Browse the interview recordings below to learn from 11 trailblazers in Canadian arts and education.
Moderated by Nicole Inica Hamilton in 2022, these interviews capture key insights from some amazing Canadian pioneers in the arts and education.
Born in Barbados, John Alleyne immigrated to Canada with his family in 1965, and was accepted to the professional ballet program at the National Ballet School in 1971, joining as the school’s first Black Canadian student. Graduating in 1978, he then joined the Stuttgart Ballet in Germany where he began his choreographic career. John returned to Canada in 1984 and joined the National Ballet of Canada as a First Soloist, serving as the company’s resident choreographer from 1990 to 1992.
John was appointed Artistic Director of Ballet BC in 1992, and his leadership marked the beginning of a creative and prosperous period in the company's history as he implemented assertive outreach strategies for strengthening the company’s identity locally, nationally, and internationally.
Over the past 37 years, numerous internationally-respected companies, festivals, and institutions have commissioned new choreography from John. He is the recipient of prestigious awards acknowledging his outstanding contribution to the world of dance, including the first-ever honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from Simon Fraser University (2003), the Exceptional Achievement Award in the Performing Arts from the Black Historical and Cultural Society of British Columbia (2005), and the African-Canadian Achievement Award for Excellence in the Arts and Entertainment (2016), among many others.
Trey Anthony is a badass Jamaican-British-Canadian, truth teller, award-winning writer, and wellness expert. She’s the girl to call when you want to turn your inner shame into success! Known as the “Oprah of Canada,” Trey is the first Black woman in Canada to have her own primetime series on a major network. She has appeared on NBC, ABC, CBS, NPR, Fox, CTV, CBC, City TV, and Global Television, and has been featured in Forbes, Huffington Post, the Toronto Star, the Toronto Sun, The Globe and Mail, Essence Magazine, and Madame Noire publications. Trey is a former writer for OWN, Lionsgate, the Comedy Network, Women’s Television Network, and Global Television. She is also a contributing writer for Huffington Post and the Toronto Star, Canada’s largest daily newspaper. Her popular book, Black Girl in Love (with Herself), was published in 2021 by Hay House, the largest self-help publisher in North America.
Her award-winning play, Da Kink in My Hair, received four NAACP Image Awards including Best New Playwright. Da Kink has broken box office sales records in Canada, England, and the United States—it has grossed millions, been critically acclaimed, and was named one of the top ten plays in Canada’s theatrical history. Trey adapted her play How Black Mothers Say I Love You to film, which was shortlisted at the Sundance Film Festival. Currently a Television Development Producer at CTV Television and Bell Media, Trey is one of the highest-ranking Black women television executives in Canada.
Trey is passionate about diversity, inclusion—and of course wellness—and is a highly sought-after speaker. She has presented at Harvard University, New York University, and has been a guest lecturer and speaker at the University of Massachusetts, the University of Waterloo, McMaster University, and Ryerson University. She has delivered numerous keynotes and workshops to corporations and organizations around the world. Trey’s viral TEDxToronto talk “Coming Out of Your Box” has over 13,000 views.
The recipient of an Eve Ensler Vagina Warrior Award, recognizing the contributions of dynamic women in the arts, Trey has also received a Walk of Fame star in Brampton, Ontario. She is a recipient of the Harry Jerome Award for the Arts and was recently named one of the Top 100 Black Women in Canada to Watch from Canada International Black Women Excellence (CIBWE). Her popular touring theatrical wellness show, Black Girl in Love (with Herself), is a sold-out event every year. Trey is the rockstar of wellness for women! This pocket-sized powerhouse is a solo mom to her adopted son Kai, and in her spare time enjoys eating cupcakes and crying while watching This Is Us.
