Last Thursday, V.T. Nayani’s first feature film, Shade-ism: digging deeper, screened in The MiST Theatre at UTM. The film discussed issues of colorism within specific races and their colonist origins. The screening was organized by the Equity and Diversity Office, the International Education Centre, and Connections and Conversations, a group of racialized tri-campus University of Toronto staff members.

In the film, Nayani defined shadeism as “discrimination based on skin tone, which exists amongst members of the same community, creating a ranking of a person’s individual worth based on shade.” Shade-ism premiered to an audience of 20-30 people made up of students, staff, faculty, and community members.

Nayani structured Shade-ism into seven chapters. The introduction features a poignant conversation between Nayani and her niece in which Nayani’s niece says she needs to “become white.” The second chapter of the film showcases Nayani’s trip to Mumbai, India and her discussion of “shade-ism” with the women living there. The chapter titled “Her Story in the Making” covers the way shadeism manifests in the media and the prevalence of bleaching creams in some nations.

Later on, Shade-ism transported us to Hargeisa, Somaliland, and showed a conversation where a group of women discussed facing discrimination because of their dark skin. The next chapter showed Nayani’s interviews with women in Kingston, Jamaica also discussing their experiences with colorism.

In the final two chapters of the film, “Fight the Power” and “Taking Back Our Trauma,” Nayani and other participants of the documentary discuss how to overcome shadeism in society by educating our communities of its prevalence and loving our own skin.

A panel that consisted of UTM staff and students further unpacked the issue of shadeism after the film finished. The panel was hosted by Sherice Robertson (IEC) and Martina Douglas (EDO).

The panel consisted of: Nayani; Ken Derry, Assistant Professor, Teaching stream, History of Religions; Dr. Jordache Ellapen, Assistant Professor, Women and Gender Studies; Cere Henry, UTM student & Residence Don; Rebecca Mahadeo, UTM staff in the IEC; a student from the EDO; and an assistant professor in History and Women and Gender Studies.

Prior to the screening, Nayani emphasized that “there are a lot of things I would’ve done and stated differently,” if the film was in production today. Shadeism finished production in 2015 and had its world premiere at the Zanzibar International Film Festival that same year. Specifically, Nayani stated “[they] really missed the ball on anti-blackness being the root of all of this in the context of this film… we missed the ball on naming and addressing it.” She also wanted the film to differentiate between the lived experiences and privileges of the participants.

Nayani is gearing up to release her upcoming feature drama This Place in 2020 after previewing it at the Toronto International Film Festival this past September.

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