Tanika has a lot of titles, no? Oh, I almost forgot, you can add mommy to that too.
Tanika Riley is a super busy #girlboss who runs POR AMOR – her non- profit organization that she co-founded with 3 friends 15 years ago (she is now the Executive Director), where she facilitates workshops for organizations, high schools, and post secondary institutions in the GTA, on topics such as wellness, equity and leadership.
These sessions include creative expression through hip hop and poetry, African and Caribbean dance, beat boxing and visual arts.
And if that weren’t enough, Tanika is the CEO of Tanika iNsight – an organization where she speaks about wellness and respect for the environment, and facilitates visioning events, which includes vision boards and the visioning process.
Though her businesses have similar values and beliefs, they are completely separate. Tanika calls herself a social entrepreneur and is ruled by indigenous philosophies.
To find out more about this multi-titled, phenomenal female, keep reading.
Birthplace: Scarborough, ON
Astrological sign: Scorpio
Fun Fact: POR AMOR, which means for love in Spanish, was not the name the founding members selected for the organization. It was the name for a project they created to fundraise for charity. The name stuck, and the organization became known as POR AMOR.
What is POR AMOR?
We are a multi-disciplinary arts and cultural organization that uses arts-based practices to facilitate conversations and engagement predominantly around equity, wellness, and leadership.
Do you mainly work with youth?
For years we did a lot of work primarily with young people in the community and in the school system. We are now starting to do more work with organizations that are looking to bring equity and leadership to their organizations. They want artistic energy, passion, and different ways of learning. We are also doing some teacher training around wellness and equity.
You mentioned equity, could you explain further?
Equity is mostly around black and indigenous ways of understanding the world and the challenges of those communities, and how we could do a better job in the school system.
Equity could look like a few things – inclusion, and diversity. With equity programming we do African history programming: assemblies and workshops for students.
We are real passionate about redesigning and re-indigenizing the school system and we want to be a key player in that transformation. Re-imagining what the education system can look like because it is failing too many students, especially students of colour.
How is education failing students of colour?
Based on the report done by York University, “Towards Race Equity In Education: The Schooling Of Black Students In The Greater Toronto Area,” we see that there is an almost 40% drop out rate of black students in high school – enough young people to fill the ACC centre each year. This is unacceptable. Black students are streamlined into basic and college-level high school courses that prevent them from attending university and getting into better paying careers that can advance the black community from a socio-economic perspective.
What is re-indigenizing?
It means you practice indigenous ways of your culture – pre-colonization. To see the worldview as our ancestors. Our connection to the land, connection with each other and the connection to ourselves. That’s what education is all about.
With re-indigenizing there is a belief that we all have a divine purpose here, and we need to spend time to try to figure out what that is.
In the workshops for POR AMOR you include 3 key elements: music, movement and creative expression. How do you fit that into you workshops?
It doesn’t matter how old you are, your culture or your race, these things really get people engaged.
Everyone loves music, so in our sessions there’s positive music playing. If there are young people, we’re going to play some hip hop – but playing content that’s thought-provoking that elevates their spirit; elevates them. Music is vibration.
We make sure that people are getting around and getting to know each other – everyone’s feeling comfortable. If it’s a wellness workshop, we’ll ask people what they are struggling with and start a conversation.
Then we allow for creative expression. If we have time, we put on a beat. We love for people to write about what we just talked about. They can write a poem, a song, a short story. Then if there’s time, people can share, and they can respond to the people sharing. We let the energy rule the session.
When it comes to education, we believe in “heart centered” education – learning has to hit your heart in order to transform. In our workshops we’re not trying to educate the mind – our hearts are supposed to direct what we do.
What subjects do you tackle with staff in organizations?
We talk about what it means to be an ally, what it means to have privilege, and what it means to have biases and stereotypes.
POR AMOR and Tanika iNsight have similar missions. What makes both organizations distinctive?
Tanika iNsight is my personal brand where I can do and say a lot more controversial opinions and express myself fully. I do artist keynotes (speaking), hosting, as well as my music ( my upcoming album to be released in Fall 2019 ) and my book entitled “White Negro” Passing through the colour lines. ( a historical fiction novel set in NY and Toronto in the late 1800-early 1900’s) are all under that brand. It’s where my personal creative endeavours are housed.
You consider yourself a “social entrepreneur.” What’s that?
It’s where you have a triple bottom line: people, profit, and the planet. When you’re a social entrepreneur you’re thinking of those 3 things, not just profit.
POR AMOR celebrates 15 years in existence this year. How will you celebrate the milestone?
We really want to celebrate 15 years and we will be doing a series of events. We want to put on an arts education symposium bringing lots of artists of colour and artist in general, who are doing this work in Toronto. We don’t want to just highlight ourselves; we want to highlight others that are doing similar work.
I love how Tanika plans to spotlight not just the work she does, but also the work of other art educators. Thanks for your positivity and for the chat!
To find out more about Tanika, POR AMOR and Tanika iNsight, please visit the following sites:
Instagram: @poramorinfo, @tanika_insight
Twitter: @poramorinfo, @tanika_iNsight