By: Melissa Cohan
In the same year as the brutal George Floyd murder, Samantha Kaine from Quebec founded the Independent Media Producers Association of Creative Talent, or I.M.P.A.C.T., A national, member-based non-profit organization founded and created in 2020 to combat systemic and anti-Black racism.
Kaine says she started the non-profit because of how the world witnessed “the visual and visceral murder of George Floyd.” She says, “It struck me as, if we don’t make a change now, when will that happen?”
Systemic Racism in Entertainment
In Canada, systemic racism is still an issue that needs to be addressed. In Canadian entertainment, there is a significant disparity in the hiring of Black, Indigenous, and people of colour (BIPOC) versus the hiring of white people. A report by the Writers Guild of Canada from April 2021 shows that 76 percent of consulting producers and 93 percent of executive producers were white. An updated report shows mostly single-digit changes in these hiring practices.
This is what Kaine aims to change with her non-profit. “We raised over $300,000 for Black, Indigenous, and people of colour producers that were not getting money from the Canadian government, for COVID especially.”
In 2020, more than 75 Black Canadian entertainment professionals wrote an open letter to the federal government calling out systemic racism in the industry. The open letter says, “At every level, systems are in place to under-finance and under-support our projects… We should not have to move to the U.S. to make a basic living.”
According to an article written last year in the Toronto Star, the gain in the representation of Black Canadian filmmakers has been slow.
Samantha Kaine and I.M.P.A.C.T. work to fill these gaps by creating programs aimed towards creators of afro, afro-indigenous, and those who identify as Black descent. “So, we have a membership base that we create programs for in order for them to have sustainable careers.”
Where there is a call for change, there is also pushback. Kaine openly discusses the backlash she has received, saying, “We wrote a letter along with other like-minded organizations too. It was for the Canadian Screen Awards, where we had gentlemen come on and say anyone can tell any story. Well, no, you can’t because there are those of us in the Black community that are done with seeing Black trauma porn. It’s disgusting.”
Kaine refers to television series and movies depicting Black people negatively and notes, “We have stories that don’t involve baby mamas and fathers that are always in prison and never around for their children. That’s not our story. That’s not something that we want to keep on putting out in the universe.”
While there is a long way to go, a show like CBC’s “The Porter,” which is about the formation of the first black labour union in the world, is receiving praise for not being another television series only about the subjugation of black people.
Kaine notes that another area of pushback is where she and I.M.P.A.C.T. are located geographically in Canada. “I.M.P.A.C.T. is in Montreal, so we are based in Montreal, and in Quebec, systemic racism is not even acknowledged. So how can you work on dismantling something when you deny the problem exists?”
As a black woman maneuvering through the Canadian entertainment industry, Kaine has faced prejudice and systemic racism. Despite this, she is grateful for all of I.M.P.A.C.T.’s success.
The non-profit has received testimonials from its members, who have had great successes networking at events like Berlin Alley in Germany and Content London in the UK. “We have a lot of support from like-minded organizations. We have a lot of support from Canadian funding bodies.” While, at times, the work can be exhausting, Kaine notes, “When you love what you do, it’s not really work. Right?”