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Sibling actors Shamier Anderson and Stephan James, co-founders and co-chairs of The Black Academy.

NICOLE DE KHORS /Handout

After more than a year without a traditional in-person awards show to call its own, Canada’s entertainment industry is hungry to get back to the business of spotlighting this country’s brightest talents in the biggest way possible. Enter: The Black Academy.

The upstart organization, launched this past December by sibling actors Stephan James (Homecoming) and Shamier Anderson (Stowaway), announced Monday that it has secured a three-year deal with the CBC to broadcast the country’s first awards show honouring Black talent.

The gala, which will be produced by Toronto’s Insight Productions, will air live on CBC TV as well as streaming service CBC Gem, and aims to celebrate “established and emerging” Black Canadian talent across film, television, music, culture and sports. The first live telecast is set for the fall of 2022.

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“The CBC was very receptive to making something that would feel unlike anything that’s ever been on their network: big, bold, colourful. To just push the envelope of what is expected from awards shows typically,” James said in an interview with The Globe and Mail.

“And key for us is Insight making a concentrated effort to have Black crew and Black senior staff be part of this. They share the same sentiment as how to uplift Black talent on the screen, and behind the scenes.”

James and Anderson launched The Black Academy with the aim of “giving back the resources that Stephan and I were afforded while coming up in the business,” as Anderson put it. The organization, which focuses on both English- and French-speaking Black talent, is a division of the brothers’ B.L.A.C.K. (Building a Legacy in Acting, Cinema + Knowledge) Canada, a not-for-profit group that the Scarborough-raised siblings founded five years ago.

According to James and Anderson, the forthcoming telecast will feature award presentations, performances and tributes to homegrown talent. The show’s exact title, plus specific award categories and details on the submission process, will be revealed at a later date.

The brothers view securing a three-year deal from the CBC as an achievement in itself. “It proves that this is more than just a moment for the network – they’re not just living in a hashtag world where it’s topical to put on a show like this,” James said. It is also a sign of progress for the organization, which the brothers say has faced some resistance since launch.

“There is resistance to the idea of support, from bureaucratic red tape to government grants to what everyone calls ‘envelopes’ to secure funding for programs,” Anderson said. “There has been a lot of saying that we don’t fit this criteria or don’t fit into this box. That’s the resistance, or rather roadblocks, that we’ve been facing.”

Initially, The Black Academy received funding from the Canada Media Fund, and has now picked up support from Cineplex and Roots, with more conversations “moving and evolving every day,” Anderson added.

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Meanwhile, Anderson and James promoted Martha Hagos as The Black Academy’s executive director. Hagos, who has worked extensively with the brothers on B.L.A.C.K. Canada, will “focus on building out and executing the strategic vision” of the organization.

Martha Hagos, executive director of The Black Academy and B.L.A.C.K. Canada.

Kahame Msiska/Handout

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