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12 Black Queer Canadian Artists to know

Out on Screen is highlighting Black Queer Canadian artists to know. This list is just a starting point in our work to share, support and uplift Black Queer artists contributions. 

Courtney McFarlane

Courtney McFarlane is a visual artist, poet and manager of children, youth and adult services at Davenport-Perth Neighbourhood Community Health Centre. McFarlane has served on the board of the Toronto Inside Out Film festival and  was a founding member of a number of Black queer groups and organizations in the early ’80s and ’90s, including Zami, Sepia, and AYA Men, an organization that provided voice and visibility for Black LGBTQ2. His activism in many ways laid the foundation for events, organizations and movements addressing Black Canadian LGBTQ2 communities today.

Michèle Pearson Clarke

Michèle Pearson Clarke is a Trinidad-born artist who works in photography, film, video and installation. Using archival, performative and process-oriented strategies, her work explores the personal and political possibilities afforded by considering experiences of emotions related to longing and loss. Her work has been included in exhibitions and screenings at Le Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal; the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia; the Royal Ontario Museum; LagosPhoto Festival; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; Maryland Institute College of Art; ltd los angeles; and Ryerson Image Centre and Gallery 44 Centre for Contemporary Art, Toronto. View Michelle’s website.

Syrus Marcus Ware

Syrus Marcus Ware is a Black, transgender, disabled artist, activist and scholar. He lives and works in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and is currently an LTF Assistant Professor in the School of the Arts at McMaster University. He has worked since 2014 as faculty and as a designer for The Banff Centre. View Syrus’ website.

Beverly Glenn- Copeland

Legendary singer, composer and transgender activist Beverly Glenn-Copeland has been gathering momentum in recent years thanks to a reissue of the extraordinary folk-jazz explorations of his debut self-titled album (1970) and the widespread discovery of his acclaimed masterpiece Keyboard Fantasies (1986); an ahead-of-it’s-time synth exploration which somehow combines the essence of new-age minimalism, early Detroit techno and the warmth of traditional songwriting. Purchase your ticket to see Keyboard Fantasies. View Beverly’s website.

Robert Joseph Greene

Robert Joseph Greene is a Vancouver based Canadian author of gay romance fiction, best known for his teenage drama, This Highschool has closets. Greene is one of Canada’s few Black male romance writers, and has been working to redefine love on the world stage for over a decade. He published Gay Icon Classics of the World, a feature short stories centred on same-sex romances, set in countries controlled by some of the world’s most anti-gay regimes. Greene chanpions love through literature and uses his stories to advocate for Gay rights. 

Nalo Hopkinson

Nalo Hopkinson is a Jamaican-born Canadian speculative fiction writer and editor. As of 2013, she lived and taught in Riverside, California. Her novels and short stories such as those in her collection Skin Folk often draw on Caribbean history and language, and its traditions of oral and written storytelling. View Nalo’s website.

Trey Anthony

Trey Anthony is a British-born Canadian playwright, actor, and producer, best known for her award-winning play and television series Da Kink in My Hair. As a producer, she worked for the Women’s Television Network and the Urban Women’s Comedy Festival. View Trey’s website.

Walter Marren Borden

Walter Marren Borden is an actor, playwright, and poet. Notable for his classical theatre roles in Shakespeare productions. He was a member, Stratford Festival of Canada. Borden’s published writing includes his own autobiographical play ‘Tightrope Time: Ain’t Nuthin’ More Than Some Itty Bitty Madness Between Twilight and Dawn’. In 2006 Borden was honoured nationally becoming a member of the Order of Canada.

Thom Alison

Thom Allison is a Canadian actor born and raised in Winnipeg, MB. He is best known for his regular recurring role as Pree in the television series Killjoys, for which he won the Canadian Screen Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series at the 8th Canadian Screen Awards. View Thom’s website.

Kaytranada

Louis Kevin Celestin, known by his stage name Kaytranada, is a Montreal raised, Haitian-Canadian DJ and record producer. He rose to prominence during the early 2010s with ear-perking remixes and an array of sounds that veered from hip-hop beats to distinctly woozy house grooves. Kaytranada is the winner of 2016’s Polaris Music Prize and 2017’s Juno Award for Electronic Album of the Year. Since signing to major-label RCA, he has released his second LP, Bubba.

Jillian Christmas 

Jillian Christmas is the former Artistic Director of Vancouver’s Verses Festival of Words. An educator, organizer, and advocate in the arts community, utilizing an anti-oppressive lens, Jillian has performed and facilitated workshops across North America. The Gospel of Breaking, a poetry collection, is the Vancouver-based authors first book. Learn more about Jillian.

Honourable mention: Jackie Shane

Jackie Shane, singer (born 15 May 1940 in Nashville, Tennessee; died 22 February 2019 in Nashville). Jackie Shane was a pioneering transgender performer who was a prominent figure in Toronto’s R&B scene in the 1960s. Her cover of William Bell’s “Any Other Way” reached No. 2 on the CHUM singles chart in 1963. Her 1967 live album, Jackie Shane Live, was reissued in 2015 and was shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize’s 1960–1970 Heritage Award. Any Other Way, an anthology album of songs from Shane’s career and monologues from her live shows, was released in 2017. It was nominated for a 2019 Grammy Award for Best Historical Album. Shane is featured in a mural on the side of a building in downtown Toronto commemorating the Yonge Street music scene of the 1960s. Learn more about Jackie Shane.