White Supremacy, Sexual Assault and the Indigenous Genius in the Canadian Film/Tv Industry

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If you have been following my stories on Instagram you will know that I am deeply devastated by the CBC’s decision to cancel my favorite show “Trickster’ based on the books by Eden Robinson following a scandal concerning the showrunner Michelle Latimer and her status as an indigenous person.

The CBC’s storyline is that Michelle lied to them about her heritage, but now Michelle is suing CBC saying that she was upfront about her mixed heritage and lack of ability to prove it and now CBC is throwing her under the bus after being discovered.

The show was greenlit early on for a second season but now with this new controversy, the show has been canceled. I don’t know exactly what went down at the CBC but the inside scoop is that Michelle Latimer owns the rights to the show, and she will not hand them over to the CBC for the show to be created by someone else who is actually indigenous unless they admit that they are lying about the fact that she did disclose her concerns about her heritage to them before filming the show.

So the show is at a standstill, and once again indigenous peoples of Canada are suffering because a bunch of rich white people is fighting over who owns something that was wrongfully taken from an Indigenous person. Sound familiar?

Personally, I believe Michelle, that she did disclose her heritage to the producers and that the CBC is lying about it to save face. I take on this stance because in 2014 I experienced something similar to this when I screen-tested for the role of an indigenous person in AMC’s ‘The Son’ based on Phillip Meyer’s books.

In my first audition, I was asked about my heritage and I told the truth to the casting director and the showrunner, Brian Mcgreevy who was also in the room.

I said I was a mix of South African bushmen, german, Portuguese, Southeast Asian, Indian, Ashkenazi jew, and a drop of native American but I wasn't sure from where because there are adoptions on both sides of my family and the lineage was unclear, but those were the results of my DNA test.

The following evening I got a text message from Brian Mcgreevy saying hello and that he got my number from our mutual friend and was complimentary about the work I had done in the room. I welcomed this because I thought it was a very good sign that he wanted me for the role and I was right.

I got the call for a screen-test and the night before Brian called me on speakerphone with the writer of the novels, Philip Meyer and they were giving me instructions for the screen test the following day to lie about my ethnicity.

‘ We are so excited about the possibility to have you on the show, we really want you over the other girl, but it is not entirely up to us we have to get the networks on board, so when they ask you about your heritage, don’t go through the rigmarole of telling us about your DNA results, just say you are half Metis or Cree or something, alright?’

My agent called me to discuss the matter and tried to tell me he thought it was a bad idea to lie, and I am ashamed to say that the following day I did as I was told by Brian and Philip and lied and said I was part Metis.

Fortunately for everyone, I did not get the role and no one was hurt in this situation except for me who is now looking back on that incident with deep shame and compassion for the desperate and disempowered girl that I was when I was trying to make it’s in L.A.

I tell this story to illustrate the fact that these kinds of things going on behind the scenes all of the time. It is a natural extension of the white supremacist colonial roots that our current film and t.v industry has grown out of. The legacy of white supremacy puts disgusting people like Brian McCreepy in positions of power like this all of the time and makes it incredibly difficult for them to be held to account.

After my screen test, Brian texted me to invite me out to a bar with some of his Hollywood friends. It was a dark and small dive bar in Silverlake where we were in a quiet booth. When his friends went outside for a cigarette Brian grabbed me by the wrists pushed me up against the wall and shoved his touch in my mouth. ‘I’ve wanted to do that since you walked into the audition room’ he said.

I tried to pull away from him but he held my wrists in a death grip. I remember looking at his arms and seeing his blue veins bulging from his almost transparent skin and thinking he might actually be a real vampire, like the ones he wrote about in his books.

I told him I was married (at the time I was) and that we couldn’t do this. He ignored me and started kissing me again until his friends came back in, smiling at Brian as if he was just being Brian and getting up to all his old antics.

I made an excuse and left shortly after to go home feeling completely violated and confused as to what to do since this was the man who could potentially hire me on a job that would change my whole life just forced himself on me.

I rationalized his behavior, I mean this wasn't the first time this had happened. From the moment I entered this industry, in my first ever agent interview I was asked to take off my shirt and bend over in his face.

