity initiatives, how they add to the experience of all. And today during lunch it really was truly evident. There we were, four journalists, from totally different backgrounds that together spoke seven different languages. Change has a way of deciding what kind of person you want to be: a) do you move forward and face a challenge, or b) stay in the safety of what you know, and pray that it stays like that forever?

But in life nothing is permanent. I am part of that wave of change.

Colourful Woman Wednesday: Idrissa Simmonds

This is the ninth post in our “Colourful Woman Wednesday” series, which features stories of colourful women surviving and thriving. If you’d like to share your story, or nominate a colourful woman for this feature, email us or get in touch via TumblrTwitter or Facebook

Idrissa Simmonds

Idrissa Simmonds is a remarkably inspiring writer and an educator. After studying in Concordia University’s Creative Writing Program for two years, she completed her MA in English Literature and International Relations from the University of British Columbia, and her MA in Educational Leadership, Politics, and Advocacy from NYU. She has always been interested in educational access and equality, particularly for communities of colour globally. Born in Brooklyn NY to Jamaican and Haitian-American parents, she was raised in Vancouver BC, and has spent a significant amount of time in West Africa. The similarities in the disparities in educational access for Black and Brown people in all these places have had a great impact on her career and creative choices.  The Coloured Collective’s writer Veesha Sonachansingh asked Idrissa these questions.

What makes you a “colourful woman”?
I recognize the importance of giving back. Of mentoring. Of giving love even when you don’t feel it given to you. I accept being a beautifully flawed human being and celebrate this in my writing and in my relationships with girls and younger women who are still learning this – shit, I’m still learning this but simply know that there will be good days with the bad. I love exploring my creativity, stretching my boundaries, building community and loving freely.

Who/what are some of your colourful inspirations?
Firstly, I’m inspired by those who are invested in leaving a positive impact with their life, whether that be my landlady opening her home to family on a regular basis for celebrations (and always inviting her tenants!); or the writing of Toni Morrison; or social activists and community leaders. Secondly, I am inspired by anyone who is exploring his or her talent to its deepest potential. James Baldwin, Edwidge Danticat, Nikky Finney, Yasiin Bey, Oprah, a host of educators that I work with, the artists Wangechi Mutu, Paul Sika and Jamal Shabazz…honestly, this list goes on and on!

What are some of your projects right now?
I’m excited to be launching an online magazine that explores the concept of “Global Black Cool” by featuring art, politics, style, literature and social entrepreneurship in cities globally. To stay true to our vision and make this conversation truly a global one, our editors are in Brooklyn, Toronto, Accra, and Vancouver. If interested learning more or becoming a contributing editor please email mag116online@gmail.com.

I am a 2012 Resident with New York’s Poet’s House Emerging Poet’s Residency. We just completed our 10-week workshop cycle; it was a great experience in digging deep with my writing with a community of peers and getting some publications under my belt. A few of us in the workshop made commitments to our work to see us through the next year and I’m looking forward to seeing what is manifested through this process.

What message would you like to share with our readers today?
If I have learned anything this past year, it’s the importance of living without fear and living authentically.