Addressing anti-Black racism
July 16, 2020
In recent weeks, across North America and the world, communities have mobilized to speak out against anti-Black racism and its impacts. Anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism are not new in Canada, these destructive actions have been ever-present in Canada’s history, and events in the last days and weeks are a stark reminder of all of the work that we have left to do to fight these issues at a greater structural level and in our personal lives, in our communities, and in the organizations that we participate in.
At Equitas, we work to advance equality and social justice through a human rights and children’s rights-based approach. You can read more about Equitas’ organizational response here. This approach is founded on the belief that every human being, by virtue of being human, is a holder of rights and that all human beings should have equal opportunity to realize their full potential. However, people marginalized by systemic barriers in society face significant obstacles in accessing these inalienable rights and we believe equipping young people with knowledge about their rights is an important tool in dismantling racism and ongoing discrimination.
Children and youth are able to recognize racism and discrimination at an early age. They appreciate the importance of promoting and protecting everyone’s rights and are able to reflect on their own behaviour and take action to raise awareness and be part of change in their communities. At Equitas, we support partners through training and tools grounded in a human rights-based approach to help create more accessible, inclusive, rights-respecting programs for children and youth and their families. We also support children and youth to identify issues that are important to them and initiate Community Action Projects to engage parents, community members, and decision makers in dialogue about how to address racism in their communities. We know that there are many pathways to addressing the complexities of systemic racism, and as we work with partners, we are exploring our own perceptions and biases and learning, as we encourage others to do. We explore these from the work and teachings of Black people, especially Black and Indigenous womxn, who have been, and remain, at the forefront of anti-racism education.
Here is some of the important work partners and youth Equitas work with across Canada have been doing to address racism in their communities:
Black Creek Youth Initiative Town Hall Meetings:
After seeing how many of the youth in his neighbourhood were becoming increasingly anxious about police brutality, Destin Bujang, founder of Equitas’ partner organization the Black Creek Youth Initiative, an after-school program for youth, wanted to do something. He organized a virtual meeting between youth from his west-end Toronto neighbourhood and police so that they could share their concerns and hopes for their neighbourhood. “The youth are very aware about the systematic issues and they have had encounters with the police, so when people started protesting, it opened a lot of old wounds,” Bujang said. “They also feel like they’re being over-policed. ” Destin co-founded the Black Creek Youth Initiative after participating in Equitas Speaking Rights trainings and conducting a Community Action Project. See more about this initiative here: https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2020/06/12/youth-in-a-west-end-toronto-neighbourhood-meet-with-police-seeking-a-way-forward.html
S4 Collective – Sharing stories of resilience in the face of discrimination:
Sanctuary Students Solidarity and Support Collective (S4) is a new member-driven group in Toronto and Equitas partner organisation whose mission is to address several challenges identified by precarious migrant and newcomer students (Sanctuary Students) at the threshold of post-secondary education in Ontario. A few weeks ago, in collaboration with @Migrant Right Network, they published "Metamorphosis," a zine where they share their experiences as a collective navigating the lack of pathways to status. The zine is a celebration of their courage, their resilience but also of their hopes. You can read their stories here: https://bit.ly/3fQxNqD
Saamis – Newcomers raising awareness about bullying and racism:
Saamis Immigration Services Association is an organization based in Medicine Hat, Alberta, that helps newcomers adjust and settle into their new community. Over the past year, in the context of Saamis’ participation in Equitas’ Speaking Rights program, the youth advisory council decided to raise awareness about racism and bullying in their community. Many newcomer youth experience race-based bullying, and the council wanted to change that. Through interviews, a video project, a series of activities with youth, and a presentation to the Medicine Hat City Council, the youth advisory council is speaking out against injustices, and making their demands for a more inclusive community heard. Check out a video they created about their initiatives here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GxzJufSghiQ
In our continued effort to support anti-racism initiatives across Canada, Equitas will continue to work with partners and youth in the coming months. We are also pleased to be launching this fall our new Building Inclusive Communities Guide. This guide is a human rights education tool that features engaging activities and steps to support diverse young people to initiate actions aimed at building inclusive and rights-respecting communities, using a children’s rights-based approach (CRBA). This guide will be accompanied by training across Canada equipping partner organizations to integrate activities that increase participation and leadership of all young people and promote respect for diversity and inclusion. It is our hope that this guide will be a useful tool in youth-serving organizations’ toolboxes to tackle racism and discrimination. If you would like more information about this upcoming toolkit, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org .
At Equitas, we remain committed to recognizing, addressing and opposing anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism. We fully support movements to end racism in communities across Canada, and globally. We are challenging ourselves to continue the difficult and lifelong work to learn, unlearn and re-learn in order to dismantle the systemic anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism that exists in our society, organisations and ourselves. We remain accountable to the communities we work with along this journey to actively work to end systemic racism.