Betty Riley a black trailblazing TV producer

Betty Riley

Betty Riley a black trailblazing TV producer

Betty Riley, a pioneering television producer, came from a lineage of African descent that was relocated to the Maritimes alongside the Loyalists in 1783. While she was born in Montreal, her maternal family hailed from Saint John, and she spent her adolescent years in this province.

Upon returning to Montreal, where she worked as an office supervisor for a cable TV company, Riley observed that despite growing calls for ethnic diversity, there was a significant lack of action regarding the representation of Black individuals.

Riley broke new ground as Canada’s first Black female television producer with the creation of “Black Is” in the 1970s. This show addressed contemporary issues impacting the Black community, such as police violence and biased immigration laws. Beyond her production work, Riley was dedicated to teaching Black History, engaging in community activities, and conducting a television workshop. This workshop was designed to teach Black youth about production basics, empowering them to shape and share their own stories about the Black experience in Canada.

As a Black woman in the predominantly white and male field of television, Riley was a vocal proponent for racial and gender equality in the professional sphere. She stated, “women’s liberation is not my struggle. Black women never fought for the right to work. They had no choice. They had to work.”

Source: UNB 

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