“The intention of the #GYALCAST Academy is to build Black women back up with patience, love, education and care.”
The DIY media collective behind the podcast #GYALCAST are running a series of workshops for young, Black and creative entrepreneurial women.
The six-part #GYALCAST Academy covers topics like confidence, networking, public relations, social media, grant writing and self-care.
Founded by musician and former MTV Canada personality Tika Simone and writer Sajae Elder, #GYALCAST discusses music, pop culture, racism, feminism and politics.
Recent guests include Toronto rappers Sean Leon and Clairmont the Second, former managing editor of The Source Reggie Ossé and O.T.A. Live radio host Ty Harper.
“The intention of the #GYALCAST Academy is to build Black women back up with patience, love, education and care,” Simone wrote in a blog post announcing the workshops. “A safe space for Black women to learn the fundamentals of being a freelancer in a creative field but also a gentle reminder to be kind to yourself.”
The first workshop takes place on July 21 and the last is on August 25. Registration is free and open to women ages 16 to 24. The deadline to register is Thursday (July 14) at midnight.
NOW spoke with #GYALCAST Academy founders Simone and Alicia Bunyan-Sampson.
How did the idea for the workshop series come about?
Alicia Bunyan-Sampson: The workshop series came out of frustration and exhaustion. There are hundreds of workshops, programs, events, lunch and learns, etc, available in the city, but none are geared toward Black women. None of them acknowledge the harsh reality of being a Black woman creative in Toronto right now during this renaissance. It’s like nobody sees us. It’s like we aren’t important. We’re fed lines about building community, so we give away our ideas and time and then watch those who continuously exploit us and our work get on magazine covers and get television interviews wearing expensive clothes and spending grant cheques in the wrong places. We’re over it, and we need to love on each other.
Tika Simone: I have a very close friendship with Alicia, and we were speaking about how difficult it is to navigate community organizations to find support, guidance and love for Black girls. I myself have suffered from depression and trauma and eventually sought therapy with Alicia (who is a registered therapist), and she helped to guide me through. My grandmother was on the board of the Ontario Multicultural Association and was a former president of PACE (Project for the Advancement of Childhood Education) before she passed in 2009. My mother ran a community program in Jamestown for many years before falling into a depression. So I feel like it’s my duty to give back to community because community raised me. I’ve been ignored by many community organizations in the city. I’ve been too Black, too loud, too opinionated, too radical for spaces. I’ve spoken many times about how I feel community should be, and I was met with privilege as opposed to patience, understanding and care. I want to be in a space where I’m free to be myself, and I think it’s important that other Black girls are fostered in this way with patience love and understanding, free from prejudice.
How do you hope to grow #GYALCAST and what role will the series play in that growth?
ABS: I don’t hope, I know. #GYALCAST will be a Canadian movement. We are going to change everything, because there is too much wrong, too much broken. Black women in Canada need community, we need support, we need love. Phase one of the #GYALCAST Academy – the workshop series – will provide a safe space for young Black women and start important conversations amongst all involved. This workshop series will be the beginning of a new beginning for Black women creatives in Toronto and eventually all of Canada. We will unlearn all the ways we’ve been taught to hate ourselves and each other and create transformative spaces of true community through love, self-care, magic and sisterhood.
TS: I want #GYALCAST to be acknowledged as a safe space for Black women all across Canada. I want to continue to employ Black women and work closely with other Black women. Our #GYALCAST podcast is already heavily supported in the U.S. and UK. I want us to be acknowledged worldwide. I have dreams that supersede what I’ve been told I cannot do.
Tell me about the focus on self-care. Why is that particularly important for the creative field.
ABS: Black women are not taught to care for themselves. In fact, we are taught the complete opposite. We are unfortunately plagued with the disease called strength and conditioned to believe it’s a virtue. We are so fragile. We are so traumatized. We need to know and learn that we deserve love. We deserve to take breaks. We are allowed to cry. I am 27 and I have to remind myself that I deserve a break. That is tragic and it should not be like that. In creative fields, you have to give so much of yourself, so for ourselves and our work, learning how to practise self-care is essential, and it must be ongoing. Self-care is the core of the #GYALCAST Academy because it’s something Black women know the least about.
TS: I needed self-care to even get to this point. I was always taught that work is the answer to everything and that idle hands are the devil’s playground. I had to unlearn most of those teachings. I feel terrible when I’m resting, and I know that’s not normal because I work so hard. The lack of self-care contributed to my depression. Working is discipline. So is self-care. I had to teach myself how to cry and not be ashamed, how to enjoy my work and how to give back to myself without feeling selfish. Those early teachings were ingrained, and I realized they were just something you have to unpack. It’s important that other Black girls know that as well. I don’t want anyone to fall into the same trap. I intend to be the change I want to see in the world and guide other black women to do the same.