Artist, host, educator, writer. These are just few of the hats Amanda Parris wears proudly. Born in London, England to a Grenadian mother, the former managing director of The Remix Project and co-founder of alternative education program Lost Lyrics, Amanda is now the host of CBC hit series; Exhibitionists. Today on Island Muse, Parris talks self care, inspirational Caribbean women and what activism means to her.
Island Muse: If you had to describe yourself in three words what would they be?
Ambitious, nerdy and passionate.
Island Muse: Born in England and raised in Toronto, tell us about your journey from the south side of Jane Street, to the living rooms of millions of Canadians as the host of CBC’s ‘Exhibitionists’. Did you always want to be a television host?
I didn’t always want to be a television host. Growing up I wanted to be a writer. For as long as I can remember I’ve been writing short stories. So eventually I decided that I’d pursue the journalism route. However as an only child growing up in a single parent household, my dream has always been to take care of my mother financially. So unfortunately I decided to abandon a career in writing as it didn’t seem like it would grant me the financial security I was looking for. I also toyed with the idea of law school or alternative education for a while.
Over the past few years I’ve had the opportunity to play an integral role in several organizations such as The Remix Project, Lost Lyrics and Manifesto just to name a few. The arts and all that it encompasses has always been important to me. So over the years playwriting and acting became another passion of mines. When I was hired to consult on diverse content creators in Canada, I was fortunate to meet some folks from the CBC. When they were brainstorming hosts for a new segment, they asked me to audition and I got the role. In my new role as host of the Exhibitionists I love the fact that I get to host, to perform and to promote creatives of colour.
Island Muse: We admire the fact that you’ve always acted on your desire to make the world a better place. In 2005, you created ROOTS at York University; a student organization exploring history and pursuing alternative education. Shortly after that you co-created an impressive after school program working with the children of Malvern and Jane and Finch. What fuels your desire to make our communities and to a larger extent the world a better place?
I’ve always been surrounded by people who were active in the community. When I traveled to Latin America, I met so many activists who were literally putting their lives on the line to bring forth change. So while many may see me as an activist, I don’t think it’s an accurate description of the work I’ve done, because my efforts pale in comparison to the work so many are doing around the world. However, I’m still proud of my efforts over the years.
Island Muse: With so many accomplishments under your belt (you’re also an accomplished actor and playwright), you’ve probably faced many challenges and setbacks on your journey. How do you overcome fear and doubt?
I don’t think one ever overcomes fear and doubt. It’s an ongoing battle. When I have those days or weeks where I feel down, I usually to tap into my inner Kanye (laughs). I look in the mirror and I tell myself “you got this!” “Do you know who you are?” I’m also lucky to have an amazing support system between my mother and my partner.
Island Muse: 2016 was a challenging year unlike any we can remember. We were bombarded by images of violent tragedies and racial tension taking place south of the border. In your opinion how can we best support each other in times of crisis? Also, do you have any healing or relaxation rituals you can share with our readers?
First off, know when to step away from the “screen and the scroll”. We’re constantly bombarded with tragic headlines and it can be exhausting. So I encourage people to step away from the information overload but not the reality if you know what I mean. Instead, choose to recognise that we are living in a key moment in history. Right now the world is letting us know that we can no longer afford to be complacent. It’s everyone’s responsibility to make a difference. I also suggest eating healthy, regular exercise and creating a space where you can release the negative energy through creativity. Sometimes you just got to buy some paint and create.
Island Muse: Tell us about one Caribbean woman that inspires you and why?
Kimalee Phillip. She’s a young woman from Grenada. She’s driven, passionate and a true activist. She does amazing work with the Pan- Afrikan Solidarity Black Women’s Caucus. I admire her unapologetic stance and I’m so proud and grateful for all that she does for the community.
Island Muse: Your favourite Grenadian proverb and its meaning.
Hmm. My grandfather would always say ‘those who ain’t dead, badly wounded’. He’d say it at the end of every story. I look at it as a salute to the struggle. If you’re still here in spite of it all, it’s a testament to your strength and the fact that you need to keep going no matter what.
Island Muse: Finally, share some words of wisdom for Caribbean women.
You’re meant to be here. Your existence is a gift to the world; use it wisely and share it wisely.