The first-ever Canadian awards show dedicated to Black talent will air on CBC in 2022.
The live, 90-minute production by the Black Academy will honour Black achievement in film, television, music, sports and culture next fall in Toronto as part of a three-year contract with the CBC.
“[It will] give Black faces a platform to inspire more Black faces,” said actor Stephan James, who co-founded the project alongside his brother Shamier Anderson, also an actor.
“This isn’t just a hashtag for [CBC]. This isn’t just a moment in time. This is a legacy that they want to build and they want to build with us,” Anderson said.
Winners will be determined by a voting jury.
The Scarborough, Ont.-raised brothers launched the Black Academy in December 2020, in hopes of uplifting Black talent across the country.
It’s a division of their not-for-profit group B.L.A.C.K. Canada (Building a Legacy in Acting, Cinema and Knowledge) that supports young and emerging Black talent in the arts and works to combat systemic racism and break down barriers of discrimination.
The awards were one of the organization’s original planned initiatives.
‘We’re challenging government’
In collaboration with Insight Productions, the duo are in the planning stage of the awards show, thinking about presentations, performers and special tributes — not to mention industry panels and “other things.”
“I can’t share too much.… This is going to be epic and going to be a beast of a moment in Canadian history,” Anderson said, smiling.
But they both agree securing funds has been a challenge.
There is support from the Canada Media Fund, a primary investor of the Black Academy, and recently Cineplex and Roots also came on board.
The brothers want to hold entities accountable, they said, targeting those who have funds set aside to combat racism in Canada.
“We hear all the rhetoric about all the change that’s happening. And so we want to be a part of that change,” said James.
“We’re challenging government. We’re challenging corporations here in Canada to be a part of the change that they speak of and the change that they want to see.”
The Black Academy awards are committed to enacting change behind the scenes, too. There will be Black senior staff and crew members, as well as multiple other positions, from production assistants to technical roles, filled from within the community in advance of pre-production.
If they make it, will people come?
In an era when viewership of awards shows has significantly decreased, the brothers are not dissuaded from launching their vision — especially at this time of “awakening” to the urgent need for diverse representation.
“I think we all agree it’s a little late,” Anderson acknowledged.
“But the fact that it is happening now, I think people are going to be inspired, re-inspired and excited to digest something that they’ve never seen before.”