By Tiarsha Harrison
Khalilah Brooks wears many hats proudly. She’s an award-winning producer, children’s author, singer-songwriter, creator and founder of BAM Children’s Entertainment, which recently announced development plans for its premiere digital children’s show, Aunty B’s House, to be released later this year and is based on the production company’s lovable live performances featuring life-size puppets. Brooks not only plays the show’s title character, but she also brings authenticity and vulnerability to the role stemming from her own personal experience as a foster child growing up in Canadian foster care. The Toronto native is excited to be one step closer to a dream she’s carried for years. It is time to represent and stand up for the voiceless and to teach children to “Stay groovy.” Â
How does it feel to be Canada’s first Black female lead in children’s musical theater who specializes in the use of life-size puppets?
I look at this as a gift. I get to play and work all at the same time. I also fell into the role unexpectedly; it was something that I never knew I would ever do.
How excited are you to produce a pilot episode for your upcoming show Aunty B’s House?
I’m very fortunate to have this opportunity to do something I’m passionate about. I’ve wanted to produce a show for a while now, and it’s definitely been a journey, one that’s a worthwhile process. I’ve learned a lot along the way such as patience, faith, courage, and belief in myself even if other people don’t. I’ve also had to be reminded to make sure that I’m not just wearing the armor given to me but that I’m using it wisely and properly.
What inspired you to pursue the opportunity at BAM Children’s Entertainment?
What inspired me to start my company was also by chance. I was working at a theatrical company and began to consider what else I could do with my talents. I considered going back to school and study business. My goal was to start a talent agency that would assist our young artists in maneuvering through the entertainment industry. But when I got down to my business plan, I figured out that I would require a lot of talent in order to make a profit. It just so happened that at the same time Oprah Winfrey had requested some show ideas based on her launch of the OWN network. I submitted an idea called Aunty K, and the network told me that while they thought it was a great idea, they were not going to be doing children’s content. I put it on the shelf for a few months and then one day, through prayer, I was reminded of the Aunty K submission. I took it from there and created BAM Children’s Entertainment and changed the show’s name to Aunty B and Friends.
What do you hope to portray playing a mother who has foster children? What qualities do you hope to bring to the character from your own personal experience?
As a young girl I grew up in foster care and was a ward of the court until the age of 21. My personal life experiences have inspired the show’s idea. Having foster children on screen, I hope to remind the many children who are currently in care that they have a voice, that people care about them and they are important. I want the many adults who will view the show with their children to be compassionate and optimistic on maybe opening their homes to a child in need.
Playing the character of Aunty B, I hope to tap into the spirit of my foster mother, Emilie Jarvis, who was extremely active in my life from the age of 10, playing the role of my mother until she passed away in 2018. Her impact on my life has brought me this far and is immeasurable. I hope I can make her proud as I open up my heart like she opened hers to me. She taught me to be the best version of myself, to be resilient, to have hope and to use my voice. By playing Aunty B, I can do the same for many children, showing them they are not their life experiences, but they’re more than they can even dream of for themselves.
What are a few things you are looking forward to most with Aunty B’s House?
With Aunty B’s House, I’m super excited about writing, creating laughter and joy in a real home environment with characters of different cultural backgrounds and personalities. I also am excited that we are finally doing it! It’s like a dream come true. It is a dream come true. Just imagine – through our show we will be an advocate for those who are overlooked or pre-judged because they are foster children. That’s amazing to me.
What is the experience like for you working with children? How do you form connections?
Working with children has always seemed to come quite easily for me. As I said earlier, my foster mother was like an angel on earth. She had the gift of working with children which I truly believe was passed down to me. I just love working with children! I think my connection is formed because I’m not afraid to relate to them by remembering to let go and have no boundaries. Toddlers don’t really have self doubt or a lack of confidence. I like that place.
How does it feel to be an accomplished producer, children’s author, creator and singer/songwriter?
Oh, wow! Well, I don’t really think of myself as accomplished. I consider myself a student at all times because there’s no evolving without learning and I wanna learn forever. But, I’m grateful for the experiences that I’ve had thus far, and I look forward to having many more and sharing them with others.
What inspired you to create the phrase, “Stay groovy” for the show?
The slogan “Stay Groovy” came from reflecting on my family in the 70’s with big Afros and bell bottom pants. I also recognize that every great children’s entertainer has something that sticks with the audience and because Aunty B is just so groovy I wanted to leave a message with our audience that says to be loving, be kind, be brave and in using only one phrase, I hear “Stay Groovy!”
How has the experience been transitioning the direction of the show due to the pandemic?
Since the pandemic, we have adapted our operations from theatrical performances to digital media content. Financially, we’ve had some rough moments here and there but overall it’s been great. I’m learning a lot, including attending webinars to improve my skills. In some ways, it’s been a blessing in disguise because we’ve been able to impact more children through the digital platform process than our in-person performances.
What ultimately motivates you to stand up for the voiceless and represent children of color?
Standing up for the voiceless is effortless to me because I was that black child who was voiceless. I’m motivated because I want to see change. I want to see equality. I want to see the barriers of systemic racism being torn apart and for all children to have an equal starting point in life. That’s what motivates me to be an advocate for the voiceless, plus, it’s about time!
Follow BAM Children’s Entertainment on YouTube on the Aunty B & Friends channel, on
Facebook at @auntyb1, and on Instagram and Twitter at @auntyb_.