“A profile on two of the most influential Black women activists in Vancouver today, Nova Stevens and Shamika Mitchell. Only this year, their relentless organizing efforts led to the proclamation of August 1st as Emancipation Day in the City of Vancouver. August 1st, 1834, marks the day when slaves were freed in Canada.”
Shamika Mitchell: An actress with a heart for the people
When asked to try her hand at describing herself, Shamika mentioned many things, from her loyal nature to her confidence which I noticed immediately. But what stuck out to me was her strength, an inner strength that inevitably developed growing up as a Black girl with a “hard background” as she described.
Shamika grew up in Scarborough, near Dodds Road. It was a rough white neighbourhood and as hard as it already was, she still experienced an extra dose of racism. This manifested in a tale as old-as-time that Black girls often experience - the mockery of her hair and features. She distinctly remembers the first time she realized that as a Black woman, her pain would always come second. She was two or three years old and she fell while in school. The teacher paid her very little attention. At that young age, her pain was already being disregarded as a Black woman.
Toronto culture is drastically different from here in Vancouver as we all know. Vancouver lacks the unique multicultural essence that Toronto easily carries. There, she felt “smothered by culture” but here she had no such sentiment. When Shamika moved here some years ago, she was stunned at the obvious differences and it took some time for her to find a “power clique”, a group of girlfriends that could support each other through anything. All the Black people seemed to be hiding, it was hard to find them at events, talk less of gathering them for action. When asked if she thought our city acknowledged its blackness, she said “Not really.” She believes it is in fact trying to eradicate Black culture. This, to her, is exemplified by how much effort it took for Emancipation Day to be instituted in the first place.
The struggles of daily life in Vancouver did not compare to the struggles Shamika faced in the film industry. She is an actress with obvious star energy even though she’s very humble about it. On set, she had to deal with snide comments, hair stylists not knowing how to do Black hair and being made to feel insignificant, like a burden. She knows there are still some amazing people in the film industry - she’s met them. But she hopes the industry gets even better. In fact, she just landed her first big role in “My Birthday Romance”, a Reel One Entertainment film which is already receiving tons of recognition.