Black Canadians




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Officially Inducted into the “National Wall of Role Models” on June 7, 2014 ( See full list )

 Jane Musoke Nteyafas diversity black canada awards gta toronto arts role model

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what many people may not know about you?

 I am not a fan of talking about myself. I am usually the one interviewing, but one thing people may not know about me is that I am really shy and reserved. I am very outgoing in social settings but very reserved in private ones. In a nutshell, I am a visual artist, writer, poet and budding entrepreneur, among many things. I am of Ugandan background. I was born in Russia and I have lived in Denmark, France, Uganda and Cuba. I now live here in Canada. I also speak French, Spanish, Danish and Luganda and would love to learn a few more languages.


What's your inspiration and how do you get motivated?

 God is my inspiration and my motivation.  I have to honestly say that without Him, I would not be where I am now. Of late, I am very aware that my ideas and creativity come from a Higher Power. I cannot take full credit for it, as I am the vessel but I feel happy to be part of the process. I love being creative. It lights up my world literarily, and usually I create to bring joy, healing and empowerment, into other people’s lives.  So that motivates me. Helping others and being of service.


How did you get to where you are now and what more should we expect?

 I got here as far as I got with a lot of hard work, faith, sacrifice and the help of a handful of people. No man is an island, and I believe that success can be best achieved with things like togetherness, collaboration and cooperation. When you try and do it alone you burn out. I have had people believe in me when I was struggling and that helped a lot.  


I’ve had people write to me encouraging me to hang in there and it helped a lot. I am not going to sugarcoat things. I’ve had many challenges and obstacles to overcome and still do. I lost my mother when I was a child and many other relatives and friends that were close to me, not too long after. That was damaging because my mother was my encouragement. She believed in me. Those things count and to live life without a mothers life can be hell. Still I hold onto my faith. As far as what to expect, I can only reveal that I am looking for a publisher for a few new books I have written. Keep an open mind as far as what to else to expect, because it’s a journey of discovery and revelation for me too. A lady cannot show it all, so you’ll have to wait and see! 


What would you like to be remembered for?
I’d like to be remembered as someone who made a difference. Someone who encouraged, empowered and inspired others. I believe that we are all here for a purpose as well as on purpose and that we all have something to share with the world to make it a better place, Some of us find it at an earlier age than others, and I definitely want to be remembered as someone who invested in others, and used my gifts, abilities and talents for the greater good of humanity. For me to waste the talents that God has given me would be a great tragedy. I’d like to be remembered as well for my creative works; art, writing and all of that.


How do you balance work, family, friends and leisure?

 It’s a tough balance I suppose, but I am single and I don’t have family here in Canada. However, I am one who really values family and believes in making time for the things that are important. I have learnt that life is not just about careers and making money. You have to be balanced. Prosperity is the entire pie of God, family, friends, work, leisure, health, money, peace of mind and all of that. If you neglect any of these it comes back to bite you, and for me that is where God comes in because only He can balance me, center me and ground me. I see too many people put all their energies in one basket, usually work/money, only to have the rest of it come crumbling down and resulting in divorces, family breakdowns and nervous breakdowns. I get it, I am a go-getter, but I have learnt through my own pain and losses, that one has to slow down, have balance and give enough time and energy to all the things that matter, not just work/money. Family matters. I think it’s a message that needs to be highlighted more because we seem to have forgotten that. The only way it can stay together is making time for it.


What's your favorite food, book, music and movie?

 Favorite book, I know it’s going to sound cliché but it’s the Bible. Other than that I think I’d say The Artists Way by Julia Cameron is my best book because it validates me as an artist. It is very difficult to be an artistic/creative soul in a world that keeps telling you to “get a real job” while you may feel called to the arts/entertainment field and I find that book very validating and empowering. As for food, I love Ugandan and Ethiopian food the most. Music wise, I love this band called Hillsong. And movies – Ever After – A Cinderella Story. I had a stepmother so I can relate to the movie. I also like Why Did I Get Married? By Tyler Perry. Very moving and real for so many people. And I know you asked for one movie but I also like the 2011 Jane Eyre.


What's your experience as a Black person in Canada? (Also suggest solutions if any challenges of being black in Canada)

 I’ll be honest and say I don’t really go around focusing on my blackness and I never really did until I moved to Canada. Here in North America, it’s a big thing. I grew up in a diplomatic community and international schools around the world, which means my norm is multiculturalism. So my experience might be different from an African Canadian that may have been born and raised here. I have friends from all over so I don’t necessarily feel like I am treated differently because of my colour.


