Our People - Jamila Pomeroy
Today we introduce Jamila Pomeroy. Jamila is an internationally-published, award-winning writer/journalist, a director, artist and creative entrepreneur, based in Vancouver, Canada. Outside of writing, Jamila is the founder and creative director of Canada’s first Black-owned print lifestyle magazine, Avocado Toast Post.
As a Kenyan-Canadian writer and filmmaker, Jamila's aim is to help facilitate the taking back of BIPOC narratives and empower minorities and people of varying socio-economic statuses through storytelling. Going hand-in-hand with this, is her strong passion to tell real, raw and authentic narratives, that give characters the ability to live outside of exhausted character archetypes. As a multi-generational hereditary storyteller on both sides of her family, Jamila sees film and editorial as a way to honour and pay homage to her Kenyan, Newfoundlander and Mi’kmaq heritage, while helping to shape a new generation of media.
You’ve said that Avocado Toast Post is a magazine with a focus on Modern Anthropology. What are some of the differences between your publication and other magazines out there?
I think a lot of magazines are very trend-focused and not as creative as they could be. They’ve been following the same formula for years, and I don’t blame them, because it works. There are a ton of magazines out there that are more so about advertising and selling a singular lifestyle than presenting creative writing and visuals that represent a multiplicity of people. The idea behind curating from a modern anthropology lens was forged by my personal plight to have more diverse representation in media and literature-- not just visually or topically, but by giving people the opportunity to create authentically. I think a lot of publishers want to wear a storyteller hat during production, but personally I don’t think that is our job. As a publisher, I hope to simply create space for engaging visuals and storytelling, constructed and curated in a way that supports our community and the planet. Instead of thinking in trends, I try to think in timeless subjects and themes-- not only so that we are applicable to a larger audience, but so our magazine is perceived as a book worthy of sitting on a coffee table or bookshelf for years, instead of being read and recycled. I’ve loved art books since I was a kid, so, visually, obtaining that art book quality has always been important.
When did you first realise that writing and journalism was the path you needed to take?
Looking back, I think I always wanted to be a writer. When I was a kid I always used to tell people that I was going to be an artist when I grew up and was going to go to Emily Carr. I would paint and draw nearly every day-- I was obsessed! That said, I think my favourite part about making art was sharing it with people; most importantly, sharing the massive story I had built in my head, surrounding the piece. I was also really obsessed with the library as a kid, not so much with reading books, but with listening to the occasional storytellers and authors they’d bring in. I have a clear memory of sitting in piles of books and looking at how they were constructed. That was often how I’d often choose a book to take home: it was more so about how it looked, than the actual story. I eventually ended up taking a short story and poetry. Writing, in every way, became the thing that helped me process the world. When I was 12, I ended up winning the Canadian Junior Black Achievement award for creative writing, and again when I was 13. When I got to highschool, I was never the favourite student in English class-- heck, one of my teachers even told me It would probably be best to choose a profession that had nothing to do with writing-- I wanted to write about life though, not write about books and the people who wrote them. The discouragement led me to take an entirely different career path, which I really excelled in and enjoyed. When a health scare caused me to quit my job and rest for a year, I ended up writing a book to pass the time. Once I was healthy enough to return, I didn’t want to-- I wanted to write.
Are there any important lessons you’ve learned through the process of launching your own publication?
So many lessons! The biggest lesson I’ve learned is just how much gatekeeping there is in the publishing industry-- or rather, that my purpose as a publisher and writer is to break those barriers. So many of the same companies and families own a large portion of the publishing industry. I knew it would be difficult, but I don’t think I really understood just how much generational wealth and not being able to benefit from vertically-integrated systems would impact the success of my business (monetarily). Creative industries are tough, but I really think publishing may just take the crown. Take fashion for example. It’s notorious for being an industry where the people that thrive are the people with generational wealth. The thing is, if you have timely, interesting design and a smart business and media strategy, you can take off and I’ve seen it happen in my community so many times. Publishing and literature sadly isn’t like that though, as the vertically-integrated nature of the industry makes it virtually impossible to even break even as an indie player using the traditional model. For me, I took it as a challenge and opportunity to get creative. For us, that means using print-to-order systems, and actively building symbiotic relationships with people in media and PR. All of this most definitely flows into my personal work as a model/actor, writer, filmmaker. I’ve always been about community and having strong symbiotic relationships with people, but over the years I think I’ve become more ballsy with who I reach out to and the goals I have in life. It’s only ever been a positive experience having a multidisciplinary creative career-- you begin to realize that so many aspects in the creative world are interconnected and it just makes your potential for collaboration more even epic. That said, there are a lot of people who have taken issue with the fact that I refuse to compartmentalize my career, neatly into one digestible package. For me, living like a modern renaissance woman is not only the most beautiful, empowering and romantic thing, but it’s also kind of like investing in a mutual fund-- there is security and strength in a diversified investment.
Your most recent issue explores what it is to be resilient. What does resilience look like to you?
In my life, resilience has been the force that puts my hopes, goals and dreams over the pressure and misfortune of the present moment. It’s realizing that a bad day, week, month or year does not equal a bad life; it’s patience in myself, my situation and the world around me; it’s being cautiously optimistic, while giving myself the space to authentically feel and experience my emotions and the world around me. I think resilience means something different to everyone though, and I love how each writer, photographer and person featured provided such beautiful perspectives.
Outside of being the founder of Avocado Toast Post, you’re also a filmmaker and writer. What are your plans for the next chapter and what kind of stories do you hope to tell?
I’ve always loved the arts, and for me, film is truly a mirage of all the things I love-- music, visual arts, theatre, movement and creative human expression. I really see myself living in that space for a long time. I spent 2018/2019 in the writer/research room of Beauty, a series executive produced and starring Tyra Banks. I had wanted to step into the film world for a while, but it isn’t exactly like you can go on Indeed and apply for a screenwriter role. That experience has really increased my drive to write for film and made me write like crazy during covid. I’ve been in the pitching process for a TV show (dramedy) I wrote and will hopefully be shooting a feature (documentary) soon. Though I’m really keen on intelligence plots that make you think, comedy/dramedies that feel authentic, and scratching my journalist itch with documentaries, at this point in my career I’m not interested in pigeonholing myself into one genre-- like, I can see myself going from comedy to psychological thriller, no problem. I think I am more interested in bringing untold stories to life and leveraging my position as a Kenyan-Canadian filmmaker by casting diversely-- from actors, to crew, to production and producers.
Plug your magazine! Where can people find Avocado Toast Post?
You can find us on our website AvocadoToastPost.com or purchase us through Amazon, internationally. We are also in the process of getting distributed by a large North American bookstore, so keep your eyes peeled.