The Gaze: Episode Three ft. Michelle Latimer

The Gaze podcast wraps up its sophomore season focus on Indigenous female filmmakers with this final episode featuring filmmaker Michelle Latimer. Listen below and visit their website for more.

About this episode:

An actor turned filmmaker, Michelle broke onto the scene as a writer/producer for the award-winning documentary “Jackpot.” Since then, she has directed several films including the short animation “Choke,” the dramatic short “Cockroach” and the feature documentary “Alias.” Most recently, Michelle was the showrunner on the critically-acclaimed Viceland series “Rise,” which follows indigenous movements of resistance across the Americas.

About the Gaze: The show is now a monthly podcast available for download on iTunes, Soundcloud and Google Play. In this sophomore season, we sit down with three female Indigenous filmmakers to discuss the creative, commercial and emotional labour of making films in Canada.

Check out This is Worldtown’s interview with hosts Aisha and Maya and stream episode one and two from this season. Also keep an eye our for our forthcoming series on Indigenous female mediamakers.

Get to Know: The Women on Stage at #Manifesto11

Shout-out to the women of colour performers who share stages every day with their male counterparts, in an industry that doesn’t always recognize their contributions.

This weekend, Toronto’s Manifesto festival concert will feature headliners Majid Jordan, Jidenna, Isaiah Rashad and the Internet. With a heavily male focused line-up, This is Worldtown takes a look at the women who will be throwing it down this Saturday at Echo Beach.

The Sorority

  • This is an exciting festival debut for the female rap collective hailing from Toronto called the Sorority, and featuring MCs Haviah Mighty, Keysha Freshh, Lex Leosis, pHoenix Pagliacci.
  • They gained notoreity after winning at an all-female cipher in on International Women’s Day in March 2016, with a video of their performance going viral.
  • Watch their video Ladies Night feat. Leila Day, 20 years after the release of original Ladies Night  featuring the great MCs Lil’ Kim, Angie Martinez, Left Eye, Da Brat & Missy Elliott.
  • The entire entire production was done by women and features appearances by original Bad Gyal, and the first Canadian MC to ever be signed to an American record label, Michie Mee.


  • Tika Simone is a multi-tasking scene builder, but when she takes the stage, her songs capture your full attention.
  • In addition to performing, Tika is making waves as a cultural producer and entrepreneur. She is the founder of the Known Unknown, a female-focused music series, and overseer of #BAREGYAL, Toronto’s premiere party for women of colour.
  • She is also the co-founder of #GYALCAST, the pop culture podcast where music, sex and black girl magic meet.
  • Tika has spoken openly about her issues with trauma and depression and how her EP Carry On helped her healing. Listen below.

Syd from the Internet

  • Twenty-five year old, Los Angeles native Syd (born Sydney Bennett) made her name as Syd Tha Kid, producer of hip-hop collective Odd Future.
  • She made her debut as the frontwoman for The Internet in 2011 bringing smooth, ethereal sounds and standing confidently as a gay frontwoman in a space that can be hyper masculine.
  • Syd is believed to have come out on the Internet’s 2011 video “Cocaine”.
  • Syd comes from a musical family: her mother is a former DJ and her uncle in old school producer Mikey Bennett.
  • With Syd at the front, the Internet’s album Ego Death was nominated for a Grammy in 2016.
  • In February, she released her debut solo album Fin — what she told Pitchfork is “my descent into the depth I want the band to get to”.

Watch the video for, the appropriately titled, “All About Me” from Fin:


Watch the full promo for #Manifesto11 concert on Saturday below. And check out a full list of events happening over the weekend on their website.

Imagined Britain: Remembering our past to get to the present

By Sadia Ahmad

It’s been eleven months since the referendum for Britain to leave the EU took place. The one which left me waking morning after morning for weeks, numbed by shock, stomach knotted, wondering what on earth my country had done. We are never as explicitly aware of so-called ‘national’ identity than at voting time. But a nation is made whole only by its constituent parts — voting is merely individual people deciding in synchronicity. National decisions reflect our localised struggles, those of our cities, communities, families, and finally, ourselves. It’s in examining the micro, personal struggle we find the macro, national struggle. We recognize in both the destructive consequences of stubbornness, pride, blind spots, the pain wrought of turning away from ugly truths, and lack of willingness to embrace change. And like any personal narrative built on unstable foundations, the false narrative of ‘Great’ Britain is threatening to come undone.

