Arts·Here & Queer

Trailblazing trans icon Jackie Shane's Heritage Minute gives her the spotlight she deserves

Filmmakers Pat Mills and Ayo Tsalithaba sat down with Here & Queer host Peter Knegt to discuss the making of Shane's Heritage Minute.

Filmmakers Pat Mills and Ayo Tsalithaba sat down with Peter Knegt to discuss the making of Shane's Minute

Ravyn Wngz as Jackie Shane in a still from the Heritage Minute about her life.
Ravyn Wngz as Jackie Shane in the Heritage Minute about Shane's life. (Historica Canada)

Here & Queer is an interview series hosted by Peter Knegt that celebrates and amplifies the work of LGBTQ artists through unfiltered conversations.

Pioneering transgender soul singer Jackie Shane made an extraordinary mark on the world as both a musical force and a beacon of Black queer visibility. And although she passed away on February 19, 2019 at the age of 78, her legacy lives on ... and is finally getting the mainstream attention it deserves.

A few months ago, Shane became the subject of a Heritage Minute, the iconic 60-second documentaries that illustrate an important moment in Canadian history. Co-directed by Pat Mills and Ayo Tsalithaba, the Heritage Minute stars trans performer Ravyn Wngz as Shane, and does a remarkable job at condensing what it is that makes Shane so extraordinary.

That's in part due to Mills and Tsalithaba, who we were lucky enough to have stop by the set of Here & Queer to talk about the journey of making it — and why Jackie Shane was such an imperative person for the series to highlight.

"It felt kind of surreal to even be making a Heritage Minute at all," says Tsalithaba. "And to be making it about Jackie Shane, a Black trans woman in Toronto, was also surreal."

In addition to Mills and Tsalithaba, who are both queer-identifying, the team that came together to create the Heritage Minute featured many members of the Toronto queer arts community, including Wngz, narrator Beverly Glenn-Copeland, writer J.P. Larocque, and producers Caitlin Brown and Vanessa Magic.

"I've never worked on anything where every single detail was scrutinized, where everything had to be historically accurate," Mills says. "We had this document that would have arrows to a line of dialogue and cross-referenced that to an article in the Toronto Star in like 1970 to make sure [historic Toronto bar] the Sapphire may or may not have had a dressing room. Like, just a crazy amount of like scrutinizing, even down to the swizzle sticks at the bar."

Black-and-white photo of Jackie Shane.
(Numero Group)

"We had to re-order different props because it didn't work [historically]," adds Tsalithaba. "So when you're watching it and the runtime is down to a minute, there's decades of story in there."

Thanks to Tsalithaba, Mills and all their collaborators condensed that story that minute, all Canadians can come to understand why Jackie Shane was the legend that she was — and hopefully that's just the beginning of their journey through her life and work.

Watch the Heritage Minute on Jackie Shane here.


Peter Knegt (he/him) is a writer, producer and host for CBC Arts. He writes the LGBTQ-culture column Queeries (winner of the Digital Publishing Award for best digital column in Canada) and hosts and produces the talk series Here & Queer. He's also spearheaded the launch and production of series Canada's a Drag, variety special Queer Pride Inside, and interactive projects Superqueeroes and The 2010s: The Decade Canadian Artists Stopped Saying Sorry. Collectively, these projects have won Knegt four Canadian Screen Awards. Beyond CBC, Knegt is also the filmmaker of numerous short films, the author of the book About Canada: Queer Rights and the host of the monthly film series Queer Cinema Club at Toronto's Paradise Theatre. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter with the same obvious handle: @peterknegt.

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now