– Vanessa Craft, Alica Hall, Wes Hall, Jennifer Holness, Divya Shahani, and Tonya Williams join board of directors –
– The Canada Media Fund is the first to fund The Black Academy –
TORONTO, December 3, 2020 – Scarborough natives and brothers Shamier Anderson and Stephan James today announced the formation of The Black Academy, a national Black-led organization dedicated to breaking down barriers of discrimination and combating systemic racism in Canada. By honouring, celebrating, and showcasing established and emerging Black talent, The Black Academy will elevate and inspire both Anglophone and Francophone Black talent across the country. The first of its kind in Canada, The Black Academy is a division of the brothers’ community-based not-for-profit B.L.A.C.K. Canada (Building A Legacy in Acting, Cinema + Knowledge) which they established in 2016. Anderson and James also announced that Vanessa Craft, Alica Hall, Wes Hall, Jennifer Holness, Divya Shahani, and Tonya Williams have joined the board of directors and that the Canada Media Fund (CMF) is the first to fund the new organization.
The impetus for The Black Academy stems from Anderson and James’ long-standing commitment and deep ties to their community and an awareness of the lack of opportunities to celebrate and elevate Black talent in Canada. Since founding B.L.A.C.K in 2016, Anderson & James have worked to support and spotlight those in their community, and The Black Academy – through the presentation of awards, educational programming, panel discussions and more – is an extension of that ambition. As a permanent, year-round operation, The Black Academy will work with government, corporate, and private entities and will collaborate closely with like-minded organizations to impact the lives of Black Canadians for generations to come.
“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,” said Shamier Anderson, Co-Founder and Co-Chair of The Black Academy. “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.”
To date, Anderson and James have appointed six board members, all of whom are exceptionally committed and energetic, bringing a wealth of experience to the organization. In addition to co-chairs Anderson & James, the board of directors includes:
- Vanessa Craft is the Director of Content Partnerships at TikTok Canada. Prior to taking on an executive role in the tech industry, she was the Editor-in-Chief of ELLE Canada.
- Alica Hall is the executive director of Nia Centre for the Arts, Canada’s first professional multi-disciplinary arts facility dedicated to supporting and showcasing Afro-diasporic art.
- Wes Hall is the Executive Chairman and Founder, Kingsdale Advisors, and the Founder and Chair of the BlackNorth Initiative.
- Jennifer Holness is the board chair of the Black Screen Office, the president of Hungry Eyes Media, and an award-winning Canadian film and television producer and screenwriter.
- Divya Shahani is a leading Toronto entertainment lawyer at Miller Thomson LLP and a former executive producer on various feature film projects.
- Tonya Williams is an award-winning actress, producer, and the founder and executive director of the Reelworld Film Festival and Reelworld Screen Institute.
The appointment of additional board members will be announced in the coming weeks.
Anderson and James also announced that the CMF is the first funder to invest in The Black Academy through its Black and People of Colour (BPOC) Sector Development initiative. The BPOC Sector Development Support benefits multiple racialized creators, producers, and companies within Canada’s audiovisual production ecosystem supporting their efforts to dismantle the systemic racism that impacts the BPOC creative community.
“Shamier and I are incredibly grateful to our new board members for their enthusiasm and their expertise,” said Stephan James, Co-Founder and Co-Chair of The Black Academy. “This group of heavy-hitters believes deeply in our mission and knows the massive impact The Black Academy will make. And we’re so thankful to the CMF for their contribution. Their investment helps get The Black Academy off the ground and the fact that they came onboard early makes all the difference.”
“The CMF is delighted to invest in this initiative, as we look at various ways to create and support activities that celebrate and elevate Black talent in Canada,” said Valerie Creighton, President and CEO, CMF. “We strongly believe in The Black Academy’s mission and look forward to working with Shamier Anderson and Stephan James to support Black talent and creators in the screen-based sector. We thank them, as well as the Board of Directors, for inviting us to support their work and dedication.”
Shamier Anderson Bio – Co-Founder & Co-Chair, The Black Academy
Shamier Anderson (Stowaway; Bruised; Invasion; Wynonna Earp; Love Jacked; Across The Line; Son of the South) is a Scarborough-born actor, producer, and writer and the president of Borough Bredd Productions. Anderson was named a TIFF Rising Star (2019) and recently sold his story, Super High, to New Line Cinema. Anderson will executive produce the film which stars Andy Samberg, Common, and Craig Robinson. In 2016, Anderson co-founded B.L.A.C.K with his brother Stephan James. Alongside his brother, he is the co-chair and co-founder of The Black Academy, a division of B.L.A.C.K, which aims to combat systemic racism while honouring, celebrating, and inspiring Black talent in Canada. Anderson was recently appointed to the Canadian Academy’s board of directors.
Stephan James Bio – Co-Founder & Co-Chair, The Black Academy
Stephan James (If Beale Street Could Talk; Homecoming; Race; Selma; 21 Bridges; #FreeRayshawn) is an Emmy®-, Golden Globe®-, and NAACP Image Award-nominated and Canadian Screen Award-winning Canadian actor from Scarborough, ON. James is the inaugural recipient of the CSAs’ Radius Award, given to a Canadian film or television professional who is making waves internationally, and a TIFF Rising Star (2015). In 2016, James co-founded B.L.A.C.K with his brother Shamier Anderson. Alongside his brother, he is the co-chair and co-founder of The Black Academy, a division of B.L.A.C.K, which aims to combat systemic racism while honouring, celebrating, and inspiring Black talent in Canada. James was recently appointed to the Canadian Academy’s board of directors and is an ambassador for the Academy’s Equity & Inclusion Fund.