Afro-Canadian Actress Refuses to Apologize for Participating in Controversial Slave Play

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Kattia Thony
“SLAV” features a largely white cast dressed as cotton pickers and field workers toiling away as they sang old Negro spirituals. (Photo by John Mahoney / Montreal Gazette)

A Canadian actress is speaking out amid controversy over her participation in a stage play about slavery that was largely performed and produced by a white cast.

Kattia Thony, who stars in the controversial show “SLAV,” took to Facebook on Wednesday to defend her role in the production, writing that as a descendant of slaves, she felt it was her “right” and “responsibility” to do so.

“There’s a complete scene that pays tribute to Haiti, the first Black nation to free itself and like all Haitians, I’m extremely proud,” Thony wrote in a translated post. “…By being aware that my ancestors were determined to pay very expensive to take their freedom, the chains they got rid of their wrists and feet, I refuse to get them back in my head and in my heart.”

Kattia Thony
(Facebook screenshot)

All future productions of “SLAV,” which tells the story of Black enslavement, was recently pulled from the Montreal International Jazz Festival lineup due to protests sparked by the show, the Montreal Gazette reported. The decision followed Black American singer Moses Sumney’s decision to quit the festival altogether over the fact that Black folks “songs are taken from them by white people and performed to rooms full of other white people…for high ticket prices.”

The play, directed by Robert Lepage and starring Betty Bonifassi, who are both white, featured a predominantly white cast dressed as cotton pickers and field workers toiling away as they sang Negro spirituals. The production sparked protests in Montreal last week, with critics arguing that it depicts a racist appropriation of Black culture.

“I much would have preferred seeing actual Black Americans sing their own slave songs,” Sumney, 28, wrote in a blog post.

Thony saw things differently, however, and said she wouldn’t apologize for going on stage and making her voice heard.

“I’m a woman, I’m black, I’m strong, I’m Haitian and especially I’m human,” she wrote. “I’m for the union, not division.”

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