The following blog post was written by Tahira Ebrahim, Centre Liaison Officer at the Centre for Excellence in Immigrant and Intercultural Advancement.
On March 16, I had the opportunity to participate in an evening with Trey Anthony, director and playwright of Da Kink in my Hair, coming to Theatre Calgary this fall. Trey is an award winning playwright, executive producer, actor, and comedian, and the first Canadian black woman to write and produce a television show on a major prime-time Canadian network.
Trey’s talk, which was a collaboration between Bow Valley College, the YWCA of Calgary, and Theatre Calgary, was rooted in transcendent conversations of personal struggle, success, family, and love. Trey’s talk also touched upon a topic that some of us may be less familiar with on an intimate level: widespread discrimination and absence of diversity in the entertainment industry.
While hashtags such as #OscarsSoWhite and controversies such as blackface and brownface are old news to the social media world, the issue of discrimination in places such as Hollywood remain glaringly persistent. In an essay for the New York Times, Aziz Ansari points out that:
“Even at a time when minorities account for almost 40 percent of the American population, when Hollywood wants an “everyman,” what it really wants is a straight white guy. But a straight white guy is not every man. The “everyman” is everybody.”
Aziz’s comment references the fact that discrimination on the silver screen, or television, goes far beyond issues of race and into areas of gender and sexual orientation.
In a moderated talk hosted by the Intercultural Centre for Black History Month, Chris Clare of One Circle, spoke to the niche roles that black men continue to be earmarked for, paralleling other niche roles set out for subsequent ethnic groups and genders, in film and television.
Why is this a big deal, you ask? People continue to enjoy films, films continue to make money at the box office, and people in the industry remain employed.
Yet if one were to examine the level of influence our entertainment has on our conscious and subconscious worldview, we start to see how a pattern of casting calls, and therefore faces and depictions of characters on our screens, have impact on our pre-existing notions of people and communities.
Seeking out a range of films, including international films and documentaries, exposes us to more authentic experiences of communities outside of our own and breaks down barriers that our silver screens and television screens have been building up for decades.
Join the Intercultural Centre on Wednesday, June 29 for a dialogue around racism and inclusion in Calgary. The IC is hosting filmmaker Iman Bukhari and screening her newest documentary YYC Colours.
Ansari, A. (2015, November 10). Aziz Ansari on Acting, Race and Hollywood. New York Times. Retrieved May 18, 2016, from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/15/arts/television/aziz-ansari-on-acting-...