As time has passed I’ve wondered, now more than ever, not of Britain’s uncertain future – bleak as it looks – but its past. The way we tell stories matters, and dictates our response. We see the heightened, panic-inducing coverage of London’s brutal attacks just this weekend, the ‘us vs them’ rhetoric, a PM declaring Muslim communities ‘too tolerant’ of extremism. All this overlooks a more complicated reality: of a government’s systematic, repeated cuts to police budgets, armed forces, emergency and border agency services. It speaks of arms sales to an ISIS-backing Saudi Arabia, and of a country limiting social mobility along lines of race and religion as well as class.

Post-Empire, post-war Britain has been characterised largely by stability, a certain pragmatism – governed with a stern, but earnest, temperament. Overwrought displays of drama, extremist ideological and fantastical thinking? No, no, not here, dear, we’re British. We are proud, sensibly middle of the road, we do what’s rational, what’s fair. No wonder the Tories are fighting this election with the empty slogan ‘strong and stable’ – it resonates in the national psyche. But this is to grossly misrepresent our history, of a brutal, prolonged colonial rule, underpinned by extremist beliefs of our own superiority. And post-referendum, our glaring blind spots are coming forcefully into view.

British-born Indian MP Shashi Tharoor recently spoke of Britain’s ‘historical amnesia’ — of a nation unable to come to terms with its colonial history (further explored in the acerbically titled, Inglorious Empire). Former British Museum director Neil MacGregor agreed:

In Britain, we use our history in order to comfort us to make us feel stronger, to remind ourselves that we were always, always deep down, good people…. Maybe we mention a little bit of slave trade, a few wars here and there, but the chapters we insist on are the sunny ones.

He contrasts this with Germany’s honest and painful reappraisal of its violent past, suggesting this honesty has played a role in rebuilding the country, now thriving, a leader within its continent. As anyone educated in the UK can tell you, the history curriculum is somewhat lacking in balance and objectivity. Rarely are British schoolchildren invited to think about why English is one of the most widely spoken languages, or why we’re the only country to have the word ‘Great’ in our official name. In eighteen years of British schooling, I learned nothing of the 300 years of British rule in India, land violently split into India and (my parents’ homeland) Pakistan, of various colonies around the world, and the pain wrought of wrenching themselves free of British rule. The appeal of Brexit lay in nostalgia for this former empire. A superiority internalised, deeply rooted, reinforced by our educational, cultural, and institutional structures. And so, 17 million voted for British exceptionalism, believing a small island of under 70 million could thrive outside the world’s largest trading bloc, because we, of course, are a great trading nation, aren’t we? What we misunderstand of ourselves stretches back to our earliest past.

I spend a good portion of my time volunteering with vulnerable, emotionally distressed adults. It has proved to be a healing act in a time I feel  the most anxious of division. Reaching out across social, economic and cultural divides – mental health issues disproportionately affect the socioeconomically disadvantaged, minorities, and other marginalised groups – is uncomfortable, and whatever your differences or similarities, sitting with another’s deepest hurts is painful. The grinding work of honest self-reflection can feel tedious and wincing. As anyone who has been in therapy, or rehabilitation, will attest, only through this can there be some healthy re-emergence. It’s also a meeting of worlds, of different trajectories. It forces you to confront your advantages, the turns your life took and didn’t, and the privilege you were afforded. It makes you think about things you are grateful for and relieved you never had to think about. Doing this in the name of human connection is restorative, for all involved. But what many who do such work would be perhaps reluctant to say, is the arising guilt, grateful distance, and relief, in this space where advantage meets disadvantage, where health meets illness, where comfort meets alienation. It’s deeply uncomfortable and deeply humbling. It requires a loss of ego, pride, and stretches your world until it takes on new and unfamiliar dimensions. And it’s in this work, I cannot help but draw parallels between the journey of a person, afflicted with depression, or addiction, or suicidal ideation, or shame, and a nation. The more we build our lives on untruths, the messier the fallout when these come up against reality.

