This is a special episode of Changes BIG and small. I put out this episode in support of justice for George Floyd, who was killed when a police office knelt on his neck for 8 minutes 46 seconds while he cried for his life. I support justice for Breonna Taylor who was killed in her own home. There is a long list of black men and women who have been killed by the police in the United States including Dominique Clayton, Eric Reason, Tamir Rice, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Ahmaud Arbery. I’m not American but I kneel with you and support the fight for justice. Black Lives Matter.
Black people everywhere in the world, in places where we’re the minority, distrusted, ill-treated, we matter too. I stand for equality, for human rights and justice all over the world. I recognize the organization Black Lives Matter but for me, black lives matter is a mindset.
I’m A Black Woman
You don’t need to convince me that black lives matter. I’m a black woman. My mother is a black woman, my father a black man. It runs through my body, the belief that black lives matter.
Growing Up Black
I was born and raised in St. Lucia; that’s the rhythm you hear in my voice. I moved to Canada when I was 12 and turned 13 my first semester of Grade 9. I was the only black student there when I started. My first friend was an Indian girl who told me we would be friends; I’m thankful for her because she pulled me into a group of her friends, some Asian and White girls. I made other friends as well through involvement in Student Council (an appointed role), Math Club, the Environmental Club, Blood donations. I had always had friends growing up, been a leader of the pack, but in this new environment, I shrank a bit. I’d always enjoyed reading and books became even more important in my life. My family wanted me to focus on learning and school, not on clubs or friendships. There were some adults there who saw me, who I never felt a skin barrier with.
Damianne is not like other black people.High school teacher – What does that even mean, and should I feel flattered?
Attending West Carleton Secondary School
The vice-principal, Mr. Lafleur always called me by name, since the day I was registered. Mr. Williamson and Mr. Bender encouraged my interests. Mr. Smedley told me I had a nice smile, and not in a matter of fact, non-creepy way where I never felt unsafe. The librarian, noticing how much I loved reading, started buying books by black authors for the library. The first book she bought and delivered to my hands was Jazz by Toni Morrison.
My life-line in that time, the adult who didn’t even teach me, but whose classroom I regularly visited was Mrs. Pompey’s. She’s a black woman, originally from the Caribbean too, and I could talk to her about life so that she got it. We remain friends to this day. I never have to wonder how she feels about me, about my blackness. I am safe with her.
The fight against racism and for justice requires dedication and persistence. When I was in high school, my fight was for curriculum changes and school policies that respected different cultures and religions. In university, I volunteered for the J’Nikira Dinqinesh Education Centre with June Girvan.
Don’t play with her.Grade 1 child. Racism can start out as a learned behavior.
Since I left Canada 17 years ago, my life has had less activism but there have definitely been times when I’ve felt less than, in countries all over the world. There have been instances of subtle, suspicious experiences that may or may not have been racism but there have also been clearly racist instances.
Living Outside of the US
I am intentional in making sure that I read books by black authors, and follow black activists on social media. I goal is to amplify their voice by sharing their work. When people display their ignorance about black people, I push against their biases. I confront racism when I encounter it. But I’m comfortable. I’ve approached policemen in many countries for directions. I have not been afraid to wear a hoodie.
Black men are big and scary.White woman at Internations dinner I hosted in Prague – I had to remind her that my father is a Black man
Listening to Understand
I have not feared for my life. So I listen closely when my black brothers and sisters talk. I listen when black men in Canada tell me of being stopped by the police because of racial profiling. It hurts me that so many black women and men have been killed by the police. I feel the tension in my body when I watch police in full armor face off against protesters. I try to imagine the pain that you must feel to want everything to crash and burn, to consider that the only way to have a chance for justice is to break down everything that exists. That kind of ANGUISH is foreign to me. I am a black woman who believes down to my core that black lives matter. And I also believe that black pain matters.
Black Lives Matter
If you don’t get why Black Lives Matter, I’m not going to explain it because there are better resources than me for that. What I will say is this: Every single person in society is responsible for the society that we live in. We decide by the way we vote, by the way we live, what we say and don’t say, what we do and don’t do. We have power in how we spend our money, who we engage with, who we donate to, what we read, what we consume.
My challenge to you is to educate yourself. Get outside yourself for a moment and learn about issues of justice for black people. Read some books, watch some documentaries, talk to your friends about what you’re thinking and feeling. Notice the pain, the sorrow, the rage, the despair, the range of emotions in the black people around you. Make space for people to talk with you or to take a moment to wrestle and figure things out for themselves. But the most important part is to do. How will you show up? What will you do to fight for justice? How will you live as an anti-racist person?
My sister and I went to a Black Lives Matter protest in Prague. I asked her if she would be comfortable going in the time of coronavirus, and was proud of her when she said that it was important for us to show up. I’ve been thinking about this concept of showing up. I wondered what it meant to show up.
We made posters and were present in our bodies. We got up close to hear what was being said. As I listened, I could feel my frustration. I was frustrated because I want justice for George Floyd but I also don’t want to have to go to another protest for another black victim of police brutality in the future. I want justice for George Floyd but I also want justice and equality for ALL Black people EVERWHERE. Let’s shine the light on what’s happening in the United States, but let’s also examine racist practices and systems in our own lives, in the countries where we live, the places where we work, inside our homes, inside our minds.
Black Lives Matter Protest Outside the US
I asked my friend Sophia why it was important for her to protest even though she’s living outside of the US. She was one of a handful of people who showed up at the American embassy last week. This is what she said:
I’m proud to be an American but before I am American, I am a black female, and that means a lot to me. I felt it was necessary for me to do something.
Go to the protest, yes. But then when it’s all done, do more. As long as there are black people carrying fear, fear for their life, in their body and brain every time they leave the house, and even now when they are in their home, we have work to do.
How will you show up?
Look around you, in the virtual and physical worlds, and decide what you can do. And since we’re social creatures, it’s even better if you can take someone else on the journey with you. There are a list of resources and ideas in the show notes. It’s not an exhaustive list; there are lots of places that you can get those but I find that when there are too many choices, people get into analysis paralysis, trying to figure out what is the best option. Forget about choosing what’s best; choose something and start today. Over the next few weeks, I’ll share what steps people are taking in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Please share your actions by going to changesbigandsmall.com.
Until next week
I’ll be back next with another episode of Changes BIG and small. If you have questions or ideas about Black Lives Matter, justice, anti-racism, equality, you can leave a voice message or contact me using the form on my website.
- Black Visions Collective
- Reclaim the Block
- The Okra Project
- North Star Health Collective
- Know Your Rights Camp
- More suggestions
- How to Be an Antiracist, Stamped From the Beginning and Stamped by Ibram X. Kendi
- From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
- 5 Things Allies Can Do to Sponsor Coworkers from Underrepresented Groups, Better Allies
- America, This Is Your Chance by Michelle Alexander
- Engaging in Conversations About Gender, Race, and Ethnicity in the Workplace, Catalyst
- Welcome To The Anti-Racism Movement — Here’s What You’ve Missed, Ijeoma Oluo
- The End of Policing, Alex S. Vitale (free)