Ebonnie Rowe is the Queen Bee of Honey Jam & Jazz and if you mess with her colony, expect a sting.
In no way is she mean; she’s just on a mission to take her hive of talented young artistes to the very top and nothing will stop her.
“What drives me is effecting positive change in the lives of others. Everything I do will have some type of mentoring, charitable, developmental or social benefit aspect to it,” she says.
The entertainment industry has taught this successful producer to be focused and tough.
Ebonnie, who has been watching with interest the #MeToo movement which highlights widespread sexual assault and harassment in the workplace, says the problem was prevalent when she joined the business more than 20 years ago.
“There was often an issue of harassment and lack of respect or not being taken seriously. It was often true that you had to be twice as good to get the same pay and recognition and some men to this day have an issue taking direction from a woman in charge, or want to dismiss your abilities and be patronizing.
“However, I don’t really spend too much time boo-hooing about it. I don’t accept it and I will call it out when it happens. I don’t let it deter me. I keep focused on what I need to get done. I am under no illusions and I don’t wear rose-coloured glasses,” she insists, adding that her frank views do not stem from any grudge against men.
In fact, she has nothing but praise for some of her male counterparts who have supported her all the way.
“There are many men who have been great allies of me and my projects, who have been mentors in my life and who I value as advisors, but as the world is finding out through the #MeToo movement, inappropriate behaviour remains a very serious problem across all industries.”
Ebonnie says she is really a social activist at heart, and she is concerned that while women are making progress there are still too many parts of the globe where they are oppressed.
“I am most concerned about women in societies around the world that are still living in the dark ages, where women are not allowed to drive or vote, where they are treated as chattel, where they are the victims of human trafficking, where they have no reproductive rights, where genital mutilation still occurs, where they are prevented from learning to read or have any type of education, where rape and domestic abuse are not punished. In 2018, this is still happening!
“It is something that does not get much attention at all and needs to be exposed, challenged, tackled and rectified.”
Against this backdrop, she is pleading with women this International Women’s Day to take control of their destinies and to stand up and speak up.
“Don’t ever accept the line, ‘well that’s just the way it is’.
Acceptance is complicity. Resist. Elevate. Keep pushing for progress. Speak truth to power. Support other women. Continue to dream and strive for your goals. Make your life count for something,” she urges.
Ebonnie has been following this mantra throughout her journey.
After being forced to grapple with the horror of suicide involving a close friend, she immediately turned her life around, determined to make a difference in the world.
As a young legal assistant, she created the Each One, Teach One mentoring programme which supported at risk youth.
Ebonnie recalls that her foray into entertainment started in the mid-90s by accident. She was the producer of a three-hour radio show to discuss how women were portrayed in hip hop lyrics and videos after complaints from one of her female Each One, Teach One mentees about how this was influencing the behaviour of the young children and teenagers in their communities.
“As a result, I was asked to edit an all-female edition of a Canadian entertainment magazine called Mic Check. The celebration party for the launch of that issue in 1995 was intended to be a one-off show called Honey Jam. The attendees all came up to me afterwards and asked when the next show would be.
“The young women were hungry for an outlet where they felt safe to express their art, particularly in the genre of hip hop which was very much a boys club. There was clearly a void in the artistic community and so I was inspired to continue for a year and see how it went. Now here we are 23 years later!”
To say that Honey Jam Canada was a success is putting it mildly.
Under Ebonnie’s skilled leadership, the annual all-female event showcased the talents of hundreds of artistes representing a variety of genres – rock, pop, hip hop, opera, gospel, dancehall, soul, jazz, etc.
Aware of its developmental impact, she brought it home to Barbados in 2011 and it has been a hit here as well.
“I believe in the quote, ‘service is the rent we pay for living’ and that we all have a responsibility to look at ourselves and do whatever we are able to make life better for someone else, to be an active part of the solution and not just point fingers.”
Her efforts have not gone unrecognized. The tenacious entrepreneur has captured several prestigious awards including the Canadian Black Business & Professional Association Woman of Honour Award; the YWCA Woman of Distinction Award; the Special Achievement Award from the Urban Music Association of Canada; and the Phenomenal Woman Award from Exclusive Entertainment.
Ebonnie has no plans of slowing down anytime soon. For her, the sky is the limit.
“My belief in my passion projects gives me the drive and determination to keep going through any storm,” she says.