Hollywood for Black actors and creatives is already an isolated space still plagued with systemic racism and discrimination, but in Canada, the lack of opportunities for Black talent is even more apparent.
In an effort to shift the industry in a new direction, Variety reports that Canadian actors and brothers Shamier Anderson and Stephan James have just launched The Black Academy — an extension of their nonprofit B.L.A.C.K. Canada (Building a Legacy in Acting, Cinema + Knowledge) which was founded in 2016 — meant to honor and celebrate Black Canadian talent.
View this post on Instagram
The Black-led organization — funded by the Canada Media Fund — will reportedly showcase the country’s established and rising Black talent, thus amplifying overlooked English and French-Canadian artists across the country.
“The impetus of The Black Academy stems from our long-lasting commitment, deep ties to our community, and an awareness of the lack of opportunities to celebrate and elevate Black talent in Canada,” the “Wynonna Earp” star Anderson told Variety. “The Black Academy celebrates and inspires Black Canadians, not only in the arts, but culture, entertainment and sports. This is something that’s the first of its kind, and we’re excited to really bring it up and bring it out and build awareness around it.”
James spoke with Refinery29 about the gaps for Black representation that exist in the Canadian industry. He and his brother’s view on the ratio of opportunities offered to white versus Black actors is what fueled the two to create The Black Academy.
“We recognized this gap in being able to create a star system that grades, highlights, and ultimately gives Black artists an opportunity to grow and further their careers on a global level. We recognized the power of having people see themselves on stages and on screens. The Black Academy really is a culmination of what we already started with B.L.A.C.K and a response to this grand national call to end systemic racism. With The Black Academy we want to create a place where we can tackle all those ideals. For every gap that was once open, we want to fill it with this academy.”
Now that the academy has been launched, Anderson and James are focusing their efforts on raising awareness for the organization and finding corporate partners aligned with their mission to help build up this pillar in Black Canadian Hollywood.
“The most important thing right now is building this awareness and letting people know that it’s here, and it’s happening,” Anderson said to Variety. “And then we can find partners at a high level.
Alongside The Black Academy’s launch announcement, Anderson and James also named the first six board members appointed for the organization.
According to Variety, these board directors include Vanessa Craft (director of content partnerships at TikTok Canada), Alica Hall (executive director of Nia Centre for the Arts), Wes Hall (founder and chair of the BlackNorth Initiative), Jennifer Holness (producer, screenwriter, and board chair of Black Screen Office), Divya Shahani (a Toronto entertainment lawyer), and Tonya Williams (actor and founder/executive director of Reelworld Film Festival).
The Black Academy’s mission overall is to breed a new generation of Black Canadian talent destined for great things. By creating more opportunities for these artists, the organization will eventually provide more visibility and recognition for them within the Canadian entertainment industry.
For more information about The Black Academy, click here.