These women were voices for equity. Now they are honored as “changemakers”


Kayla Grey, Kathleen Newman-Bremang and Amanda Parris say being named winners of the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television’s inaugural Changemaker Award is “a daunting honor” but also “a sign of hope of change to come.

The award, which will be presented Sunday evening during the Canadian Screen Awards, recognizes those who bring attention to systemic racism and promote equity and inclusion in Canadian media.

“For the Canadian Screen Awards to give us this honor, I think they are also committed to doing more work,” said Newman-Bremang, Deputy Director of Toronto, CarefreeRefinery29’s online community for black women.

“You can’t put the three of us on something and say you respect our work if you’re not equally willing to continue that conversation.”

Create more space for diverse talents

For this trio, that conversation has often been about how to create more space for fellow black journalists and how to amplify the stories that go unheard.

A Diversity survey 2021 by the Canadian Association of Journalists revealed that 75% of the approximately 3,900 respondents were white, compared to only 10% Asian, 6% Aboriginal and 3% Black.

“I’m part of a continuum of people who are constantly trying to push this industry into spaces where it keeps saying it doesn’t want to go,” said Parris, a Toronto-based CBC host, playwright and screenwriter. .

“I can only do this work because of the work of the people who came before me, and I’m doing it for the people who will come after me.”

But, she added, it’s hard to say if any meaningful change has happened, “because the doors that have been opened and the spaces that have been created have not been structural, which means that ‘they can be closed’.

“Until there’s structural change, I don’t know if the idea of ​​a changemaker makes the most sense,” she said.

“I think we start conversations, we infiltrate, we subvert. But I don’t know if it’s on us, we don’t have that kind of power.”

Seeking to progress beyond being “the first”

For Toronto-based Grey, the first black woman to host a flagship sports show in the country with TSN’s Changethe ‘changemaker’ label is difficult as she sees working to help herself as just who she is – not something ‘radical’.

“I get introduced as ‘the first’ and I don’t want to be anymore,” she said.

“I want to be like, ‘Yeah, and look who came behind me and who’s next to me.’ This industry doesn’t make people who look like me last, and that’s lonely.

“It’s such a great feeling to be and work with people like you and I want people to really experience that here.”

Sunday’s celebration, which will air on CBC-TV and CBC Gem, will focus on the flagship categories of film and television. General nominations are led by the Indigenous thriller night raiders and CBC’s millennial comedy-drama Kind of.

The first of several virtual awards shows kicked off on Monday with the news broadcast and the documentary and factual categories. CTV’s Lisa LaFlamme was named Top National Anchor, CBC’s The National won Best National Newscast and APTN’s Tina House received Best National Reporter.

Other ceremonies taking place nightly this week include tributes to sports programming, kids and animation, lifestyle and reality, dramatic and comedic craft, and film.

A “degree of weight” on the actors of change

Parris said she finds joy in working to connect with a diverse audience, expand CBC’s reach and woo the next generation.

But she said “there’s a degree of weight that comes with that.”

“You add an ancestral responsibility and you feel it on so many levels, the pressure that we all carry with us.

“You wonder what it would be like if I didn’t walk around with all these things, how would my imagination be free?”

Newman-Bremang said the pressure was a privilege because there were so few black women in the same rooms they were in, and over time it becomes possible to navigate those white spaces and talk to those supervisors. whites.

Which, in the end, can lead to creating new spaces and hiring new supervisors who are much more like them.

‘Change doesn’t happen at the entry level’: Parris

According to that same CAJ survey, white respondents held at least eight out of 10 supervisory positions, while black respondents were twice as likely to hold part-time jobs as full-time.

This is one of the main reasons why the biggest change changemakers would like to see this year is hiring more Black, Indigenous and people of color, especially in leadership positions.

“Change doesn’t happen at the entry level,” Parris said.

Retention is also important, Gray said, and must come with active support for employees of color, a healthier work culture and “real conversations” about fair compensation.

Ultimately, it’s work these women hope to see the entire industry come together to do, though building a bridge for those like them will always be a priority.

“We’re at that pivotal moment where we can break the system because we’re in it. That to me is why there’s immense pressure, but I’m not backing away from it,” Gray said.

“I accept it, because it’s such a privilege to be invited into these rooms and to be given tools to break down the walls so that more people can come forward and join us in these spaces…so that we can all say ‘I’m thriving.’

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to stories of success within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project that Black Canadians can be proud of.