26 Jun 2021

    Sandy Daley is Chronicling the Stories of Black Women At Fringe Festival Featured

    “One of my goals is to change the portrayal of Black people, especially Black women on television,” says Sandy Daley, a Black Canadian writer, director, producer, and actress.

    Daley is now set to screen her animated show, Chronicles of a Black Woman: A Sketch Comedy, virtually at the 2021 Toronto Fringe Festival from July 21-31.  It is a half-hour long, one-woman animated digital stage show where she plays three characters by herself. The story captures intimate and raw emotions that show how different people react to different things, and how we are all reacting to racism.

    As always, Daley draws inspiration for writing the story from her own experiences as a Caribbean woman, single mother, and storyteller.

    The show is a dramedy revolving around three characters named Monica, Vivian, and Pauline. Monica is a politically active Black woman who cares about the Black Lives Matter movement. Vivian is a single Black mother with a seven-year-old child, Nathaniel (who is played by Daley's actual seven-year-old son), and Pauline is a Caribbean woman who was recently immigrated from Jamaica and is trying to make it on her own.

    Monica's goal is to recruit more ladies into Black Lives Matter. Pauline is struggling to get her life together in a new country so, although she loves her girlfriends, she can't get into activism the way Monica might like. Then there is Vivian, who has her own struggles as a single mother raising her son while trying to build a career in business. When the three women meet and converse with each other in a hair salon, everything seems hunky-dory until the topic turns to the Black Lives Matter movement. 

    “Concerning racism, some of us sweep it under the rug, others confront head-on, and still some others say that's just too much for them,” says Daley, explaining the central message of the play. “So half the time we argue with each other about it before coming to the realization, like these women have, that it's not how you are fighting the fight. What matters more is that you're fighting the fight in your own way.” 

    Though Daley believes everybody can relate to the story, she’s especially hopeful that Black women see themselves in it.

    Sandy Daley and Her Journey Through the Arts

    Daley was born in Kingston, Jamaica and moved to the Canadian province of Saskatchewan in Regina when she was 16 years old. Life was difficult due to culture shock and Daley felt isolated initially. After moving to Toronto, she felt more at home due to the city’s greater diversity and more cosmopolitan attitudes.

    Daley’s natural sense of creativity and wit was cultivated by her experiences growing up in Jamaica; an experience that included dance and acting. She continued her education in acting in Toronto after enrolling in classes. Her acting career started in Black Canadian director Christene Browne's first feature, Another Planet - the very first feature film to be written, produced and directed by a Black woman in Canada. 

    After having kids, Daley discovered her love for writing. Inspired by Black woman activists like Angela Davis, Daley also writes in the spirit of work that inspires thought and political change. “I never write anything that doesn't move me. I never wrote anything for fluff,” says Daley, who prefers writing to music from the politically charged movements of the 1960s for inspiration. 

    In her work, Daley intends to write authentic stories from the Black community and give credence to Black women. She is a feminist with a woman-first agenda but also wants to focus on cultural diversity in her stories and to give credence to all women.

    Daley maintains a blog where she discusses topics related to women, relationships, and children - with a comical twist.

    At first, the blog was a way for her to overcome stress. Later, she was contacted by Street Hype Newspaper in New York, about having her own syndicated column in their newspaper. That led to a column called, "Real Talk With Sandy" that covered three different geographies – Canada, New York, and Barbados.

    The column was met with success and readers encouraged Daley to write her own book. This culminated in her first critically acclaimed novel, “Whose Vagina Is It, Really?” 

    “The title alone gets everybody. It was not deliberate. I try to stay authentic to my readers and maintain an honest connection,” Daley says of her book.

    “I don't want to be right, I just want to get it right,” says Daley of her life motto. “I love flawed characters. My characters are never perfect and that's why I think people gravitate to my column. I think this is my unique quality.” 

    Another important aspect of her writing is to allow characters to lead her instead of the other way round.

    “Most of the time, I know the end goal but I don't know how they're going to get to it, and that's the beautiful part of writing,” Daley confesses. “I don't always know what my own characters are up to.”

    Most of Daley's work is related to the dramedy genre; a mix of drama and comedy which she believes more writers should be willing to try.

    Her creative juices flow after watching people. She studies them, asks questions, creates a character, provides it with a backstory, and connects it all with humour.

    “I have tried to be funny since my childhood days. This kind of comedy is about being punchy, not deliberately, but speaking my mind only to question after the fact if I should have said that,” Daley says of plugging humour into her work.

    Daley says her main reason to love writing is that it gives her control over each page and how these characters are seen. She can recall many occasions when she was denied employment in the entertainment industry because of being Black.

    “Talk is cheap,” says Daley of the entertainment industry's need to do better. “We can only keep talking so much about the changes that we want to see. With all the stuff that we're seeing, such as stereotypes about Blacks, Mexicans, and LGBTQ, we have to address those things. Let's do something about it instead of just talking.” 

    Her advice to young women who don't see themselves on TV is to appear on TV themselves. “Start to write. Don't let anybody put any borders in front of you,” offers Daley. “You can do whatever you like, and sometimes you might have to take some people out of your life.”

    She also thinks writers should pay attention to the age, gender, and race of their characters. They shouldn’t leave it up to the casting directors to put who they want.

    “If you are not specific about your characters, you're left with scenes that only feature white people. Most casting directors automatically cast white women,” she says.

    Daley is always open to learning and believes that she has come a long way since her earliest years. In school, she learnt everything there is to know about writing and read every type of book that is out there.

    “I dabbled with raw writing - mostly what was in my mind. Then, I learnt to structure it. I went back to school for social work and writing. As a social worker, I have more information and stories to talk about,” says Daley.

    For her, the hardest part in writing is finding the time and a happy and stress-free zone while being a busy mom.

    For those who have the love of writing but can't find the time for it, Daley’s tip is to focus and prioritize. “You have to prioritize your needs. I focus on my children and my work. I don't have any time for anything else,” Daley says.

    Daley as a Social Justice Advocate

    Daley won the 2009 Spirit Award for favourite columnist and was named the Toronto Fringe Festival Artist of The Year in 2020. As a social justice advocate, the Centennial College’s Governor's Award for Excellence has a special place in Daley's heart.

    “This award is important to me because it came from the Women Empowerment Symposium called "Whose Body is it Really?" that raises awareness about violence against women. I’m the founder of the symposium, and now they run that every year," explains Daley.

    Daley wants women to know that certain plans won't always go their way sometimes, but they should not give up. “You have the right to stand up and fight for a prosperous life because your body belongs to you. Nobody else,” she underlines.

    Future Plan

    Daley’s goal is to continue improving her writing, directing, and acting skills. At present, she is working on three TV series, including her novel. The novel is also planned to be adapted into a play next year.

    Daley appreciates all the people who supported her in this journey. “Keep going! When somebody says that to me, it just means the world to me. So I'll say the same to you guys - keep going - I see you, I hear you. I'm in your corner, keep going,” she says to all her readers, but particularly Black women. 

    She invites everyone to see the “Chronicles of a Black Woman: A Sketch Comedy” during Fringe Festival between July 21 and 31. You can also check out her website to see all the stuff she does, and hit her up anytime if you have any questions or need advice.

    Read 389 times Last modified on Wednesday, 14 July 2021 11:02
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     Feleseta Kassaye Woldtsadique

    Feleseta Kassaye Woldtsadique is a seasoned communications professional in Canada with a passion for storytelling. Having a literature, media and communications background, she has worked for several non-profit organizations advocating for change for women, children, youth, environment and health policies across several UN Agencies.

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