Winnipeg showed solidarity exists in the city on Aug. 23, when Black Space Winnipeg put on the Silence is Violence #WinnipegAgainstFascism event, which was held in response to the KKK rallies that took place on Aug. 11 in Charlottesville, Va.
Alexa Potashnik, the founder of Black Space, hosted the discussion that took place in the Bulman Centre at the University of Winnipeg.
People who Identify as BIPOC – Black, Indigenous, People of Colour – were invited to come earlier to have a safer space to feel comfortable amongst each other to talk about about the racism they face and the sadness and grief they feel within their communities, without any potential backlash from anyone who isn’t a Person of Colour.
Certain events, discussions, workplace and classroom settings most often only have one or a few people who identify as BIPOC.
For example, Lamar Bethea writes in an article for thetab.com about being the only black student in college classes: “For my first six semesters in college, I always find myself doing the same thing on the first day of classes. I find an open seat and frantically survey the room for other black students. On a few occasions, I get to breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that perhaps one other person in the room has had experiences similar to mine.”
Black Space used this opportunity to reclaim space for people of colour in the city to feel like they matter in such a time where they may feel like the world is against them.
When the floor was opened for discussion to non-BIPOC to speak, none spoke.
“This is an unapologetic and intimate discussion for People of Colour to express the racism, microagressions and hate they have gone through in their lives,” Potashnik says.
“What surprised me the most about the conversation was the amount of truth that was shared in this particular space,” Adeline Bird, the vice president of Black Space, says. “I feel more and more POC are becoming bold when it comes to sharing our stories and experiences.”
All types of lived experiences were discussed at the rally, from second-generation People of Colour, Indigenous women, immigrants, young and old People of Colour and the Ghanaian men who were petitioning during Folklorama for the change in the way that the LGBTQ+ community is treated in Ghana. It was a turnout that gave the community a time to reflect, connect and see what is affecting them at the forefront.
The People of Colour who spoke emphasized that racism in general, but especially racism in Winnipeg, is nothing new to them, and it has been going on for a long time. The folks that spoke at the rally added that they are exhausted and need allies to take charge and call out racist family members, coworkers and friends on their behaviour.
“My hope is that people realize that racism is real and happens daily to People of Colour in Winnipeg. I also hope the ignorance that is racism will end in Winnipeg,” local natural hair enthusiast Shondell Babb says.
“I saw a great desire, or at least a curiosity and interest, in Winnipeggers becoming better allies, judging by the large turnout in a short period of time.”
Published in Volume 72, Number 1 of The Uniter (September 7, 2017)