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Legacy Awards unapologetically honour Black Canadian expertise | CBC Information Categorical Instances

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“Put your melanated fingers collectively,” actor Shamier Anderson introduced onstage on Sunday at the Legacy Awards in Toronto. In entrance of him was a sea of principally Black faces, a sight not often ever seen at an awards present on this nation.

Smiling broadly, Anderson made no try to cover that.

“We’re again, and nonetheless Black!” he stated, to a spherical of cheers and applause.

This was the second 12 months for the Legacy Awards, Canada’s first awards ceremony devoted to honouring all-Black expertise. It ran once more on the venue Historical past, however founders Anderson and his brother Stephan James set this present up as one thing completely different.

Hosted by musician Keisha Chanté as a substitute of the brothers themselves, this 12 months’s occasion sought to broaden its attraction and enhance its manufacturing worth because the awards moved from first-show pleasure to turning into an established establishment within the Canadian media panorama. 

WATCH | 2023 Legacy Awards: 

Celebrations of sturdy phrases

This was largely achieved by recognizing protest, activism and political statements — one thing that conventional award reveals can battle to acknowledge head-on.

The 90-minute present was produced by the Black Academy, an initiative Anderson and James launched in December 2020. However Anderson and James had been rapidly ushered off-stage by Chanté, who famous she took on the internet hosting position for 3 causes: the chance for “hearth pics for Instagram,” a piece visa that requires her to work a part of the time in Canada and the chance to rejoice Black expertise in a rustic that usually fails to take action. 

“Rising up, for me, I did not actually see myself on tv,” Chanté advised CBC Information on the present’s Black carpet. “You need to really feel such as you’re counted, such as you’re a part of issues. So it is very important see your self on tv and know that it is doable. 

“When you do not see it, you do not suppose it is doable.”

Jully Black performs a medley of her music on the Legacy Awards on Sunday. (Ernesto Distefanoe/The Black Academy/CBC)

After the hosts’ rat-a-tat introduction got here the evening’s first efficiency, from honouree Jully Black. Supported by a glittering, gold-bedecked band, Black ran by means of three of her hits: Queen; a rendition of Sweat of Your Forehead devoted to Jamaican followers within the viewers; and Seven Day Idiot

She was adopted by Lu Kala and her hit Fairly Lady Period; a rendition of Canadian jazz pianist Oscar Peterson’s Hymn to Freedom carried out by Jackie Richardson, Thompson Egbo-Egbo and ballerina Jasmine Renée Thomas; and a rendition of the Rascalz traditional Northern Contact by Taaylee G, Tamir, YSN Fab and Zach Zoya to finish the present.

Two women stand onstage. Behind them are the words "Athlete Award: Kia Nurse."
From left, Kia and Tamika Nurse seem onstage on the Legacy Awards. Kia, an expert basketball participant, was introduced with the Athlete Award by her sister, Tamika. (Ernesto Distefano/The Black Academy/CBC)

There was even a Jamaica-versus-Trinidad rap battle between Anderson, James and Chanté. That part included a partial reference to final 12 months’s present, through which Anderson and James gave out Jamaican patties to viewers members. This time, Chanté rapped, “You axe a Trini woman host, you ask for bother / Two versus one however I am used to consuming doubles,” a reference to the same avenue meals from Trinidad & Tobago.

‘Overlook all of the naysayers’

Whereas interspersed with performances and tributes, the present was primarily devoted to honouring award recipients.

Skilled basketball participant Kia Nurse was introduced with the Athlete Award, given to her onstage by her sister Tamika Nurse. This was adopted by the Visionary Award, introduced to Tonya Williams, the actor, activist and founder of the Reelworld Movie Pageant (now Reelworld Movie Institute), by Toronto Worldwide Movie Pageant CEO Cameron Bailey. 

Williams spoke concerning the significance of an evening that acknowledges Black expertise. She stated she first entered the sphere of appearing to extend “constructive portrayals of people that appear to be [her].”

The extra she labored in that trade, the extra she realized Black folks and folks of color had been poorly depicted, as a result of “these units had been stuffed, primarily, with white males.”

Subsequent to hit the stage was Lu Kala, a Congolese Canadian singer whose observe Fairly Lady Period turned probably the most common songs of the final 12 months. Taking residence the Rising Artist Award, she spoke each on stage and on the carpet about what a present like this may have meant to her as a baby — and the way being acknowledged as a pop star, somewhat than being miscategorized as an R&B singer, may help make the following era of singers really feel extra accepted.

“We would like different little Black children to be pop stars. I simply need them to maintain going,” she stated on the carpet forward of the awards. “Overlook all of the naysayers that stated you possibly can’t make it. I am residing proof. I am on my manner up and you’ll be there, too.”

A woman wearing a purple jumpsuit speaks into a microphone onstage.
Lu Kala, the singer behind Fairly Lady Period, speaks after accepting her award for Rising Artist. (Ernesto Distefanoe/The Black Academy/CBC)

Subsequent was the Icon Award for Jully Black, who gained worldwide consideration after changing the phrases “our residence and fatherland” with “our residence on fatherland” whereas singing the Canadian nationwide anthem on the NBA All-Star Sport earlier this 12 months.

Lastly, filmmaker Director X, actual identify Julien Christian Lutz, acquired the 2023 Trailblazer Award. Recognized for working with stars like Drake, Rihanna and Kendrick Lamar, Lutz spoke about how, within the latest previous, there have been successfully no Black packages, radio or awards reveals in Canada. 

“Generally we neglect how far we have come, as a result of we’re too within the second,” he stated. “As a result of … it wasn’t that way back we had been preventing to be thought-about human beings. So get up, Black Canada, maintain your head up excessive, converse together with your highly effective voice, and say, ‘That is our historical past, that is our legacy, that is our nation.'”


For extra tales concerning the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success tales throughout the Black neighborhood — take a look at Being Black in Canada, a CBC venture Black Canadians may be happy with. You’ll be able to learn extra tales right here.

A banner of upturned fists, with the words 'Being Black in Canada'.


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