At my first ever job, an older male actor locked me in my dressing room, pushed me up against a wall, kissed me, and asking if we could fuck while his mother was visiting and in the dressing room beside mine.

My Meisner acting teacher grabbed my boob in class and when I got angry laughed it off and said I was being uptight.

It's not just dudes either; on set with a gay female director I was shoved into closets, bathroom stalls, and recording booths to have my clothes being ripped off by her while I tried to escape while also keeping my job. Learning how to deal with sexual assault at work just felt like a part of the gig, but I loved acting so much, wanted to do it so badly that I was willing to suffer under those conditions. I was also willing to lie, steal and cheat for it too, believing that it was the only way for a queer, biracial girl to get a break in this industry.

The next day Brian asked if he could come by and give me a copy of his book. Thinking I should be polite as he was potentially my new boss, I said yes and told him I would come down to get the book but instead, he came up, into my apartment, grabbed me by the wrists again, pushed me against the wall and started kissing me. I was frozen and scared to have him in my place alone as my husband was away for work at the time, so I tried to get us out in public and offered that we go grab a taco or something where I eventually lost him.

The next day I found out that I didn’t get the part, but he continued to send me sexually disturbing texts and images of women that he was doing BSDM with. Pictures of women tied up wth their asses bleeding from being spanked so hard were flooding my inbox.

I blocked him and when I told our mutual friends about what happened they laughed it off. It wasn’t a big deal, everyone knew Brian was sort of a creep, but he made a lot of money for them, so he kept his job, his status, his money, his power, and his place in society.

This is the same story for so Many producers in the film & tv industry, which is why it is so difficult to get the industry standards to change.

When I was growing up in my ultra-conservative, largely racist, toxically masculine hometown of Alliston Ontario as the only colored and queer person in my stratosphere, I did everything I could to hide my true self and fit in with the others, hurting myself in the process by bleaching my skin and offering my sexuality up to men who disrespected me, just to be part of the community.

Hiding my authentic self was the cause of my depression and mental illness. Had I grown up in a culture where people like me were represented, given space, given a platform, my story might have been different.

It took me until my mid-twenties that I have been able to embrace my mixed and queer identity through being reached by the sheer force of the feminist work of people like Patrisse Cullors and Tarana Burke who are leading the Black Lives Matter and Me too Movements.

Because of their work, more people who looked like me, were queer like me and had the same values as me started to pop up in the media- on social media, on podcasts, expressing themselves through blogs and showing up in television and movies.

Representation is harm reduction.

Their work and the ripple effects are what has inspired me to reclaim my own heritage, decolonize my spirit and heal the internalized racial wounds that were holding me back and keeping me in a dark scarcity mentality .(see my previous essay ‘How I healed 25 years of Internalized Racism here)

I fell in love with Trickster right away because I had never seen a show where my story of being called to work with spirits was represented on film.

This happened in Eden Robinsons other book that was turned into a movie, Monkey Beach about a woman who is called to shamanism and speaking with the dead.

Watching these works gave me strength and a sense of hope and belonging. I am learning to accept myself through the prose of these artists and filmmakers bringing indigenous magic to life and contributing to an informed culture that makes me safe to express myself.

This is the power of myth. This is the importance of art.

As artists we are public servants, we are culture creators, we speak to the spirit world and bring back messages for the living from the dead and unborn to help guide and create our world.

Matters of the soul are ineffable things and cannot be pointed at or described in any sort of direct manner. They are not understood with the mind but with the heart- and the heart understands the story the best.

As human beings, we are hard wired for stories. This is why we love the arts so much and why they are important.

In indigenous cultures all over the world, storytelling is seen as sacred and was most often accompanied by a rite, ritual, or initiation.

Original Indigenous shamanic cultures all over the world understood that human beings are not born, they are made- they must be taught, nurtured, and mentored by the community in order to have a steady spirit and good mental health.

As a consequence of white colonialism destroying indigenous culture in 3/4 of the world, we have a mass population of people stuck in the selfish, greedy, self-centredness psyches of children much like Michele Latimer and the Cbc who cannot transcend their own selfish desires of ownership, ego and reputation to continue to tell an important story that is having a major impact on indigenous youth and culture today.

