In her new docu-series, Amanda Parris is crossing borders, connecting communities, and centering Black voices. Streaming now on CBC Gem, For The Culture with Amanda Parris dives deep into topics impacting Black communities across the globe.
From diaspora wars to the business of Black hair, to deep dives on public school systems and reparations, the series carves out space for much-needed conversations that center Blackness—conversations that rarely receive enough airtime to dive deeper than the surface, that deserve to be fleshed out further than social media or group chats can allow.
Amanda travels around the world, visiting Barbados, Canada, Grenada, France, the UK and the US, with a list of guests that runs the gamut from cultural leaders like Larry Wilmore, Gina Yashere, Bolu Babalola, and Wes Hall, to activists and scholars, to everyday people.
The in-depth, intimate conversations between Amanda and her guests are the focal point of For The Culture. They happen in homes, amidst the bustle of a workplace or while sharing a meal at a restaurant. One conversation even happens in a tree on a beach.
“I wanted to create opportunities for a little bit more intimacy, a little bit more depth,” Amanda says. “I wanted to engage those that are on the frontlines of that particular topic and say, ‘What is it that we’re missing? Where is it that we need to go?’”
Through this series, Amanda strives to push these conversations forward and open new lines of thought. “One of the biggest frustrations I have is when we have the same conversations over and over again,” she says.“I’m really excited for the world to hear about these topics and hopefully engage in a way that they’ve never thought about before. To generate new ideas about how we can grapple with some of these issues, and to reimagine the possibilities.”
For The Culture provides critical historical context as well as recent data, but manages to stay adventurous and accessible, largely because of Amanda’s thoughtful and intuitive nature as a host. With the freedom of a point-of-view docu-series, she was able to establish a deeper trust with her guests by connecting on a personal level. The series’ fifth episode delves into the crisis of Black maternal healthcare, something Amanda has experienced firsthand.
“I was pregnant in 2020. At one point I had some complications and I was rushed to the hospital. I had a negative experience with the obstetrician on call at the time, and just felt really dehumanized,” she says. “I really wanted an episode that not only looked at the problem, but also gave us space to explore and imagine what is the standard of care necessary for Black birthing people to feel safe?”
In the week leading up to the release of For The Culture, Amanda received an outpouring of support. After posting the series trailer on Instagram, her follower count increased by thousands. When tickets went on sale for a screening of the series at TIFF Lightbox, they sold out in one hour.
“It’s been so overwhelming. So many people are saying ‘I’m so hungry for a show like this,’” Amanda says. “Choosing to focus on places that don’t usually get depicted on the screen has had a really powerful effect on so many people. It’s been so mind-boggling in the best way possible.”
Amanda first pitched For The Culture back in 2020, in the thick of the pandemic and a massive cultural reckoning that followed the murder of George Floyd. “People were making a lot of promises, posting black squares, and hiring all these folks,” she says.
As the series finally airs four years later, she realizes that the world looks very different.
“I feel very lucky, but I also feel like there might be an expiration date on how long people who green-light these things might be interested in doing this type of work,” she says. “I don’t know if that’s just my own panic and scarcity mindset, but I’m constantly worried that I won’t have more opportunities like this.”
Amplifying the work of Black creatives and sharing Black stories has been a throughline in Amanda’s career, across both scripted and unscripted work. She’s interviewed the likes of Spike Lee, Issa Rae, and Roxane Gay. Black Light, her award-winning column for CBC, spotlights and explores a range of art created by Black people.
Her comedy series Revenge of the Black Best Friend follows a self-help guru on a mission to end the tokenization of Black characters, while her award-winning plays Other Side of the Game and The Death News grapple with themes of premature Black death, gender, and activism in Black communities.
“It’s a huge honor. It’s a gift,” she says. “But it feels scary because we’re in a moment in history where the world is having a very antagonistic response to the stories of those who have not historically been centered.”
Her dedication to continuing to share these stories hasn’t gone unnoticed. In 2022, Amanda was the inaugural recipient of the Changemaker Award from the Canadian Screen Awards, honouring her efforts to call out systemic racism and discrimination in the Canadian media community.
From working in community arts and education to spearheading several projects for one of Canada’s largest media companies, Amanda has had a fascinating career that has spanned creative disciplines, something that many of our featured Artists of the Month share.
Her message for her younger self is a beautiful reminder that artists, or anyone with a non-linear career path, needs to hear: “There’s no straight line to anything.”
Amanda jokes that she doesn’t use her degree in political science, but goes on to add that what she learned in school, and especially her minor in women’s and gender studies, completely changed her outlook—something she brings to every project she takes on.
“I came into this in a very indirect way. As much as some days I wish that I did go to film school, or theatre school, or journalism school, all of that learning has filtered into the way that I look at the world.”
That unique perspective is evident in everything she creates, and is at the heart of For The Culture’s urgent discussions, thoughtful storytelling, and boundary-pushing deep dives.