Amanda Benn is a Canadian artist of Antiguan and Guyanese descent made prominent in Montréal for her work as a dancer, choreographer, singer, instructor, and radio host. On stage, she’s notably performed with the Afro-Caribbean dance troupe Westcan Folk Performing Company, with Black Theatre Workshop’s ’Shifting Grounds’, and as a creator for the Revolution They Wrote Short Works Feminist Festival – among other professional credits.
Ms. Benn (as the hip-hop radio jockey is known on CKUT 90.3FM) has been pursuing a calling in the arts since the age of 4, but as a female BIPOC creative, her path has been one of challenge paved by resilience.
“Having grown up in the South Shore, I was accustomed to being the only black girl in the class,” she shares. “I lived in a foster home and because of my upbringing, it wasn’t so blunt in my face that dreams could come true and that Black people could do things. I didn’t have a lot of guidance, support, or mentorship, and a lot of the understanding I had was more about race. What got me through my day to day was the art.”
Benn’s artistry is inspired by a search for identity and representation. “As I tried to dig and research not only who I am but my whole diaspora, I’d always felt like there was something incomplete. And I knew I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t seeing what I wanted to see on stage, and so I figured that the only way to have that was to create it myself. That really drove me to develop the type of work that I do today.”
On current and future projects – and in reflection of present world events as it relates to Black Lives Matter – she speaks of an individual and collective need for healing.
“In the Black communities, ‘everything that is oppressive, is oppressed’. And it gets oppressed by us ourselves. Something will happen and it’s always like ’stay strong’,’ too bad’, ‘move on.’ We don’t talk about it. A place of healing is not somewhere where my community has ever found itself, and I really feel at this fake rolex level now where I’m at, I want to be having those difficult conversations, and so I incorporate it into my work.”
There is hope in rebuilding. ”I really do appreciate everyone who has taken the time to acknowledge this moment. However, what is going on now is not new.For me, the fight hasn’t just started. But it has changed. Black artists: right now we don’t need to fight so hard. People are going to be more open to hearing us. We likely going to be hired more outside of Black History Month. And we can feel more powerful to create the kind of content that we want.”