It is a consequence of white supremacy that the most sacred of things- story telling- has become a grotesque capitalist industry filled with slimey people making mediocre art that has nothing anymore to do with the soul but only with the bottom line.

Two years ago I got hired on The Burden of Truth for a great recurring part as the love interest of one of the lead characters. I was excited to join a show that was being advertised as advocating for the rights of indigenous peoples. I have benefitted greatly from the survival of the indigenous peoples of North America and their teachings in shamanism and was excited to be a part of something that was uplifting indigenous stories.

Sadly, a week before I started work in Winnipeg, I was sexually assaulted on a first date with a Canadian author whom I met on Raya (a stupid ‘celebrity’ dating app that is really just a bunch of hedge fund managers and cosmetic dentists).

I was hurting, but I didn’t want my situation to keep me from a new job, so I didn’t tell my agent or anyone on set what I was going through.

I did my best to dissociate from my body and my feelings but unfortunately, that wasn't a great recipe for good acting. One morning I was flooded with texts from my assailant that somehow managed to get past my blocking of him and into the cloud and into my phone.

I started having a panic attack on set and couldn’t remember my lines or keep focused; memories of the assault flooded through my body and panic would flood over me as layers and layers of rage from all of the years I had been violated in my life and my job starting bubbling up to the surface. We were block shooting 3 episodes in that one location, switching from scene to scene, set up from setting up, episode to episode and the crew was moving at a turtle pace; I was getting so frustrated.

Fortunately, my director was a patient and kind man who instinctively knew how to work with me, gave me a lot of support and we got some good work- that was all I cared about, and when I got home I celebrated the fact that I got through it and managed to do good work even if I was experiencing PTSD.

But then I got a call from my agent saying that there was a complaint from one of the producers that I was unprofessional and unprepared and that I was causing them to loose time on set and they were very unhappy with me.

The producer who noticed my fragile state called the executive producer, who then called the casting directors, who then called my agent, who then called me. Why they couldn’t come directly to me on set to talk, rather than dragging my name through the mud is beyond me, but alas, there we were.

I burst into tears and told my agent everything.

‘Don't worry’, he said, ‘the exec producer at the CBC is a good friend of mine, I'll talk to her’.

I went home to cry myself to sleep and talked to my agent the next day who relayed a message to me from the exec, that I was to ‘get some therapy’ and not ‘fuck up her show’.

I asked if I was fired, and they assured me I was not, however they did write me out of four episodes, changed my storyline and when I got back to work I was in a smaller trailer beside the portapotty, the producers no longer greeted me or acknowledged my existence on set, and on wrap day when everyone was getting presents and flowers delivered to their rooms, I got nothing.

And once again, my internalized colonial conditioning kicked in that told me that this is what I deserved. That the producer was was right, I ought to get some therapy and not cause any delays onset that would cause her to lose any money. Why should I expect any empathy or compassion when I had been such a bad girl! I deserved to be punished.

I felt so low that I thought about taking my own life. Sadly this is the truth about so many sexual assault victims. We are blamed, shamed, and avoided like the plague. There is hardly any support for a victim of sexual assault.

Then Michaela Coel’s masterpiece ‘I May Destroy You’, about the aftermath of her sexual assault, came out on HBO and I drank in every episode like it was water and I was a thirsty desert and saw every interview she did about the piece.

If you are a fan of the show then you know, the show is a fictionalized version of her own sexual assault where she was drugged and raped at a bar.

She wanted to make a show that would tell the true story of what it's like to experience a sexual assault because there are these phases that you go through afterwards, which she so elegantly displays while also somehow adding humor to a situation that feels utterly humorless.

Watching her show helped me heal, it was a representation on screen of what I was going through. I had no one else to talk to me about their sexual assaults and how they healed, and Michaela told me everything. She dug deep into her artist soul to create that masterpiece that has saved many others like me, and yet she was not recognized for it at the Golden Globes this year.

If you are still reading this essay then you know that this is also a result of white supremacy. Michaela Coel is a black woman.

Emily from Paris, however, famous for being ‘ambient television’ (something you can watch while doing something else on your phone) was nominated for three. This is the sad and sorry state of our sacred storytelling industry where mediocrity is celebrated, rewarded, and continued.

