Racism in media, the Oscars and inappropriate music lyrics were just a few topics examined at a panel discussion held at Cawthra Park Secondary School as part of Black History Month.
On Tuesday, the school auditorium was filled with students eager to hear from five women who have found success in entertainment and media, despite having to overcome stereotypes and race-related challenges. The “Women in Media” panel members included Nneka Elliott, co-host of CP24 Breakfast, Arisa Cox, host of Big Brother Canada, Nana Aba Duncan, CBC Radio host, Karlyn Percil-Mercieca, author and motivational speaker and singer-songwriter Jully Black.
Each with their unique set of circumstances, the panelists had one thing in common: as soon as they stopped caring about how others viewed them, they found success.
“The second you make that switch and see that what makes you weird also makes you unique, you’re free,” said Cox, who’s resume includes work for Entertainment Tonight Canada, The National, CBCNN, Cineflix and The National Post.
Cox detailed her struggles in trying to find confidence in a newsroom filled with Caucasians. Her opinion often differed from her counterparts and it took some time to realize having that countervailing voice was a good thing.
These experiences were echoed by Duncan, who said she used her own resume to give her the confidence she needed in the workplace.
A host and producer of CBC Radio 2’s official music chart countdown, Canada Live and Big City, Small World, Duncan advised the audience to take a look at what they’ve accomplished “… and remember, you’re awesome.”
In newsrooms, especially, Duncan said there might be more diverse hosts and entertainers on the surface, but underneath it all, the directors and producers are predominantly white.
“More needs to be done to penetrate the upper levels,” added Elliot.
Disappointed with the ongoing conversations surrounding race relations, Elliott stressed there are a lot of people in media and entertainment who are out of touch with what’s going on around them.
And based on the scandal surrounding the Oscar nominations, which seemingly negated the black community, Elliot said it just goes to show how uninformed people can be.
She added, lots of people went out to see Straight Outta Compton, Creed and Fast and the Furious 7, all with black actors in leading roles, but these films weren’t even in the conversation.
Percil-Mercieca, who has been on Oprah three times for her work towards inspiring women, said one of her biggest encounters with racism was negotiating her salary. She was told she was coming off as an “angry black woman” when she was only trying to get what she felt she was due from an employer.
Black said she’s never been afraid of that label (“angry black woman”), and doesn’t let anyone get away with placing judgments on her that are untrue, especially in the public realm. A highly popular R & B singer, Black recalls a time when a radio host asked her about her struggles with poverty and crime while living in the Jane and Finch area of Toronto. She swiftly corrected the host, as her lived experiences weren’t at all similar to what the host was describing.
“The hair might not be real sometimes, but I am,” she joked with the crowd.
Calling the panel discussion “informative and empowering”, Aline-Claire Huynh, 17, a student of Cawthra Park Secondary School, said she was impressed with how the panelists used their race as a driver to accomplish their goals and hopes she can do the same.
Sydney Perkins, 17, noted the panelists reminded her to appreciate herself and others around her.
At the end of the presentation, the panel members agreed the millennial generation has successfully embraced inclusivity and diversity, which gives them a great deal of hope for the future.
Source: The Mississauga News