Winnipeg and racism have been sharing a lot of space in the headlines recently. 

Let’s take the negative attention on Winnipeg’s racism, and learn from when this happened before.

In 2011, Winnipeg made national headlines with the violence that was happening in our city. A group of aboriginal youth leaders took decisive action and said we will lead by example to try and combat this issue. That's when Meet Me at the Bell Tower —  aiming to end violence in the neighbourhood — began.

'We can choose to take action on this issue, and be consistent, deliberate, focused and constructive.' - Micheal Champagne 

Since then, I have had the opportunity to travel across Winnipeg and even across Canada, telling stories as a motivational speaker about how resilient and strong our communities can be if we lead by example. 

Today, Winnipeg has the opportunity to do the same thing – we can choose to take action on this issue, and be consistent, deliberate, focused and constructive.

What can you do?

  • Treat all people around you the same, regardless of the colour of their skin (but don’t ignore it, that’s part of their identity).
  • Stop laughing at racist jokes and confront friends about it when you hear them (respectfully).
  • Share a piece of your unique language with someone who is interested in listening (& encourage them to share).
  • Reach out to cultural groups that are not your own and learn from them about their culture & what you have in common.
  • Self check your own assumptions when generalizing a whole group based on the actions of a few in thought or comment.
  • Be an ally – that means listening to what others may need, and only doing those actions (unsolicited help, can be interpreted in the wrong way, so communicate, communicate, communicate).

We will be discussing the actions we can take as individuals, and as a community at Meet Me at the Bell Tower this Friday. These actions are for us, as citizens of this city, so we do not feel helpless in the face of racism and discrimination.

Let’s turn racism into resolve and stand strong beside one another as we address this issue and lead with our examples.

There are many other actions we can take in our day to day lives – what do you feel we can do to address this issue in our city?

Michael Champagne and the Aboriginal Youth Opportunities (AYO!) started Meet Me At the Belltower over two years ago, in Winnipeg's north end. The weekly event brings community members together to combat gangs, poverty, violence and youth suicide in their neighbourhood.

This article was republished with the permission of the author. It first appeared on North End MC.