News — March 19, 2018
JCI Ambassador Feature: Tennille Amor
This past week, we got the unique opportunity to learn more about our newest JCI Ambassador Tennille Amor who was presented with a JCI Ambassadorship during the International Summit on Peace that took place September 2017 in Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia. The JCI Ambassador program recognizes individuals who are not JCI members but who exemplify the JCI Mission — to empower young people to create positive change. As a singer/songwriter, Amor not only showcases her tremendous voice, but she uses her voice to stand up and educate others on what she believes in making the world a better place.
Let’s learn more about Tennille!
A lot of our members may know you from JCI events, however, for those who don’t, can you please tell them a little bit about yourself?
I am a singer/songwriter, United Nations Youth Champion, JCI Peace Ambassador, and the co-founder of the organization, E.P.I.C. (Everyday People Initiating Change). Through E.P.I.C., we drill clean water wells in Tanzania, Africa, and focus on community growth and development in each of the villages where we drill.
What great work! It’s easy to see how your activities are aligned with JCI’s Mission to create positive change. So how did you ultimately get connected and involved with JCI?
I spoke on a Gender Equality panel at the United Nations with JCI Secretary General Arrey Obenson and performed my song, ‘I Am a Girl.’ Afterward, Arrey asked if I would consider getting involved with the mission of JCI to empower young people to create positive change, since my work is very much aligned with what JCI represents. I of course love everything that the organization stands for, so shortly after, I performed at my first JCI event in New York, and have since gone on to perform and speak in Canada, Amsterdam and Malaysia with JCI. This year, I look forward to taking part in JCI events in Miami, New York and India.
Due to your tremendous work for JCI, you were presented with the opportunity to become a JCI Ambassador at the International Peace Summit in Malaysia. Why did you accept to become a JCI Ambassador?
It was a real honor when I was asked, because I recognize the importance of the role. It is my hope to continue working with JCI for many years to come! When SG Arrey and I had our first official meeting to discuss my involvement, our vision was to continue to grow together. As my platform expands, I will be able to bring more attention to the incredible work that JCI is doing all around the world, and I will continue to perform and speak at JCI events, to contribute a creative voice and informed perspective to the important conversations being had during each of those gatherings. I genuinely believe that Peace is Possible, and I recognize that we have a much better chance of getting there if we work together!
That is great to hear! We definitely agree that greater work can only be achieved through collaborating with like-minded individuals working toward similar purpose. Can you tell us a little bit about your favorite JCI moment?
One of my favorite moments was when I performed at the JCI World Congress last year in the Netherlands. The crowd was really amazing, and a lot of them had seen me perform at previous JCI events, so they knew the words to my songs, and we all had a great time. I also loved opening up for former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. I performed, spoke about my commitment to equality initiatives around the world, and connected with him and his wife, Nane, who were both really lovely and inspiring. I had a great time performing with my good friend Emmanuel Jal, and my now new friend Phyu Phyu Kyaw Thein in Malaysia at the International Summit on Peace last year as well.
Let’s learn more about you, can you tell us what you are most passionate about in life?
I am most passionate about fulfilling my purpose in life, and for me that is multifaceted. The majority of my music is socially conscious, and my intention is to use my platform to shine a light on issues in the world that need more attention. I have been working in the gender equality space for about three years now, and last year, the world finally started paying attention to the importance of making sure the changes that women have been fighting for decades are actually being implemented. There is still a long road ahead, but I am in it for the rest of my life, if need be. I feel called to stand for equality across the board though, not only gender equality. I have a song called ‘Equals,’ produced by Maejor that I will be releasing later this year. I am also very passionate about the work that I do through my organization, E.P.I.C. The support that we provide to about a dozen communities in Tanzania reminds me of the importance of everything else I am doing, because the advances there are the most tangible. My work in support of the United Nations, JCI and other organizations that have committed to bettering the lives of people all around the world is also something that I am extremely passionate about.
You mentioned your actions on gender equality, and that is something that JCI members are also working toward advancing in their communities around the world. What does gender equality mean to you? What does gender equality look like?
For me, gender equality means that women and men, boys and girls should be given equal opportunities in life. It is truly as simple as that. I grew up in a Caribbean home with two brothers, a mom and a dad (whom I love very much), but my dad sometimes has sexist views. The Caribbean in general has a lot of gender discrimination, so my dad is a product of his environment, but from a young age, I always felt like I should be viewed as an equal to my brothers. Over the years, I think he has come to understand more and more the importance of giving women and men an equal playing field. And I know that there are women who grow up in MUCH more repressive environments than I did. In the United States, we are of course seeing a massive light being shone on the importance of Gender Equality through movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp. But I think that the best place to start is in our own homes, with the people that we are closest to. According to a McKinsey Global Institute report, if all countries empower women to their full economic potential, as much as US $28 trillion, or 26 percent, could be added to the global annual GDP by 2025. There would be less pressure on men to carry the full financial weight of their households, and all people would be given the freedom to live to their fullest potential.
