JOSEPHINE MENSAH - CANADIAN QUEEN (SASKATOON)
Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I identify myself as a compassionate and energetic young woman living in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. My family originates from Accra, Ghana, West Africa and immigrated to Canada in the early 1990’s. As a graduate from Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec, I received a Bachelors of Arts in Sociology and a Liberal Arts Minor in 2011. My academic work in the social sciences has translated into employment with YWCA Saskatoon where I am currently an Employment Counselor for job search programming and counselling services.
My community involvement is with local and provincial non-profit organizations such as the Immigrant Access Fund of Saskatchewan Inc, which awards (non) Black immigrants with micro-loans to fund their career pursuits and integrate into the Canadian labour market as well as identity politics of generational migrations. Recently, I have joined our annual FolkFest (3 day cultural festival), as a committee member I will be responsible for volunteer management throughout the event in mid-August 2014. I strongly believe that impactful change can occur when communities are empowered from a micro to macro-level.
Tell us what many people may not know about you?
Although I am a very mobile person involved in various professional and creative activities, I do not have a driver’s licence and therefore rely on car-pools and public transportation to commute around Saskatoon. I hope to get my licence and save for a vehicle by the Spring of 2015, in order to have more efficient access to venues around town.
What's your inspiration, how do you handle disappointments and get motivated?
Keeping one’s motivation replenished can be challenging! For me, I always try and believe in doing my “personal best” which translates into understanding that some aspects of planning are out of our control and cannot be anticipated or correct by me. Also addressing that “things could have gone worse” and remembering to be grateful for the small details that went smoothly!
How did you get to where you are now and what more do you hope to achieve?
In the future, I hope to attain a management position as a consultant or a business owner who delivers Human Resources, business strategy and events planning/fundraising needs for organizations and small businesses to allow them to secure professional growth and influence in their industries.
What would you like to be remembered for?
The legacy that I would like to leave behind, would be centred around professional excellence, self-discipline and positive thought! I hold these values as a guide to fueling my passion to assist others on their career paths as well as contributing towards my own goals.
How do you balance work, family, friends and leisure?
In my spare time, I enjoy picnicking in parks with my friends and family, travelling and recently created a style blog entitled “Style by Lady J”. I have had wonderful opportunities of covering local fashion events such as the “Luncheon En Vouge Fashion Show” and recently the “Saskatoon Fashion and Design Festival”!
What's your favorite food, book, music and movie?
-Favourite Food: Spicy Fried Plantain: I feel like it is the perfect side dish with a nice mix of spicy and sweet flavouring
-Favourite Book: “What looks like crazy on an ordinary day…” by Pearl Cleage (1998): I don’t usually read books more than once but I have re-read this novel countless times! The main character Ava heads back to her small hometown after living in a big city and goes through a beautiful journey of self-discovery!
-Favourite Music: “Sade”: She is such a timeless and soulful singer with inspiring lyrics of deep love and resilience
-Favourite Movie: “My Last Day Without You” – starring Nicole Beharie and Ken Duken (2013): The independent film is a one day love story of two lovers who seem like total opposites but as the story unfolds, they have many similarities. Also the original music on the soundtrack is excellent!
What's your experience as a Black person in Canada?
Living in Canada since I was a toddler, the majority of my experiences have been in this country. Now as a young adult, I can reflect upon the interactions I have had with others were at times friendly but also there are times when one can feel underlining discrimination. I think that Canada can continue to improve upon its interactions with Blacks and other diverse populations by creating genuine opportunities to learn from others and concentrate upon similarities rather than being divisive.
Are there as many opportunities for Blacks in Canada that can produce role models, influencers and institutions like Beyonce, Tyler Perry, Obama, Oprah, BET, etc.
Yes, I believe there are opportunities for creative and professional role models to be nurtured in Canada, however I think more independent and Black-centred institutions are necessary to create and achieve these opportunities!
Mention a few of your favorite Black Canadian Leaders, Artists and Role Models?
My Favourite Black Canadian leaders are: Michaëlle Jean (Former Governor General); Jully Black (Entertainer); Trey Anthony (Entertainer/Playwright); Micheal Lee-Chin (Businessman)
All of them exemplify, a strong sense of self even if what they believe is unpopular. Also they all have overcome humble beginnings and are appreciative of those who have assisted them along their journey to success. I hope to join these ranks one day myself!
Should and do Blacks support / patronize black music, events and businesses?
Although Black Canadians support black businesses and venues, in order to gain more support, establishments may need to create more efficient resources to make business run smoothly, stronger customers service presentation and effective business strategy (long/short term goal planning, promotional campaigning and customer appreciation rewards)
What's your understanding of Black History in Canada?
My understanding of Black Canadian History is limited since we are not taught a vast amount of it in school but rather find opportunities for independent learning. As we continue to populate Canada, firstly as freed slaves and sharecroppers from the United States to more recent waves of African and Caribbean immigrants, our history is continuously being created as we establish ourselves throughout this country!
A few words from Josephine to an uninspired person:
A few words to an uninspired person comes from one of my favourite motivational speakers, Les Brown “if you take responsibility for yourself you will develop a hunger to accomplish your dreams”!