Based in Toronto, a native of Hamilton, Ontario, with roots in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, violinist Tanya Charles Iveniuk has performed across North and South America, and the Caribbean. Recipient of the Women’s Art Association of Canada Luella McCleary Award, the Gabriella Dory Prize in Music, and the John C. Holland Award, Tanya received a Bachelor of Music in Violin Performance (University of Toronto), and an Artist Diploma in Orchestral Performance (Glenn Gould School). Tanya is an alumna of the National Youth Orchestra of Canada and the National Academy Orchestra. Currently, she is the concertmaster of the Obiora Ensemble (Montreal, Quebec), and violinist with Ensemble du Monde (Guadeloupe), Toronto Mozart Players, Sinfonia Toronto, and the Odin Quartet. Her former posts include concertmaster and soloist with the Colour of Music Festival Orchestra (COMF) and the COMF Virtuosi (South Carolina, USA), as well as Associate Concertmaster of the Gateways Festival Orchestra.
Most recently, she was the featured soloist performing Vivaldi’s “Summer” with the Ontario Pops Orchestra, and her quartet released its first album entitled Journey Through Night. In 2022, Tanya looks forward to the Spotify release of her Vivaldi’s “Summer” solo, the YouTube release of her performance of Bisson’s “Divergimento,” and Bologne’s “Sinfonia Concertante in G” as soloist with the Toronto Mozart Players, and to performing with the Gateway Festival Orchestra in Carnegie Hall. Outside of the classical genre, Tanya was featured in Mirvish Theatre productions Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations, and Girl from the North Country. She is a violinist with Toronto-based mariachi band Viva Mexico Mariachi, and has recorded and performed alongside artists of various genres including AHI, David Usher, Shad, K-Os, the Transiberian Orchestra, and Stevie Wonder.
Tanya aims to train and inspire through music education and has provided musical training and consultations in English, French, and Spanish at the White Chapel Music Studio (Saint Vincent), and through the Ensemble du Monde outreach program at the Centro Regional de Estudios Musicales (Mexico). Tanya is a lecturer at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music and is on faculty at the Regent Park School of Music. Her mantra: “Keep your mind always open, and never stop educating and improving yourself. There is always something to learn and grow from.”
Kagiso Lesego Molope is an Indigenous South African award-winning novelist and playwright who writes post-apartheid, feminist, and resistance literature. Her work centres the history and experiences of Indigenous South Africans and tackles issues of race, class, sexuality, and identity; her books are read in schools across southern Africa as well as in parts of Europe. Kagiso’s published novels are Dancing in the Dust, The Mending Season, This Book Betrays My Brother, and Such a Lonely, Lovely Road.
Of French and Congolese origin, Zab Maboungou is the artistic director of Zab Maboungou/Compagnie Danse Nyata Nyata, a contemporary dance company founded in 1987, based in Montreal, Quebec, whose artistic vocation encompasses creation, research, and teaching. LOKETO, her dance technique, has become a model of its kind, and many disciplines are finding a source of inspiration in this particular method including song, music, theatre, and visual arts. Drawing on the rhythmic foundations of African dances and musical forms, this technique makes it possible to identify the pathways of breath and establish how it ensures their transmutation in principles of movement to develop presence in space, flexibility, physical, and rhythmic endurance.
“Choreographer and performer, philosopher and writer, Zab Maboungou is an artist whose works of great introspective power and committed body language, strike our spirits: a vibrant sound space and articulated bodies interpenetrating in the sobriety and brilliance of an art of dance of ‘something from nothing at a high level.’” Deborah Meyers, Vancouver
Awards recently received by Zab Maboungou include: Compagne de l’Ordre des arts et des lettres du Québec (2019), Dancer or Dance Company of the Year award at the Gala Dynastie, presented by Regroupement Québécois de la Danse (2020), and the Canada Governor General's Performing Arts Lifetime Artistic Achievement Award (2021).
Weyni Mengesha is the Artistic Director of Soulpepper Theatre Company in Toronto and an award-winning director, known for her ground-breaking work and community engagement. Weyni has directed shows across Canada that have gone on to tour nationally and internationally, and have been developed into television shows playing on CBC, Global, and Netflix. She has also directed in London, New York, and Los Angeles, garnering an NAACP nomination for Best Direction as well as Dora (Toronto), Drama League (New York), and Drama Critics Circle (Los Angeles) nominations and awards for Outstanding Direction. She has been an instructor at the National Theatre School of Canada, and the Canadian Film Centre and was Co-Artistic Director of the A.M.Y (artists mentoring youth) Project for seven years. She has also directed award winning short films, episodic TV and is developing her first feature.
