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Dr. Amara Pope Talks to YV Media about the History Of Canadian R&B

YV Media: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where were you born and raised? How life was growing up in Elmira, ON?

Dr. Amara Pope: Born in Scarborough, Ontario, to first-generation Trinidadian parents, my childhood resonated with the lively rhythms of soca and reggae. Our home was a hub of Trinidadian flavors, with the aroma of roti, tomato choka, and the foundational warmth of family values.

Upon our move to Elmira, Ontario, during my second-grade year, the landscape shifted significantly. Suddenly, I found myself as the lone brown girl in a predominantly white town, with my family standing as the sole brown presence in the community.

Elmira lacked familiarity with Trinidadian customs, thrusting me into the role of a cultural ambassador. The absence of social media compounded the challenge, leaving my classmates with limited exposure to diversity. I fielded questions about my lunch, the origins of my skin color, and the unconventional music I enjoyed on a daily basis.

Amidst this cultural dissonance, my father and I clung to our love for R&B and hip-hop, genres that were unconventional in our new surroundings. Mixtapes blared in our car and home, creating a sonic sanctuary that bridged the gap between our Trinidadian roots and the local culture.

Those early years served as a crucible, testing my ability to navigate the delicate balance between preserving my Trinidadian heritage and assimilating into the North American/Southern Ontarian culture. It was a period marked by resilience, a celebration of uniqueness, and the recognition that diversity is not just a challenge but a valuable gift that enriches our lives.

YVM: Share with us your educational background?

Dr. Amara Pope: I am an experienced educator with a diverse background in academia. My roles have included serving as a lecturer at Conestoga College, teaching Fine Arts and English in Trinidad at Arima Secondary School, and working as a Teaching Assistant at esteemed institutions like Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Western Ontario.

I hold certifications such as a University Teaching Certificate and a Global TESOL Certificate, reflecting my commitment to continuous professional development. Beyond the classroom, I've contributed as a research assistant for a SSHRC-funded project and participated in various academic positions.

My educational journey includes a Ph.D. in Media Studies from the University of Western Ontario, an MA in Communication Studies from Wilfrid Laurier University, and a Joint Honours BA in Fine Arts and English from the University of Waterloo, with specializations in Digital Media, Fine Arts Teaching Preparation, English Literature in a Global Context, and a Global Experience Certificate.

I have completed teaching workshops and training sessions at Wilfrid Laurier University, covering topics like Active Learning, Team-Based Learning, and Understanding Students. My teaching experience spans across different educational levels, from elementary to college, showcasing my versatility.

As a passionate advocate for diversity and inclusion, my experiences as a female and a visible minority from Trinidad drive my dedication to fostering an inclusive atmosphere within the academic landscape. I have also shared my expertise as a guest lecturer at various universities, addressing topics in Fine Arts Studio, Cultural Studies, and Political Economy of Media. My overarching goal is to contribute to the educational environment by valuing diverse perspectives and backgrounds.

YVM: What inspires you to research into Canadian R&B or music in general?

Dr. Amara Pope: Researching Canadian R&B music has been a deeply personal and enriching experience for me. The genre's ability to evoke emotions and connect with listeners on a profound level has moved me in ways that other genres can’t. Despite some controversial and potentially sexist lyrics within the genre, listening to Canadian R&B has made me feel seen and empowered. The music not only resonates with my emotions but also instills a sense of pride and power. The slow jams, in particular, have a unique ability to bring out a range of emotions that touch my soul.

It's fascinating to observe how the genre has evolved into one of Canada's most popular and influential musical exports. Canadian R&B has become crucial to our cultural and national identity, contributing significantly to the country's artistic landscape. The genre's rise aligns with the stories of many Canadian Caribbean immigrants,which instills a sense of pride due to my Trinidadian background.

YVM: How do you feel about the state of Canadian music today?

Dr. Amara Pope: My feelings about the current state of Canadian music are a mix of optimism and recognition of the work that still needs to be done. There is a notable positive shift towards greater diversity within the music scene, reflecting a more inclusive representation of various genres and artists.

However, it is evident that there is still progress to be made, especially in terms of diversity in leadership positions within the music industry. To truly reshape the landscape and overcome traditional barriers rooted in racial and national divides, there is a need for more inclusive leadership that represents the diverse voices and talents within Canada.

YVM: What advice would you have for anyone entering the music industry?

Dr. Amara Pope: Entering the music industry? Here's quick advice:

  • Find Your Niche: Stand out with a unique sound.

  • Define Your Values: Choose three values to guide your brand and music.

  • Balance Passion and Practicality: Love what you do, but understand the business side.

  • Financial Awareness: Know how money flows in the industry.

  • Networking: Connect with others for collaborations and opportunities.

  • Adaptability: Stay open to change and new trends.

  • Self-Care: Prioritize your well-being.

YVM: What can we expect from you next?

Dr. Amara Pope: I’m thrilled about my upcoming career as I look to transition to full-time teaching and public speaking! With my expertise in Cultural Marketing, Digital Brand Management, Work/Life Balance, and Canadian R&B, coupled with a Ph.D. in Media Studies and over 10 years in Marketing, I'm eager to bring a wealth of knowledge to classrooms and boardrooms alike.

As a TEDx Speaker and with teaching experience at several universities, I'm passionate about advocating for diversity, cultural intelligence, and raising awareness of Canada's rich R&B history. Whether it's in person or virtually, I'm open to sharing insights at your next event.

If you're interested in hiring me as a professor or booking me for a speaking engagement, I invite you to reach out through my website, I'm excited about the opportunity to contribute to the dialogue on these important topics and make a positive impact. Looking forward to connecting with you!

YVM: What are some of your future career goals?

Dr. Amara Pope: I am currently gearing up for interviews with highly reputable media outlets, where I'll be exploring topics such as work/life balance, academic careers, and personal experiences. One specific goal is to land a spot on a talk show that my father and I avidly watch on television; dropping a hint – it's based out of the United States.

Simultaneously, I'm actively participating in webinars and upcoming events, passionately advocating for diverse representation in academia and various industries. I aim to share my experiences, insights, and emphasize the importance of inclusivity and equal opportunities. One of my goals is to secure a speaking engagement at a large company in the United States, sparking meaningful discussions on the significance of diverse representation.

Looking ahead, I aspire to find a college or university where I can work and teach for the long term. I want to leverage my knowledge of popular culture to initiate crucial conversations about racism, diversity, and xenophobia, fostering an environment of understanding and growth. These career goals align with my dedication to making a positive impact and contributing to a more inclusive future.

YVM: What is your social media information?


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