New program offers community and opportunities for Black artists

By Nicole Brownlee

The Black Lives Matter protests last spring encouraged many organizations to reconsider their role in ensuring diversity and inclusive spaces. 

Artist and business owner Andrew Sannie said protests and conversations encouraged him to approach Manitoba Music nearly one year ago to establish a program that could create more opportunities for Black artists. 

“The one thing everyone was left with [after the BLM protests] was this idea of seeing what they could do in their personal communities,” said The Lytics lyricist.

Sannie reached out to Manitoba Music’s Sean McManus and found the executive director had similar ideas.

“He said that’s kind of something that’s been on his heart for a while…And as we talked about it, we both just saw it as an opportunity to make something happen.”

Manitoba Music’s Black Professionals in Music program will meet monthly to address challenges and opportunities Black artists face when navigating the music industry and eventually establish connections between upcoming professionals and industry leaders. 

“The events [of 2020] I think, opened up space to have more conversations about the representation of Black people in the industry and in our programming,” said McManus. 

“And as difficult as all that was, I think it really did cause things to start to move more quickly in terms of us realizing that there is a need and that we should do something sooner than later.”

Andrew Sannie is working alongside Manitoba Music to create monthly workshops based on Black Professionals in Music members’ feedback./KHAMMY PHOTOGRAPHY

The first BPM meeting is set for Feb. 18, and Sannie said they plan to discuss what members want to achieve through the program.

“I’m excited at the prospect of, you know, hearing where everyone’s at, and having the opportunity to connect with people and figure out what we all want to learn… I’m really hoping that I’m going to learn a ton too,” said Sannie.

“This project will be informed by what the folks that come out to participate tell us and what we sort of learn from the process,” said McManus.

Sannie said in an interview last Thursday that 13 people have signed up for the program including photographers, producers and artists.

“People from all walks of the music industry or adjacent to the music industry have showed interest in being involved…Honestly, when we came into it, in my head I was like ‘if we get five, I’ll be happy,’” said Sannie.

People interested in the program can choose which sessions they’d like to join and Sannie said he doesn’t think there will be a limit on how many can attend.

“We’re building the plane as we’re flying it,” said Sannie. “It’s going to change.”

To learn more about BPM and how to participate, visit