What is the Black community doing right or wrong in Canada?

 Doing right, celebrating each other’s achievements and having a presence in Canada. What could be done better is more people could own and run businesses. The way the economy is going, we are going to need a lot more entrepreneurs. The days of sitting there and waiting for people to give us jobs are coming to an end. We need to create jobs for as many people as possible. Go beyond our needs being met to meeting the needs of others, even in other countries. Compared to many Blacks around the world, we who live here are privileged and can help elsewhere. For example, there are orphanages worldwide looking for funding, help, adoptions, sponsors and support and we as a community could make a difference.


Should and do Blacks support Black music, events and businesses?

 Should? I think people should support whoever they want to support. People in general just have different tastes, interests and opinions so we cannot box them in. Black people are not the only people interested in Black music, arts and all that. There are people from many other backgrounds and cultures who appreciate Black art, music and all that, and there are many Blacks, who enjoy things from other cultures.


Do blacks support black music, events and black businesses? That’s a can of worms. I hear a lot of Black business owners say they’d like it if more black people supported their businesses.


That being said, you can’t really choose your clients and customers. Yes, black people share the colour and the continent as a background, but the truth is Black culture, especially in Canada, is too diverse to be pigeonholed into this one thing. Also, there are issues like affordability and stuff like that. If you are worried about how you are going to pay your rent and putting food on the table, you are not exactly going to be in the mind frame of supporting businesses. Unfortunately, as wealthy as Canada is, many people, Black and otherwise, are in survival mode and looking for what is most convenient and cheapest. It’s a real business have to deal with. There are also other factors like oversaturation of some businesses, competition, and quality, which makes the fight for customers from the same pool base more challenging. This is a tough question and is probably best answered by a more seasoned entrepreneur, but those are my observations.


Some claim we have musical artists and talents in Canada that are as good or better than those in the US?

 I don’t know about better, because it’s not a competition and the US has supported many of our artists, but I’d have to say that Canada is a mecca when it comes to world-class musical artists. There are so many musicians, poets and visual artists especially in Toronto who are world-class, but don’t get the help, support, pay and attention they deserve. I just do not understand why they struggle more over here, and many remain undiscovered and untapped until they either go to Europe or America. Ditto artists and writers. But that’s not just a Black thing. Look at stars like Mike Myers and Jim Carrey. How many Canadian had to go to the USA or elsewhere to find success? If only Canada could recognize, support and fund its creative talent, as a country, it could be at the level of places like the USA musically.


Mention a few of your favorite Black Canadian Artists?

 Are you referring to artists or musicians? If it is musicians I’d say Jully Black, Zaki Ibrahim, Gary Beals, and Divine Brown. Visual artists, I’d say people like Sandra Brewster, Neville Clark, and Izzy Ohiro.


Are there as many opportunities for Blacks in Canada compared to the US (e.g: when can we have our Obama, Beyonce, Oprah, Tyler Perry, BET, etc)

 I think that to compare Blacks in Canada to Blacks in the USA is unrealistic. First because of the sheers numbers (USA has 300 million citizens and Canada has 30 million), and secondly because African Americans have had a longer time, in general, to amalgamate and become “one.” So just by the sheers numbers, Americans have more opportunities. That being said, opportunities are created.


I don’t know if Canada is ready for an Obama yet, but there is definitely space and opportunity for our own Beyonce’s, Oprah’s and Tyler’s. We have all of those talents in Canada, and even more, but as long as creative people have very limited resources, options and support, it shall be limited. None of those people mentioned made it on their own. They all had powerful support systems, and if you notice they all support and promote each other. They had people around them doing all other work so that they could focus on their crafts, gifts and talents. America excels at scouting for talent, creating opportunities for talent, as well as investing in it. Maybe we can improve in that area. Its tougher for Canadian artists to make it in general.


Finally, I just wanted to add that Canada has plenty of hidden opportunities that one can tap into, for example, entrepreneurial courses that are funded by the government and agencies. Even for people who may be on government assistance can look into what educational and support systems are available for them and apply. What I am trying to say is that there is hope. Besides, I believe that with God anything is possible.