Dwayne Morgan is a two-time Canadian National Poetry Slam Champion. He began his career as a spoken word artist in 1993, and founded Up From The Roots entertainment to promote the positive artistic contributions of African Canadian and urban-influenced artists in 1994.
A 2021 finalist for the Toronto Arts Foundation Margo Bindhart and Rita Davies Award for Cultural Leadership, Dwayne was also the 2018 winner of the Sheri-D Wilson Golden Beret Award for Career Achievement in the Spoken Word, a 2016 finalist for the Premier’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, and in 2013, was inducted into the Scarborough Walk of Fame. He has received both the African Canadian Achievement Award and the Harry Jerome Award for Excellence in the Arts.
Dwayne has performed for the former President of the United States Barack Obama, the former Governor General of Canada Michaëlle Jean, and the late leader of the NDP Jack Layton. He has shared the stage with many of Canada’s top artists including Russell Peters, while opening for international artists like Alicia Keys, and recording with Canadian artists, including Drake. He has published fourteen books, and in 2009, Dwayne’s work was translated into French, culminating in the book, Le Making of d’un Homme—he also has nine albums of his work to his credit. In 2008, a commemorative DVD entitled Dwayne Morgan The First Fifteen was released.
To further explore his creativity, Dwayne collaborated with Driftwood Studios to record Three Knocks, a ten-minute film that premiered at Toronto’s Reel World Film Festival. He is the producer and host of two TV shows—Poetically Speaking (Afroglobal Television Network) and Write in Toronto (Bell Fibe TV1)—and his one-man play Grade 8 appears on CBC’s PlayMe Podcast. In 2012, Dwayne performed at Super Bowl 46 in Indianapolis, Indiana; in 2019, he founded and co-produced the inaugural Toronto Spoken Soul Festival. His work ethic has led him internationally to 18 countries, and established him as a well-respected component of Toronto’s urban music community, the North American, and global spoken word scenes.
Born and raised in Brampton, Ontario in 1966, portrait artist Gordon Shadrach has lived in Toronto for over 25 years and now works from photographs at his in-home studio in the city’s east end. He received his Bachelor of Design (in Material Art & Design) from the Ontario College of Art & Design (OCAD) University and has a Master of Science in Education from Niagara University. Painting in oil on wood or canvas since 2013, Gordon returned to his original field of study in 2020 by exhibiting textile-based installation pieces. Exhibiting in solo and group art shows in Canada and the United States, Gordon’s painting “In Conversation” was included in a spring 2018 exhibit developed by the Royal Ontario Museum, “Here We Are Here: Black Canadian Contemporary Art.” In the summer of 2018 the exhibit went on tour, was presented at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, and opened at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in June of 2019.
Gordon’s work has also been exhibited at commercial art fair Art Toronto, Toronto cultural centres Black Artists Network and Dialogue (BAND) and the Nia Centre for the Arts, and at public institutions Agnes Etherington Arts Centre and the Department of Canadian Heritage. The Art of Gallery of Hamilton recently purchased his painting “Trade” for their permanent collection. Currently, Gordon is represented by the United Contemporary Gallery in Toronto.
Presenting insightful artist talks—in addition to his portraits and installation work—Gordon has appeared as a panelist on TVO’s The Agenda “Reinventing the Museum” and CBC Radio’s Metro Morning “Group of Seven Out, Underrepresented Artists In at the AGO.”
Active in Toronto’s artist community, Gordon is a creative consultant for the Left of Centre artist incubation project with the Nia Centre for the Arts. He also works with Dr. Elizabeth (Dori) Tunstall, Dean of Design at OCADU, as a member of the team developing and implementing the Black Youth Design Initiative (BYDI) which aims to engage Black youth by decolonizing design and addressing the systemic anti-Black racism that impedes Black communities from pursuing education in design.