This will be more apparent than ever in upcoming Brexit negotiations, with Brussels already being warned ‘Britain is no longer the rational, stable country that we are used to’, and is these days more prone to fantasy. We need to pay attention to our stories in order to heal (even Churchill said it – ‘the only way out is through’). Until we can do this as individuals, and facilitate it in others, we may well continue to fall short as a collective. Joan Didion said that ‘we tell ourselves stories in order to live’; just as a person comes to believe the story they’ve been told over and over about themselves, finding themselves in a kind of cognitive crisis, a nation comes to believe it’s own narrative, too. But our national story has lost resonance because it does not speak truthfully about our past or present. Coming to terms with Britain’s imperial history will be grimacing, entail a painful reconfiguration of the communal self, and it will take energy, as does any clearing of toxicity built up over time. But if we do not, much like the individual who cannot break free of false beliefs, the nation will continue to lose itself.

British-Pakistani actor and musician Riz Ahmed spoke of such issues in a recent address of Parliament, calling out the shared responsibility of actors and politicians to fairly represent society. He expressed the urgency with which our national story needs updating from the one we’ve been sold for too long: a story ‘so narrow, about who we are, and who we’ve been, and who we should be’. If we cannot reimagine the narrative, we risk rupturing our communities altogether. He notes in particular, that if young ethnic minorities are to find a healthy place in this society, they need to be seen, heard, and represented. The cost is losing them to another, more malignant narrative. Reckoning honestly with the part we’ve played in fostering the current climate makes a good starting point. The Guardian echoed these sentiments, declaring a need for the British to ‘drain our sense of nationhood – and our relationships with others – of the toxins passed down from the days of empire’.

We ignore histories – be they personal, communal, social, or political – at our own peril. Only with reflection and commitment to honesty can we move forward, and find out who we next become.

Detangling the Root: A Photo Series Celebrating Black Hair

By Shawntol Drakes

By now, most of us have seen, or at least heard of the infamous Shea Moisture video and their cringe-worthy follow up apology. The video, which is part of a rebrand for the Black-owned hair care company, features three women (one biracial and two white) talking about their battles with “hair hate” which they claim was combatted by the use of Shea Moisture hair products.

The video was met with much backlash from Black women who felt like they were not represented in the ad despite them being the brand’s largest customer base. The ex brand loyalists, came out in droves online accusing the company of pushing out their core audience in order to appeal to a wider (read, White) audience.

For centuries, Black hair has been a topic of controversy, oppression and pain. There has often been a lack of resources and products catered to Black hair in the mainstream market and for countless Black folks, Shea Moisture products seemed like a miracle sent from the hair gods — products for Afro hair that actually worked and were heavily cosigned in YouTube tutorials by Black women around the globe. Many people feel that Shea Moisture is erasing that history by “selling out” and compromising the quality and integrity of products that were initially created to suit the needs of Black hair in order to attract a White customer base.

The key theme of the video is the idea that “hair hate” is a universal experience. And while this may be true on a surface level, it is unfair to reduce the complexities and turmoil of the Black woman’s hair experience as simply hair hatred. While the white women in the commercial described their hair hate experiences as wishing they were a blonde instead of a redhead or struggles with limp, oily hair, Black women’s “hair hatred” is often rooted in racism, systemic white supremacy and misogyny.

As Black women, our hair hatred looks like wishing we could trade our Blackness for Whiteness in order to have long, straight hair like the girls in magazines.

It’s processing our hair with toxic chemicals every six weeks in order to obtain a look that is acceptable for Eurocentric beauty standards.

It’s being denied jobs because our hair is seen as unprofessional or unkempt.

And it’s unsuccessfully searching for products to use in your curly Afro hair in a market that sells to straight hair by default.


My project, titled “Detangling the Root” is a documentary photo series that chronicles the hair stories of Black women of all hair types, and gives them a platform to reflect on their individual relationships with their hair. In the interviews, I ask Black women to share memories and experiences with their hair, as well as the political implications of their hair choices. Many of the women interviewed spoke candidly about relaxing or perming their hair due to pressures of conforming to white beauty standards, their struggles finding products that worked with their hair textures and the journey to self-love and acceptance. They also spoke of the joy and affirmation they found in brands like Shea Moisture.