Working on the Burden of Truth, I noticed that they advertise as being a show that focuses on the issues of indigenous peoples however, all the writers, producers and crew were all white.

These people were capitalizing on the fact that diversity is ‘in’ right now, just like being ‘queer’ is in right now, (which is why they hired me in the first place) but when push comes to shove the producers upholding the white supremacist system at the CBC does not actually care about queer, people of color like myself.

This is why Representation is not decolonization. Having diversity in colonial systems is not going to get us into the new world.

When I was working on that set, I heard lots of talk from the local crew about how they work slower because they get incredible pay and overtime; and yet I was being blamed for wasting time on set by not remembering my lines. This is the legacy of white supremacy, utter mediocrity, and a lack of care or passion on every level of production

I like to think last had there been some indigenous women actually involved in making this show about indigenous women, that they would have been able to provide some empathy and support for me, as sexual assault is a massive problem in the indigenous community, alongside with their women being abducted and murdered on the regular without anyone trying to do anything about it.

This is why Being in colonial systems may mitigate harm for us biopic folk but it won’t get us to the new world.

Why? because being in colonial systems will have us on THEIR agenda. Will have us upholding and colluding with the colonial paradigm.

We must do things radically different and birth the new world by living in a way that does not keep us imprisoned, dependent, attached to the colonial capitalist patriarchy that instead liberates us to create a world that is more just, a world in which we return to the times of harmony and balance and right relationship.

This world is absolutely possible and the time is now to create it.Colonial trauma runs deep. And, reckoning with it and healing it is necessary to the new world we are trying to birth. We cannot spiritually bypass it if we truly want to do things differently this time. Our survival as a species depends on it.

This is the kind of work for visionaries, dreamers, medicine people, prophets, artists, witches, sages, poets, storytellers whose calling it is to make this revolution irresistable. We can't just fight the old, we must dream in & simultaneously create the new world.

Technology is advanced and cheap enough now that anyone can become a filmmaker. All it takes is a little bit of inspiration and inspired action which comes from being connected to spirit.

White colonial culture tried to destroy and erase the spiritual practices of indigenous peoples in 3/4 of the world because they knew that without their practices, they had no power, and without their power, they were easily colonized and defeated.

Today I have the privilege of being safe enough to practice my ancestral traditions that keep me connected to spirit and to my intuition which guides me every move and is the source of my creative power and if you would like to join me in reconnecting with these practices in the sacred community such as myth telling, ritual, ceremony, dance, trance and altered states of consciousness please subscribe to my online tribe, The Big Dream Project, a radically inclusive space for all to connect with ancient spiritual practices.

My work is not new age, it is ancient. The new age would have you spiritually bypass the issues at hand in exchange for only ‘love and light’. Anciently, we enter the darkness because we are fucking warriors and we get our strength from our ancestors.

Our mission is to empower you to unlock your full potential and help build a better world for our descendants free from white supremacy and the colonial systems that would hold us back from our true potential as artists and creators.

Creator put us all on this Earth to live and work together. Our system of democracy was birthed out of ancient cultures mixing and sharing ideas, sharing the best parts of themselves, and thus a great culture emerged and an enlightenment era followed.

Canada is in a unique position to lead the way with a decolonized film and tv industry because we are multicultural and proud of it. It is already happening with incredible artists showing up on youtube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. Indigenous people all over the world are sharing their culture and their practices, and it is so inspiring to me.

I imagine a revolution where soverign indigenous artists are working for themselves and creating a circular economy, free of violence and slavery where everyone benefits, communities are created and people’s souls are nourished. We are sharing our work with global audiences and tribes where we can support one another and share ideas, work together and start creating an art industry where people are not being sexually assaulted every day, and where the arts are honored as the sacred practices that they are.

Reclaim your Indie-Genius-ness! You are sovereign, free, and capable of greatness. Join the tribe at www.Patreon.com/DayleMcleod

Dayle McLeod is a Shamanic Artist, Performer & Author from Toronto. Join her in Indigenous Spiritual Practice Reclamation at www.patreon.com/daylemcleod

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