A few weeks back my girlfriend Sara @ me in a Tweet about an event happening in our city. The event was ‘Mirror Images: Conversations on Diversity & Representation In Media’, and just by the title alone I was intrigued. Then I saw the panel included a range of black Canadian women who work behind and in front of the camera as well as on radio and in print. Producers, writers, stylist, reporter, blogger – just few of the titles of the women who were going to be speaking at this event.
So on the afternoon of Sunday Oct. 26th, I made my way to Harlem Restaurant (downtown Toronto). I got there early and met some cool young ladies who also came solo. We sat up front and chatted away about our own experiences working and getting started in the media industry. It’s comforting to meet like minded women who are experiencing the same obstacles as me as they pursue their dreams and hearing how they overcome them.
The event kicked off with host and moderator Bee Qammie explaining how the event came about. She had Tweeted out an idea earlier in the year, that it’d be great to go to an event featuring a panel of black Canadian women in media who would share their experiences. Quite a few folks agreed and since this event didn’t exist, Bee took it on and made it happen.
This talented panel included CityNews producer Kim Johnson, stylist and editor of HOLR Magazine Ingrie Williams, host of Big Brother Canada Arisa Cox, G987 radio personality Tatiana King and columnist/videographer Namugenyi Kiwanuka. Unfortunately CP24 reporter/anchor Nneka Elliott wasn’t able to make it due to last minute work schedule changes but was able to send in her responses to host Bee Qammie’s questions.
One of the many take aways that will resonate with me after this event was hearing news producer Kim Johnson discuss the importance of having women of colour in editorial and production roles to ensure stories that matter to our community get pushed to the forefront. So often we think the change occurs when we see women who look like us cover the news, but just as important are the women of colour who are behind the cameras who write the news, produce the segments and/or edit the footage. There is power in being in that decision making role.
Stylist and editor Ingrie Williams touched on how often she makes a conscious effort to bring diversity to photo-shoots by highlighting models of colour and expanding the preconceived and confining definitions of beauty, when major consumer brands often never consider it for their ads.
It was interesting to hear just how often these women have encountered discussions about their hair at the workplace, reassuring me that I’m not alone when coworkers try to touch my hair or ask why its so big (eye roll). Arisa and Namugenyi both spoke on instances where they were told to straighten their hair for work. It’s these small daily battles that these women face and use as opportunities to bring awareness in their workplaces, that affords those of us coming up in this industry to be hopefully accepted.
After the panel discussion, we all had a chance to walk around and network. I had a great chat with Namugenyi whose career I’ve followed ever since her videographer days at MuchMusic. As I first started thinking about getting into media, seeing a fellow African sister with a unique name on the nation’s top music station was not only reaffirming, it was powerfully inspiring.
Really hope Bee does a part two to this event, because the discussions could have gone on further and there was so much enthusiasm in the room. Overall, a great event!