29-year-old Canadian actor, Shamier Anderson has stated that Wexford Collegiate School for the Arts in Scarborough, Ont., is more than just his old high school, stressing that it was the incubator for his acting dreams, and his fight against systemic racism in the Canadian arts.
Speaking to his newsmen, he said “Growing up, I realized that there weren’t a lot of examples of Black excellence on the national stage.
“It was an eye-opening experience, and that’s why I started the Black Academy — not only because of Wexford, but just my experience in the industry.”
According to him, it’s that perspective that has been the push behind The Black Academy, the latest initiative by him and his 26-year-old brother and fellow actor, Stephan James.
The brothers said the national Black-led organization will “elevate and inspire both Anglophone and Francophone Black talent across the country” through fostering, celebrating and showcasing emerging Black talent, across all industries — not just the arts.
Anderson said “It’s a year round-body that’s not only going to have an awards gala to celebrate Black excellence in all sectors, from business, philanthropy, sports, but there’s also going to be programming specific to the Black community.
“There’s not enough governing bodies, infrastructures, places to celebrate Black excellence. When Black people slip and fall, we see that all over the news. It’s very rare we get to hear the Pinball Clemons of the world doing incredible stuff.”
On his part, James averred that it’s not about the lack of Black talent in Canada, but the lack of opportunities — an unsettling gap in representation that troubled him at the Canadian Screen Awards last year, when he was presented the Radius Award by his big brother.
“I was left with a sort of bittersweet feeling after I left that stage,” the Golden-Globe nominated star of the Amazon drama Homecoming told Global News, in an interview from Los Angeles.
“Thinking, ‘Man, I may be one of a handful of Black Individuals that’s gonna, you know, be able to stand on this stage tonight.’”
The brothers, who hope to change the current narrative, said The Black Academy will combat those inequities, by supporting and spotlighting those in the Black community through “educational programming, panel discussions and more.”
Delineating on the development, Anderson said the organization is necessary for investing in the Black talent — from Anglophone to Francophone — here at home.
He said “When we do these types of things, these initiatives, it’s not a charity. This is going to breed success. This is going to change lives.
“This is going to shift the tectonic plates when it comes to school to prison pipelines…and giving hope for people who are hopeless — and, ultimately, it will combat systemic racism and poverty.”
For James, that investment extends to fostering the Black writers and filmmakers to take ownership of Black stories — opportunities, he discovered, of which there were more in the U.S. than in Canada.
“If we want to be able to have our stories told on screens, we have to think about who’s authoring those stories and empowering those people to be able to create content for us,” said James.
“Its not okay to constantly be in this situation where you can’t have a career at home. You feel like you’re forced to move south of the border because there aren’t enough opportunities. Canada is not short on talent, especially in the Black community…and so the hope is The Black Academy will continue to create more opportunities for Black creatives and excellence coming out of Canada.”
It was gathered that The Academy also kicks off with funding from the Canada Media Fund. However, the brothers are calling on the government and corporate Canada to stand with them to end systemic racism in the industry.