Local Activist and Broadcast Pioneer Wins Governor General’s Performing Arts Award

Oro-Medonte’s Rita Shelton Deverell “Totally Surprised” by Recognition; ‘It means a lot to me’

An Oro-Medonte woman with a long history in broadcasting, theater and activism has received Canada’s highest honor for the performing arts.

Rita Shelton Deverell is one of seven people to receive a 2022 Governor General’s Performing Arts Award. Hers is for lifetime artistic achievement.

Deverell has left his mark on the broadcasting and arts scenes for 55 years. She worked for CBC, where she produced a Gemini Award-winning series, and served as Director of News at the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN).

One of her most enduring legacies was Vision TV, the world’s first multi-faith, multi-cultural network, which she co-founded. She is also one of the first black women in the country to hold the positions of television host and network executive.

Winning the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award is “extremely rewarding,” Deverell said.

“I was totally surprised,” she said. “It creates a kind of soft glow in my heart.”

Deverell, who is currently Chancellor of Lakehead University, has had to overcome a number of hurdles throughout her career.

In a video posted on the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards YouTube page, she spoke about the “racism, sexism and corporate power plays” she has faced.

“I’m female and I’m black, and I’ve worked in professions where we know there is systemic racism and sexism,” she said. OrilliaMatters.

Deverell was hired by Regina’s Globe Theater in 1971. That was before many theaters even thought of “non-traditional casting,” she said, referring to people of color, de genders and of different origins.

She wanted to change that.

“Who ever said that a doctor had to be a white man, for example?

As for the corporate power play, she referred to her co-founding of Vision TV, which at the time was a nonprofit network.

“That’s a hard thing to do in the communications industry, which is largely a profit-driven business,” she said.

Deverell is often referred to as a social activist, and much of this work has been accomplished through her various jobs and her efforts to promote equity, diversity and inclusion.

“Most of the social activism I’ve done isn’t because I love being an activist; it’s that I had to do these things so someone like me could do what I do. “, she said.

There’s better representation now than when Deverell started in broadcasting, but there’s “still a long way to go”.

Just as important as who is seen is “who owns, who is in executive management and who is on the board,” she said.

APTN is a good example, she added, because its owners and administrators are indigenous.

All his experiences over the years have contributed to the success of his career.

“I recognize that I am part of a very small privileged group of human beings,” she said. “I have been able to work for over 50 years at exactly the work that I believe is important to do for the good of the planet as well as for the good of myself, and I have been able to get paid for almost all of it.”

While it has been gratifying to receive various accolades, including being appointed to the Order of Canada, the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award stands out.

“The award means that I am recognized by my colleagues for this work, and there is nothing more satisfying than that,” she said. “It means a lot to me and I’m sure it means a lot to all the other winners as well.”

Fernand Dansereau, David Foster, Tomson Highway, Crystal Pite, Linda Rabin and Michelle Smith join Deverell on the list of 2022 winners.

Governor General Mary Simon will present the awards at a ceremony at Rideau Hall on May 28.

About Madeline J. Carter

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