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As the Canadian entertainment industry continues to publicly display its “wokeness,” Toronto-raised brothers and Hollywood breakout stars Shamier Anderson and Stephan James are launching The Black Academy to celebrate overlooked Black Canadian talent.
Wynonna Earp star Anderson and James, star of Selma and If Beale Street Could Talk, aim at a more diverse portrait of Canadian entertainment, arts and sports by presenting awards, educational programming and panel discussions.
James’ other credits include Homecoming, 21 Bridges and playing Jesse Owens in the Canadian indie film Race. Anderson also starred in Stowaway, Awake and the Spike Lee-produced film Son of the South.
“Stephan and I strongly believe we have identified a glaring gap in the industry as far as the acknowledgement and celebration of Black Canadians doing exceptional things all over the world,” Anderson, co-founder and co-chair of The Black Academy, said in a statement.
The Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television, which produces the Canadian Screen Awards, has followed the Academy Awards and its response to the #OscarsSoWhite movement by launching intiatives like an Equity and Inclusion Fund and partnering with WarnerMedia to accelerate project development for experienced Canadian screenwriters from diverse communities.
And Canadian broadcasters are increasingly commissioning homegrown originals from diverse indie production teams as part of an industry-wide inclusion initiative. That comes as U.S. dramas and comedies like Insecure, Black-ish, Scandal, Empire and Watchmen that portray the African American experience air or stream in Canada, but local dramas centered around Black Canadian characters are rare beyond titles like Diggstown and Burden of Truth.
So as the Canadian industry responds to calls to address the lack of representation in front and behind the camera by members of diverse communities, brothers Anderson and James are looking for Black Canadian audiences to see their top achievers openly celebrated for more diverse storytelling.
“This level of celebration is bound to breed a whole new world of Black Canadian talent doing exceptional things. We know the impact that providing an opportunity for Black talent to gain visibility and recognition will have. It breeds inspiration like no other amongst our communities. To have something for us, by us,” Anderson argued.
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