By RON FANFAIR
“When all is said and done, more should be done and said.”
That’s is community organizer Ebonnie Rowe’s motto and one that she devoutly adheres to as she seeks to empower young women who have low self esteem, body image or family issues or other negative values.
In 1995, Rowe founded Phem Phat Productions, an all-female outfit designed to provide young women interested in developing their talent in urban music with the opportunity to do so in a supportive, constructive and non-male dominated environment.
Over the years, the company has produced a series of events allowing young women to showcase their unique talent in urban music on such platforms as Women on Wax and Honey Jam for which this year’s auditions will take place on June 14 at The Mod Club.
“In order for women to be successful in this life, they must operate from a position of strength and power,” Rowe said in her keynote address at the Black Pearls Community Services’ fourth annual Black Tie awards gala last Saturday night. “One reason some girls feel so negative about themselves is that they are continuously bombarded by picture-perfect images of girls and women in magazines and on television. Teens compare themselves to these images, either consciously or unconsciously, and feel dissatisfied when they inevitably don’t measure up.
“One way to help young girls feel better is to expose unrealistic media images for what they are – which is retouched, computer-manipulated photos or models – a group that only make up about five per cent of the population. Young women need to focus on the persons they are instead of on their appearances. For that reason, they need to be complimented for their achievements, thoughts and actions.
“I, like most people, want our girls to be strong, healthy, confident and for them to find their passion and purpose and to be healthy contributors instead of being passive consumers. I want them to push their dreams forward and lift others as they rise and I want them to break down barriers and be ice picks in any glass ceiling. They must make their own footprints, redefine and raise the bar and lead by example to effect positive change.”
The co-founder of the highly successful “Each One Teach One” mentoring program, Rowe was presented with a Cultured Pearl award for her dedicated community service while YWCA chief executive officer, Paulette Senior, was recognized with a Black Pearl award for being an outstanding role model.
Senior has worked with several community organizations and has been a passionate advocate for access to universal quality health care and gun control. She has also been a candidate in municipal, provincial and federal elections.
Black Pearls, which produces service programs that address the socio-economic and academic concerns of Black women, has raised nearly $6,500 in the past four years for charity and scholarships through the annual gala. They have made donations to the Toronto Argonauts Football Club’s “Stop the Violence” program and the Make-A-Wish Foundation and awarded bursaries to outstanding Black female students.
“The economy is hitting people hard, especially young people who are paying for college and university,” said Black Pearls executive director, Renee Rawlins. “Many of us remember what it’s like to be a student and having to work also and struggle. This is why we are working to help ease the burden for post-secondary students by assisting them with academic bursaries.”
This year’s recipients were Alicia Clarke and Janelle Powell.
Clarke, who did her undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto where she was the Black Students Association’s president and director, is completing her Bachelors of Education at York University and Powell, an aspiring magazine writer and former member of the St. Kitts Youth Parliament, is pursuing cultural studies at Trent University.
“I enjoy writing, doing research and meeting people,” said Powell, who is an active member of the Trent University African and Caribbean Students Union.
Black Pearls also runs a Book Club, donates hair care products and supplies to Black women in shelters in the Greater Toronto Area, and its members volunteer at community organizations.