More than just backpacks: Black entrepreneur empowers young African Nova Scotians


TRURO, NS — Halifax entrepreneur Jessica Bowden was in Truro recently to hand out colorful backpacks which, in her words, are more than just a useful addition to back-to-school supplies; they constitute “dreams and opportunities”.

Bowden moved to At Maggie’s in Truro where students aged 13 to 19, from African Nova Scotian communities in Truro, were invited to pick up a new backpack with the messages “Black Lives Matter” or “Be the Change” embroidered on it. The bags were also filled with school supplies.

“We want to be here and distribute them because we want them to see that this is from another black organization that is here to support you, that understands that you may face obstacles,” the CEO and Founder said. of Teens Now Talk magazine.

A role model before embarking on the path of entrepreneurship, Bowden spoke more about his relationships with young people and his desire to give them confidence and self-esteem.

“You’re looking at a person who’s actually walked through the hoops, still made a name for themselves, is still standing tall, and hopefully gives you what you need to get started,” Bowden said, adding that the one to whom she was facing came from a low-income household.

She also explained that she had to fight against preconceived ideas to become a model – a dream and a goal she had developed as a little girl.

“I didn’t start as a top model in Canada, I started with the three no’s,” she said, referring to height, body shape and skin color. “These three major ‘no’s have shaped my life and (overcoming them) are part of the seminars I do.

“I cried all the way from Quinpool Road to Mulgrave Park because I didn’t know anything else,” she said, of an early rejection. “I just knew I’d seen this little black and white TV and the girl (who was called) Twiggy. I knew she was skinny, she was tall, and I knew I still wanted to be a model. … I wanted to be on that stage.

Bowden uses her story of perseverance to inspire the next generation of African Nova Scotian children and through initiatives such as the backpack, where she can meet them and talk with them about believing in themselves and pursue their dreams.

Maggie's Place in Truro was the local spot for distribution of <a class=backpacks to African Nova Scotian teenagers, as well as others, by Halifax entrepreneur Jessica Bowden. Pictured is Grade 9 student Gabriella Lattie with her new backpack. -Richard MacKenzie” data-enhance=”true” src=”https://www.saltwire.com/image/media/photologue/photos/2022/9/13/merlin-339913-TN-15092022-backpack-giveaway2.JPG?cs=srgb&fit=clip&h=700&w=847&auto=format%2Ccompress%2Cenhance” srcset=”https://www.saltwire.com/image/media/photologue/photos/2022/9/13/merlin-339913-TN-15092022-backpack-giveaway2.JPG?fit=clip&h=700&w=847&auto=compress,https://www.saltwire.com/https://www.saltwire.com/format,https://www.saltwire.com/enhance 847w, https://www.saltwire.com/image/media/photologue/photos/2022/9/13/merlin-339913-TN-15092022-backpack-giveaway2.JPG?fit=clip&h=1400&w=1694&auto=compress,https://www.saltwire.com/https://www.saltwire.com/format,https://www.saltwire.com/enhance 1694w” style=”height: auto; width: auto;”/>
Maggie’s Place in Truro was the local spot for distribution of backpacks to African Nova Scotian teenagers, as well as others, by Halifax entrepreneur Jessica Bowden. Pictured is Grade 9 student Gabriella Lattie with her new backpack. -Richard MacKenzie

She said she was also very gratified to see the smiles on their faces as they wrapped the new backpack around their shoulder.

“It gave me a big smile,” she said. “And when they put it on, they pose, they turn with it, squeeze it, open the zippers… it’s their bag. And as one gentleman we spoke to said, it’s so empowering to know it’s from another black man. It’s not just a company that says, here’s a bunch of bags, help yourself.

“So my goal is to make sure that even though I know there may be a need, I don’t want to give it to you because you need it, I want to give it because it’s an opportunity for no more dreams.”

Tracey Dorrington-Skinner, a well-known Truro resident, co-founder of Black Girl Magic and president of the Community Enhancement Association, was on hand as Bowden distributed the backpacks and met with Truro families.

Jessica Bowden (left) is pictured with staff at Maggie's Place as well as families who have taken advantage of the backpack.  Contribution - Richard MacKenzie
Jessica Bowden (left) is pictured with staff at Maggie’s Place as well as families who have taken advantage of the backpack. Contribution – Richard MacKenzie

“I want you to notice the pride,” she said as 16-year-old CEC Grade 11 student Xavier Powell picked up a backpack and threw it over his shoulder with casually. “When he looked at the bag and put it on, it was like GQ (men’s fashion magazine)…he owned that bag,” Dorrington-Skinner said.

“Here’s the thing, this might be the first time this guy has had something that recognizes he matters, you know what I mean? So there’s another piece of pride. It’s more than ‘a simple feeling of having a Black Lives Matter bag, it’s about knowing that people care enough to make sure others see that Black Lives Matter, and others care about me as a’ individual; instilling that sense of pride so that I can wear it proudly.

To learn more about Bowden and his initiatives and business ventures, visit teensnowtalk.com.

Maggie’s Place in Truro was the local spot for distribution of backpacks to African Nova Scotian teenagers, as well as others, by Halifax entrepreneur Jessica Bowden. Pictured is Grade 9 student Gabriella Lattie with her new backpack.

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