If the Shea Moisture debacle teaches us anything, it’s that Black women need to reclaim our narratives now more than ever. Too often do we see our struggles being co-opted by other cultures, as has been the case with #BlackLivesMatter being reduced to #AllLivesMatter and now the natural hair movement. By speaking out on the erasure of Black women from the Shea Moisture brand, we are amplifying our voices and asserting our existence. As the proverb goes, “Until the lion has his or her own storyteller, the hunter will always have the best part of the story”.

A portrait of Cailyn wearing loc extentions. Image by Shawntol Drakes.
A portrait of Khadijah wearing her natural afro. Image by Shawntol Drakes.
A portrait of Lu wearing her natural hair in ombre blue locs. Image by Shawntol Drakes
A portrait of Alannah wearing a natural teased afro. Image by Shawntol Drakes.

The Gaze: Episode Two Ft. Alanis Obomsawin

The Gaze podcast is back! Episode Two of the second season features esteemed Indigenous filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin.

Hosts Aisha Jamal and Maya Bedward tell us what’s in store in this episode.

“At 85 years of age, Alanis has made 49 films with the National Film Board of Canada, including her most recent documentary We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice.  Join us as we chat with Alanis about her filmmaking process, her longstanding relationship with the NFB, and her unrelenting efforts to document the fight for Indigenous rights in Canada.”

About the Gaze: The show is now a monthly podcast available for download on iTunes, Soundcloud and Google Play. In this sophomore season, we sit down with three female Indigenous filmmakers to discuss the creative, commercial and emotional labour of making films in Canada.

Check out our interview with hosts Aisha and Maya and stream episode one from this season here.

Watch the trailer to We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice below.

Seven Web Series by POC to Watch Right Now

By Yasmine Mathurin

Seven Web Series, created by and featuring people of colour, to watch right now.

Yasmine Mathurin suggests the best web series featuring women of colour to watch right now. In a market where self-directed content is reinventing how we consume television BIPOC have seized the moment and shaped a new reflective reality for themselves.

I enjoy web series. In the copious amounts of time I spend on the Internet, I’ve scoured the following seven. I enjoy the following 7 series because they present narratives and experiences that I can’t find in mainstream Canadian media. Though they range widely in the quality of their production, I’m here for the stories they are telling, and how they highlight the experiences of young POCs.

  1. Bolo – The Dictator’s Son. (Canadian)

The animated series is written and produced by Journalist and poet, Ian Keteku and animated by James White. When I stumbled onto this through my Instagram feed, I had to check it out. I thoroughly enjoy animated shows.

The short 5-episode web series follows the story of a young African boy who is trying to find home in Canada. I found it quirky and relatable. Without giving away too much, it’s not every day that I get to watch a show about the immigrant belonging struggle that positions the voice of the main character in a way that is unapologetic and assertive. The tone is dry, and given the scope of less than 5 minute per episode, it’s hard to truly develop a narrative arc with its main characters. I wish it were longer and more developed.

  1. Giants (US)

Is an original scripted drama series about three friends determined to live life on their own terms. It explores mental health in a way that is rarely seen on television or anywhere for that matter. Issa Rae and Jussie Smollett (from Fox’s Empire) serve as executive producers on the project.

  1. BK Chat LND (UK)

I was introduced to this series through a friend. The series follows conversations between UK (mostly black) twenty-somethings debate a variety of topics from courtship, money and everything in between. The room is opinionated, and it’s hard to stop watching, once you start. It is created by Andy Amadi.

  1. Anarkali (Canadian)

The web series follows 20something Anarkali as she moves through the world of dating while straddling moving through South Asian and Canadian culture. The series is created by  Rakhi Mutta.

  1. First (US)

This series comes from Issa Rae’s Production Company and is a modern-day Love Jones … need I say more?  

  1. Shugs & Fats (US)

This comedy web-series is about two Hijabis on a quest to reconcile their long held cultural beliefs with a new life in “liberated” Brooklyn. The series created by Radhika Vaz and Nadia Parvez Manzoor. It has won several awards including the Gotham Independent film award for breakthrough series short form.

  1. Acky and Saltfish (UK)

This web-series, previously a short film, is directed and written by Cecile Emeke. The series follows the everyday lives of two friends through different conversations and explore themes of Diaspora.