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Canada Toronto actor-brothers Stephan James and Shamier Anderson launch The Black Academy

16:13  03 december  2020
16:13  03 december  2020 Source:   msn.com

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Scarborough-raised actors Stephan James and Shamier Anderson are busy with major Hollywood projects but they haven't forgotten their Toronto roots. James , who has a leading role in Amazon Prime Video's "Homecoming," and his brother Shamier Anderson , one of this year's TIFF Rising Stars

Stephan James (born December 16, 1993) is a Canadian actor . After starring in a string of television series as a teenager, he rose to prominence upon winning a Canadian Screen Award for Best Actor for his role as track and field sprinter Jesse Owens in the 2016 film Race.

TORONTO — When Toronto-raised actor Stephan James got the inaugural Radius Award at last year's Canadian Screen Awards, he felt incredibly honoured but also a bittersweetness.

Stephan James and woman sitting next to a window © Provided by The Canadian Press

The elation from being presented the trophy by his brother and fellow actor Shamier Anderson, while their friends and family tearfully watched from the audience, grew complicated when James realized: "I was probably going to be one of maybe a few Black people that were going to step on that stage that night."

"Something about it was just unsettling," the Golden Globe-nominated star of the Amazon Prime Video series "Homecoming" said in a recent interview from Los Angeles.

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The Toronto actor brothers are back home for the annual B.L.A.C.K. Ball, which this year is partnering with the Toronto International Film Festival fo Rising Hollywood stars Shamier Anderson and Stephan James admit it’s early in their burgeoning careers, but they feel a responsibility to inspire

Stephan James and his brother Shamier Anderson have partnered with the Canada Media Fund to inspire a younger generation of diverse talent. Stephan James , star of If Beale Street Could Talk and Amazon’s Homecoming, and his brother Shamier Anderson , who stars in season three of Amazon’s

"It was unsettling for myself, it was unsettling for Shamier."

Anderson and James are now taking steps to change that experience for Black Canadians in various lines of work — from arts and culture, to sports and science.

On Thursday, they launched The Black Academy, a new national division of their not-for-profit group B.L.A.C.K. Canada (Building A Legacy in Acting, Cinema + Knowledge), which they started about five years ago as a gala fundraiser in Toronto.

The brothers are still figuring out the details of exactly what the Black-led academy will do.

But they say it will be a permanent, year-round operation to honour, celebrate and showcase established and emerging Black talent, both anglophone and francophone, across the country.

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Stephan James , Actor : If Beale Street Could Talk. Stephan James was born on December 16, 1993 in Scarborough, Toronto , Ontario, Canada. - The 2019 Academy Awards (2019) Brother of actor Shamier Anderson . See more ». Star Sign

List of black Academy Award winners and nominees. Language. Watch. Edit. This list of black Academy Award winners and nominees is current as of the 91st Academy Awards ceremony, which was held on February 24, 2019.

"Shamier and I truly feel like it was our calling to have this placed on us now, and we're stepping into that calling," said James, whose film credits include "If Beale Street Could Talk," "Race" and "Selma."

"But the reality is, there's been a glaring gap for a long, long time."

Planned initiatives at the academy include awards presentations, educational programming, community outreach and panel discussions.

The bigger-picture goal: to break down barriers of discrimination and combat systemic racism in Canada for decades to come.

"That's how you create generational change," James said. "We're not for the moment. We're Black 365 days a year, we live in this experience in our own work life and our personal lives. And so this is really a place that is going to be around for the short term and for the long term."

The Canada Media Fund is providing financial support to the academy, through its Black and People of Colour (BPOC) Sector Development initiative, but the brothers are looking for more corporate partners who share their vision and mission to combat systemic racism.

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Stephan James Shamier Anderson Photos - (L-R) Stephan James , guest, Shamier Anderson , and guest attend "Endings, Beginnings" premiere during the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival at Ryerson Theatre on September 08, 2019 in Toronto , Canada.

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"The time is now," said Anderson, whose credits include the series "Wynonna Earp," the upcoming sci-fi thriller "Stowaway" and the boxing drama "Bruised," which marks Halle Berry's directorial debut.

"We've seen from our American counterparts that they've built things like the BET awards, the NAACP awards, the Soul Train Awards — and the list continues. And it's important that in Canada we now have our platform, our stage, our infrastructure — for us, by us."

And it's important to change the optics in the media, he added.

"If we can get the same love that 'Schitt's Creek' got at the Emmys, which was so incredible, it would be so great to now see the next Black show, the next Black producer, the next Black artist, the next Black athlete," Anderson said.

"I was such a proud Canadian when I saw 'Schitt's Creek' sweep, I was like 'Yes!' And now I'm looking forward to having somebody who looks like us as well."

The brothers have started to assemble what they call the academy's "Avengers" board of directors team, which the brothers will co-chair.

Board members who've signed on so far include Vanessa Craft, director of content partnerships at TikTok in Canada; Alica Hall, executive director of the Nia Centre for the Arts; and Wes Hall, founder of the firm Kingsdale Advisors.

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Other board members include Jennifer Holness, president of Hungry Eyes Media; Divya Shahani, an entertainment lawyer at Miller Thomson LLP; and actress-producer Tonya Williams, founder of the Reelworld Film Festival and Reelworld Screen Institute.

The board has only been able to meet via video conference, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the brothers are determined to launch now.

As the world faces a racial reckoning in the wake of the George Floyd killing and policy brutality protests, they want to create something that lasts longer than a "hashtag moment."

"The reality is, we're still breathing," Anderson said, "we're very fortunate, and there are other Black people who don't have the opportunity to still be alive, to even see the next day, pandemic or not pandemic.

"So this is why seeding this and founding this now, getting ahead of the game, getting ahead of what's to come."

Anderson and James grew up in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough, in a northern community housing project called Bay Mills.

"They were gruelling times," Anderson said from Toronto. "Ten years ago was a very different time in our life."

It's an experience they'll never forget and it's why they feel a responsibility to try to help others now, said the brothers, who are also ambassadors for the Equity and Inclusion Fund at the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television.

"If we have resistance, given our position in this industry, I can't imagine a little Black boy or girl at (the Toronto community of) Jane and Finch who wants to get out," Anderson said.

"Like Stephan says, you have to see it to believe it sometimes. And this is why the academy is formed. This is why two brothers under 30 are forming it with an Avenger team."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2020.

Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press

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