What great insight into gender equality. Let's talk about your hit song "I Am A Girl" that amplifies your message of equality. How did this song come about?
I started writing ‘I Am a Girl’ after spending some time with some incredible girls at a school in Tanzania. I saw the importance in writing a song with empowering lyrics and a melody that would be catchy enough for girls of all ages to sing along to. Even as an adult, I still connect to the youthful energy that I believe is what allows us to tap into our creativity. ‘I Am a Girl’ is a song about believing in our ability to be anything that we want to be in life, and that is the message that I would like to share with women and girls all around the world.
In response to the #MeToo movement, you recently shared a song "Bad Name." Why was this song so important for you to write and share with the world?
‘Bad Name’ was actually a really difficult song for me to release, especially because of the content of the video. I hadn’t shared the story with my family of what happened until right before I put it out, and some of them understandably had a very hard time with it. I wrote the song a few years ago—the day after the experience—and wasn’t sure whether I would ever release it, but with so many brave women coming forward with their stories of harassment and abuse in light of the #MeToo movement, I felt compelled to share my story as well. Victim blaming and shaming is still very much a real thing, but if so many of us are saying that we have been in similar situations, it becomes a lot harder to ignore or silence us. I think that change is finally starting to happen, and my intention with releasing the song and music video for ‘Bad Name’ was to hopefully spark some healthy conversations around the topic of consent.
Thank you for your bravery and strength to share that message. You mentioned earlier that you are a co-founder of an organization called E.P.I.C., standing for Everyday People Initiating Change, can you tell us more on how this organization was founded and any exciting news or activities for 2018?
Yes! My business partner in E.P.I.C. is one of my best friends, Alexi Panos, and when we met, we immediately realized that we had a similar desire to make a positive impact on the world in some way. We were both involved in the entertainment industry, and we both thought that at some point in our careers, we would get to a place where we had enough money, enough of a platform, enough time, and enough experience to start doing something. One day we came to the realization that the only thing we really need to make a positive impact on the world is the desire to make a positive impact on the world.
That’s where the name E.P.I.C. came from. As you said, it stands for Everyday People Initiating Change, and that is what we are all about. We believe that as everyday people, we can be initiating positive change in the world starting from right now. We don’t have to wait for a perfect time to do something. We can start right now! In the late Summer into the early Fall of this year, E.P.I.C. has four different Fellowship Trips of volunteers who will be going out to Tanzania, Africa, to help us facilitate the drilling of a clean water well in a new village. We will also be beginning the construction of an E.P.I.C. House and Community Center in one of the villages where we drilled a couple of years ago. On top of that, we will be continuing with our Community Growth and Development Programs, including working closely with many schools, students, women’s groups, and providing leadership trainings to the young people in various villages. If anyone would like to join us on one of our trips this year, please visit: www.epicfellowshipprogram.com, but bear in mind that spaces are very limited, and have already started to fill up, so the sooner you submit your application, the more likely we will be able to add you to a trip!
As an inspiring example of what a young woman can accomplish, what advice do you have for young women leaders who are still trying to break the glass ceiling in their arenas?
Never give up, no matter what. We need you. There are so many pressures that will threaten to take you off of your course in life, but it is important to maintain a crystal clear focus. If you believe that you are being called to lead in any capacity at all, then don’t be swayed by the things that can quite easily distract you from reaching what you are setting out to do. Women come in all different packages. Don’t try to fit yourself into a box, and don’t let anyone else dictate what you are or are not capable of doing. There are a lot of women who maintain successful careers while still having families, and there are a lot of women who decide that they don’t need to be in a relationship or have children to experience fulfillment in their lives.
When it comes to the glass ceiling, the fact that it is symbolically made of glass, means that it is definitely breakable. If you keep knocking long enough, and hard enough, eventually you will break through. Figure out what your priorities are in life and stop at nothing until you achieve what you have set out to do. Ideally, we should be entering into each new year with a deepened or newfound sense of purpose, while allowing ourselves the space to evolve in the process. I know that this is easier to do in some countries than it is in others, but I perform and speak all around the world, and the thing I believe that we as women share, is our strength and resilience. I think that our time has finally come, and I believe that the progress is rippling throughout the entire world. If you aren’t where you want to be right now, be patient, your time is coming. Just make sure that you never ever give up on the pursuit of your dreams!
Thank you for that inspiring message that will unfortunately end our interview. Where can people find you if they want to follow what you are doing next?
You can search for my name under all social media and be able to follow me @TennilleAmor. I post pretty frequently on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, and launch my music videos on both YouTube and Facebook. My music can be found wherever you listen to music as well (iTunes, Soundcloud, Spotify, etc). If you would like to learn more about what I do, you can visit my website at: www.TennilleAmor.com
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