Tafari is an African-centred educator, gardener, vegan chef and caterer, mother, and grandmother who was born in Trinidad and currently lives in Toronto. Tafari graduated from York University with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, a Bachelor of Education with an Ontario Teaching Certificate, a certificate in Anti-Racist Research and Practice, and a certificate in Early Childhood Education from Seneca College.
Homeschooling her son before embarking on opening her own African-centred school, Tafari co-ran the Umoja Learning Circle for over 20 years—this accredited private school was Toronto’s first African-centred environmentally-focused school. With a strong background in environmental education gained over four decades of personal and professional gardening experience, Tafari facilitated gardening and vegan cooking clubs at various community centres through the Toronto Parks & Recreation department for over 16 years.
Tafari cofounded Afri-Can FoodBasket, a non-profit community food security/sovereignty movement committed to meeting the nutrition and health needs of people of African descent. She also cofounded ANKOBEA, a cooperative economic development organization to fulfill the educational needs of children of African descent. Tafari is presently the warehouse manager of Black Food Toronto, a no-cost food program that delivers culturally appropriate food to people of African descent.
Composing vegan cookbooks, children’s stories, African-centred games, and learning resources, Tafari believes that formal education is necessary to succeed in society, but lived experience is paramount. She has delivered workshops teaching intergenerational groups how to create gardens in their backyards, on their balconies, and rooftops. She grows a 50 ft x 100 ft garden and uses the herbs to create sauces and blends for others. The kitchen—her favourite room—is where she has spent decades creating vegan foods for her family and community.
Tafari has committed her life to positively and powerfully educating the next generation, mentoring teens, and empowering adults while caring for and giving back to the planet. Her endeavours have been guided by love, decades of wisdom, and towards leaving the earth in a better condition than she found it.
Elizabeth (Dori) Tunstall is a design anthropologist, public intellectual, and design advocate who works at the intersections of critical theory, culture, and design. As Dean of Design at Ontario College of Art and Design University, she is the first Black and Black female dean of a faculty of design. She is a recognized leader in the decolonization of art and design education.
With a global career, Dori served as Associate Professor of Design Anthropology and Associate Dean at Swinburne University in Australia; she wrote the biweekly column “Un-Design” for The Conversation in Australia. In the U.S., she taught at the University of Illinois at Chicago, organized the U.S. National Design Policy Initiative, and served as a director of Design for Democracy.
Dori’s industry positions included UX strategists for Sapient Corporation and Arc Worldwide. Dori holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Stanford University and a B.A. in Anthropology from Bryn Mawr College.
Dawn Wilkinson, born in Montreal and raised in Toronto, is a graduate of the University of Toronto and the Canadian Film Centre’s Director's Lab and Short Dramatic Film Program. She directed the award-winning feature film Devotion and shorts Instant Dread, Dandelions, Wilderness, and Girls Who Say Yes.
Since being awarded the Women In Film and Television Toronto and Director’s Guild of Canada’s Emerging Television Director Award, she has directed many of Canada's top drama series including Heartland, Murdoch Mysteries, and Degrassi—which was nominated for a DGC Award for Best Family TV Series. Dawn’s comedy episodes of Sunnyside and Kim’s Convenience were also nominated for a Best Directing DGC Award.
She joined the Director’s Guild of America in 2016, and Dawn has since directed numerous U.S. network productions including The Resident, Switched At Birth, Reign, Greenleaf, Beyond, Dynasty, The Good Doctor, The Gifted, Roswell New Mexico, and multiple episodes of Nashville, Riverdale, Empire, All American, All American Homecoming, and Locke & Key. “Dissection,” Dawn’s episode of Locke & Key was nominated for a Best Directing DGC Award in 2020. Also in 2020, Dawn directed an episode of How To Get Away With Murder with Viola Davis, and Truth Be Told starring Octavia Spencer and Kate Hudson.
Dawn received rave reviews for Hallmark’s TV movie A Nashville Christmas Carol, and was recently the Executive Producing Director on the upcoming Starz and Lionsgate series Step Up, directing five episodes for Season 3. Dawn is currently in post-production on her feature film Block Party for Branch Out Productions and Buzzfeed Studios.