Overcoming Obstacles and Writing Her Own Story: Jacquie Black’s Journey
“When you're facing obstacles, you have to bring yourself back to reminding yourself of who you are and believing in yourself,” Jacquie Black said wisely. She was born and raised in Winnipeg, a city girl and writer with love for her extended family. She started writing short stories as a teenager in school, but later took criminology and worked for five years as a correctional officer.
“There's so many different opportunities and routes that you can take in your path, as far as careers go. But I always come back to writing, I think that was my gift that I was given. I think everybody has a gift that they're given and I always come back to that. With every little part of my journey along my career path has brought me to where I am today,” she remarked.
She made a big decision to leave Corrections and pursue writing, attending Red River College for creative communications. She also went to Banff Center for the Arts. “Things just seem to roll out, one after the other once I've put in motion that this is what I want to do and this is where I'm going. I wouldn't say magically, because I think there's a path that I was meant to be on and it just continued and it still continues. It's a process for me that I'm still living today,” she recalled.
She believes writing chose her, that she was born a writer and would remain one. “Just being able to express myself in that capacity has been such a blessing and has taken me around the world, and I've met so many people,” Black marvelled. No matter how far away she ended up, she always came back to Winnipeg.
Raised by a strong single mother who was also the first Indigenous woman in Canada to get her teaching degree, she’s enjoyed the backing of her family. Black would go to the University of Manitoba with her mother and spend time hanging out in the halls, surrounded by positivity and people who loved her.
She found the transition out into the world on her a tough one. Black considers self-doubt and criticism the main obstacles for people, herself included. She believes those obstacles can be overcome with focus on dreams and goals. “Obstacles come in different forms for different people, but I always think there's a way to maneuver through them to get where you want to go,” she explained.
During the pandemic Black maintained her mental health by staying connected to family and friends on the phone, Zoom, FaceTime and Facebook. “There's so many social opportunities there that you can still access, but I know that it's not the same, but I also know that it's not forever, so I still carry on with my work,” she shared.
As the manager for the Indigenous Music Awards, her work doesn't stop. There's still daily tasks and while she enjoys the work, she still makes time for self-care and downtime, getting outside, getting fresh air or binging some movies. While she’s longed to go do certain things, she knows that pandemic challenges won’t be forever and she will see the people who matter to her face-to-face soon. She’s procrastinated some, but acknowledges nobody’s perfect.
While she misses social connection, she sees creativity as something that can be independent. “Your imagination is huge and it has no limits, and you can dream up anything you want. If you're a writer, if you play music, if you paint, your imagination is one of the best things that you have that you don't need anybody else for, you can do that on your own.”
She places a high value on the arts, self-expression, perseverance and believing in oneself. Black is grateful for her work, which she calls a joy, but recognizes it takes time and commitment. “I've just been so blessed with all of the work, the events and the creative part of me that was given to me, that I can still continue to be able to meet great people, to travel, to keep growing. That's very important for everyone, to keep growing,” she offered.
Her advice to the youth of today is heartwarming: “I just want young people to remember that your dreams are very important wherever you are. If you're in the community, if you're coming to the city, it takes a lot of courage to do that. Just to remember that you're important and your dreams are important.”
Bouncing back from obstacles, Jacquie Black believes in herself and remembers who she is: an Indigenous woman with a profession that chose her and the love of a family that cheers her on every step of the way. Through creativity, connection and commitment, she’s writing her own story and making sure it’s a good one.
Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.
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Funding is generously provided by the RBC Foundation in support of RBC Future Launch, and the Government of Canada's Supports for Student Learning program.