Aiza and Kamana Ntibarikure‘s new docuseries Real Blackity Talk sprung from the most unexpected of places: IG live. It began as a chat show to stay connected during the earliest days of the pandemic. “For many years, Kamana and I often said half-jokingly that one day we would create a show together since we get along so well and we’re both great entertainers. When the lockdown happened in March 2020, we were stuck at home living together and we figured we had nothing to lose so we started going live twice a week on Instagram to stay sane. It ended up being so much fun! The stakes were pretty low but we always gave it all we had, as though we had millions of viewers tuning in every week. I’m grateful because looking back, those weekly lives helped us keep a sense of grounding and purpose when it felt like the whole world as we knew it had crumbled,” Aiza admits. They were elated by the enthusiastic response of their audience. “When it comes to our IG lives, we didn’t expect our viewers to become so engaged in our conversations – it didn’t take long before we had a pretty steady weekly following. But the craziest thing that happened was when we wrapped our shoot for Real Blackity Talk at the end of last year: I was on my way to grab dinner with our production team to celebrate the fact that we were done filming the series and a complete stranger stopped me on the street to tell me that she absolutely loved our Instagram show and that she couldn’t wait to see more of us. I took it as a sign that we are most definitely on the right path,” Aiza recalls. “As far as the reception we’ve been getting for Real Blackity Talk, we’re so grateful for all the love from the American media,” Kamana adds.
New avenues also arose for production as the series took shape. “Real Blackity Talk is inspired by our pandemic IG show but it’s a fully fleshed out stand alone concept. Having the opportunity to produce it with our own brand new production company, Balling Y’all Productions, is a blessing and a dream come true,” Kamana tells us. The show highlights a team of “Blaxperts” who are integral to illustrating the full breadth and vibrancy of Blackness. “As Kamana would say, we are the experts of our own experiences. We chose our Blaxperts based on what they would bring to our conversations and we wanted them to reflect a wide range of ages and occupations. If Kamana and I are the soul of the series, our Blaxperts are the heartbeat, there to showcase just how beautiful, vulnerable, funny, accomplished and truly multifaceted we are as Black folk,” explains Aiza. She and Kamana aspire to provide their community a space to tell these true and authentic narratives. “Our goal was to create the show we’ve been longing to see. I’ve been acting in TV and film for many years now and it has often felt like trying to fit all of my greatness through a tiny pin hole. Real Blackity Talk is an opportunity for us to tell our stories exactly the way we want to tell them. We were very firm about decentering whiteness from our narrative, and we just knew that we had to bring other dope Black folk along for the ride. As Black Canadians, we deserve to have shows that make us feel seen and inspired. This is a series tailor-made for us, by us! We hope that in watching it, our viewers are reminded that their lives and their stories matter.”
It’s no secret that the media is conspicuously apathetic about the experiences of Black women and non-binary folks, a fact that’s attributable to systematic racism and white supremacy, says Kamana. “The people who hold power are mostly not Black women and/or non-binary Black folk and they already see themselves in the stories that are being told in the mainstream. But now, we’re in a period of social change where there is an incentive for the media and organizations to elevate equity seeking voices, or at least pretend to.” This absence profoundly affected the ways that they perceived themselves and galvanized them to dream bigger for the next generation. “It made me feel confused and as I continued my journey as an artist,” Kamana admits. “I found myself wanting more and more agency so that I could influence this lack of visibility and focus on representation.” Aiza echoes her sense of isolation. “Growing up in a city as multicultural as Montreal yet not seeing anyone who looked like me on TV was confusing to say the least. As a kid, I loved writing short stories but when I think back, all the characters I wrote about were white: I didn’t understand that I had a place in the world of stories and imagination. As a first generation Burundian-Canadian, I often turned to Black American culture to find my sense of self, from music to TV shows. Canadian media still has a long way to go but now I finally understand that I’m the main character of my story. I have the power to effect real change and I’m excited to continue making way for more and more Black representation in the media, especially for dark-skinned Black folk.” Kamana wants us to take steps to improve narratives and opportunities for representation by offering “paid mentorship programs for People of the Global Majority to enter the world of Film and TV production. We have our stories and they’re ready to be told.” Real Blackity Talk will premiere on YouTube on March 18th.
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“Real Blackity Talk” Paints a More Authentic Portrait of the Black Canadian Experience. Photo Credit: Balling Y’all Productions Inc.