BY: KABRENA ROBINSON
Those familiar with Bee Quammie and her line of work, have knowledge of the immense passion and creativity exerted into every topic, issue, or cause that she sets out to institute or amplify. She is an empowered writer, digital content creator, public speaker, a mother, wife and a strong and notable voice in Canadian media. Quammie stands among the many impactful women in Canada who aim to give a voice to important and pressing issues within the community.
Though she was born and raised in London Ontario, Quammie shares that her background has always been a significant part of her identity. Most of her work bears influence from her Jamaican heritage and upbringing being raised by Jamaican parents who migrated to Canada, her father from Montego Bay St James, and her mother from Lucea Hanover.
Given the cultural disconnect that often comes with being raised in a different country, her heritage was always retained through frequent visits to Jamaica and parents who made every effort to educate her on her background. This has allowed Quammie to possess a deep appreciation for things Jamaican and often transfers it into her work. She sees this as a vital element in providing an authentic representation of Jamaica and its cultural products in mainstream media.
“Being of Jamaican heritage, it’s very important for me to bring my own authenticity from my perspective into more mainstream areas so that readers can learn and hear about things from somebody who’s within the culture,” she said in an interview.
“So, it definitely majorly impacts what I do writing-wise. It impacts what I do when I do events or public speaking. I just find that being authentic about my background is something that really pushes my work forward.”
Before her reputable career in writing and media took off, Quammie devoted over a decade in the healthcare industry, working in mental health research, international health, and acquired brain injury work, with a degree in Health Sciences from the University of Western Ontario.
Her love and passion for writing and storytelling started in her early years. As a child, Quammie would often spend her summer holidays and most of her past time in the library reading books and writing stories. Her attention, however, shifted to her second passion of science and healthcare after being influenced by ambitious immigrant parents who sought “a better life for their daughter in Canada” by way of her indulging in a career in medicine or law.
It was not until years later in 2011 that she started her personal blog “83 To Infinity” as a creative outlet to channel her thoughts and to de-stress from the tedious duties that came along with her work in healthcare. She later created “The Brown Suga Mama”, a blog focused on motherhood from the perspective of a Black Canadian mom, after the birth of her daughter in 2014.
“Even before I had kids, what motivated me was just the fact that I thought I had stories to tell and I just had to get them out of me someway or another,” she said.
Quammie also added that another inspiration was the need to cultivate stories around the black experience in Canada to start the necessary conversations on topics not often highlighted in mainstream media. Pursuing her dream as a writer was also a way for her to set a positive example for her two daughters.
“It is just about being able to show them that I am a mom but I’m also a full woman who has opinions and talents and has goals and dreams and I’m trying to do what I can now so that they can see that it is possible for them to be able to be multifaceted and do different things with their lives and not have to put their dreams aside,” she said.
She has seen her work grow tremendously over the years and now, Quammie’s thought-provoking and insightful voice that manifests itself in her creative pieces, have become popular and well regarded among avid readers. This has afforded her numerous awards and recognition. She was featured earlier this year as one of the “150 Black Women Making Canada Better” by CBC.
Though faced with many foreseen obstacles and limitations in the field as a Black female writer such as racism and discrimination, Quammie reassures herself by continuing her work with drive and perseverance, bearing in mind that her work and voice as a minority woman in media is essential and important.
“I am really passionate about continuing to amplify the work and the lives and the experiences of Caribbean Canadian people and Black women especially,” she said.
“I’m also really passionate about finding ways to do that work and inspire and educate others and just to shine a light on it from my perspective in a way that will hopefully fill us all up and make us better in the future.”