Community Maker | Cheerful Activist | Cooperative Director

Jessika_NewOMHG_headshotI am a community maker, cheerful activist & the cooperative director of OMHG. In BusinessSpeak I am a start up founder + social entrepreneur + community first business advocate.

I believe:
-in cooperation over competition
-relentless good cheer is an act of rebellion
-we can use our heads + hearts + hands to craft a brilliant future
-everyone is a maker & a leader (yes, even you)
-in a handmade life of respect, equality, diversity, cooperation, compassion, goodness & citizenship

I make community by: 
-creating welcoming places to gather & connect
-sharing resources and opportunities -cultivating goodness and community gardens
-asking good questions + caring about the answers
-shining bright lights into dark corners
-inviting and including diversity

My Work

I work with diverse makers, entrepreneurs, neighbourhoods, brands, organizations, non-profits & co-ops to engage communities, celebrate diversity, share resources, lift up leaders + cultivate creativity.  I’m available for creative partnerships including events, facilitation, speaking, writing & workshops on: the maker movement, community making, cooperative business, social entrepreneurship, online citizenship and why we need to use our heads + hearts + hands if we want to be whole people or make healthy communities. I use tech to connect and through my work with OMHG I’ve built relationships with thousands of makers, innovators, companies and creatives. I’m interested in projects that lift us all up and help us make real meaningful connections on or offline. Contact me with your project to learn more about my availability and suggest a collaboration or  help make the first community owned social network.

I’ve been part of some great collaborations & interviews for web + print. Here are a few favourite features & projects:

Etsy Made in Canada | Uppercase Magazine | Etsy Road Trip (video) | Hollyhock | Handmade MarketplaceWhen I Grow Up Coach | Playful Learning Altitude Summit | Lucky Break Consulting | Tara Swiger | 1st Canadian Weblog Awards | Dyana ValentineFarideh Cesar | Smart Creative Women 

 I’ve published 1200+ OMHG posts & written over 500, get to know me through the pieces that matter most:

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Why are community + making + goodness so important to me?

I’m the daughter of a diversity advocate, granddaughter of a civil rights activist & greatgreatgranddaughter of an underground railroad operator.

As an African American, Cherokee, Jewish, Scottish, Canadian I’m already a tiny diverse nation, so with my ancestry it isn’t surprising I’ve always been a community maker. My mom tells me it became obvious when I was 4 or 5 years old and a new girl who only spoke in sign came to my daycare, I learned to talk with my hands so I could include her in the class. Years later as a preschool teacher there was a little girl from Korea in my class who was so quiet and sweet that until I started no one ever thought to include her. I’ll never forget her laughter on the playground when she became part of the group or the card her parents gave me that year thanking me for my love giving her the confidence to step into herself.  Whether it is making welcoming places we can gather online or helping a mama with her new baby offline-community, compassion, creativity, citizenship, using my head + heart + hands to craft a life of goodness with every interaction-this is who I am and what I do. The Maker Movement, handmade & entrepreneurship have been doorways to open conversations about what kind of world we’re making together.

What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life?
 The world would split open. ― Muriel Rukeyser

bio-Born 1982 in Victoria BC. I learn love for community from my mom and how to make change in my Nana’s textile studio. She turned undyed fibre into bright treasures and I played with scraps while she talked about her life-growing up Jewish in Brooklyn, modeling nude in Greenwich Village, designing clothes for Katherine Hepburn & throwing parties for Marlon Brando in Hollywood. She taught me crochet while telling me about marching for civil rights, being one of the first white women to legally marry a black man in California, and fleeing to Spain alone with two small children to protest the Vietnam War.

-At 9 years old I sit on my first board of directors for the Vancouver Big Brothers & Sisters. I write letters to the Premier, read The Diary of Anne Frank and watch Desert Storm on TV.  I’m not going to wait until I grow up to make a better world.

-10 years old I discover entrepreneurship selling crystals from a found chandelier to the staff of a group home where my mom works as an advocate for people with disabilities. I’m creative and compassionate, falling easily in love with everyone no matter how obviously different they might seem.

-At 11 I start a drop in daycare for my low-income housing co-op. My aunt kills herself and we move to PEI by 12 I’m angry all the time. I listen to Ani DiFranco, read Leaves of Grass, buy army boots, decide protest will make a difference. I’m on CBC radio at 13 singing about how when I’m Prime Minister I will fix all the things & get arrested when I’m 14 for protesting the opening of a new McDonald’s with my Youth for Social Justice group.

-I make bad friends & worse decisions, find drugs and move out at 15, leave school, decide not feeling anything is the answer to feeling everything. My nana dies, my mom’s mental health starts cracking, times are hard. When I’m 18 I haul myself out of addiction & an abusive relationship to start working with kids, they remind of the goodness in the world and myself.

-By 19 I’m a perpetual motion machine-I go to university & help found an art based summer camp for low income kids. I attend class and still work up to 18 hour days teaching preschool, leading groups for young people to talk about abuse, suicide & addiction, organize creative events believing community is the antidote to despair. I play rebel music and write papers at night and finger paint with kids by day.

-At 20 I leave the city for Cortes Island with $150, a backpack, and no back up plan. I discover the value of slow, rural communities, friends around campfires, how the ocean & forest fill up empty places. I write and read Pema Chodron, Thich Nhat Hanh, Mary Oliver & Thoreau. I cook for people, swim in phosphorescent stardust at night, claim relentless cheerfulness as my superpower.

-At 21 I fall in love with a kind gentle young man, have our first daughter & start a handmade business. We travel to shows & do markets with Ila in a sling. I host community gatherings, work for non-profits, read Paolo Freire and Teaching As A Subversive Activity, sink into mamahood.

-By 22 I’m on a mission to find a community to put down roots, we move to Sointula (Place of Harmony” in Finnish) a remote BC town called where I teach preschool and am director of the local resource centre.

-We travel to Halifax, NS from BC to be closer to in-laws and have our second daughter Sela when I’m 25. I buy OMHG in July of 2010 as a diversion from the real work of community building. I fall hard for the internet when I learn OMHG can make community globally so I dive in with my head + heart + hands. Read my timeline to learn the inside story of how OMHG evolved.

-At 31 I am even more committed than ever to a life of community & cheerful activism. I’m ready to take more intentional action on what matters most: cooperative community, true diversity, open gatherings, good citizenship, creative partnerships, book writing, heartfelt speaking & always-real meaningful connections. 

Let’s connect: Read my posts, visit our community, join a weekly #OMHG chat, say hi on Twitter or send me an email!