Whose Lives Matter?

Why does the colour of someone's skin seem to trigger prejudice? Why do Black people get carded by the police more often than white? Why does Black history seem marginalised in the story of our country? The Black Lives Matter movement demands serious answers from our society to all of these questions about race, culture and prejudice. Janaya Khan, d'bi. young and Sandra Hudson in a discussion from the Stratford Festival.
Members of Black Lives Matter Toronto take part in the annual Pride Parade in Toronto on Sunday, July 3, 2016. (Mark Blinch/Canadian Press)
Listen to the full episode53:58

Why does the colour of someone's skin seem to trigger prejudice? Why do Black people get carded by the police more often than white? Why does Black history seem marginalized in the story of our country? The Black Lives Matter movement demands serious answers from our society to all of these questions about race, culture and prejudice. This episode features Janaya Khan, d'bi. young and Sandra Hudson in a panel discussion from the Stratford Festival Forum.

From a panel discussion about the Black Lives Matter movement recorded at the Stratford Festival. 1:19

 
"You know, when I think of 'whose lives matter?' I think of — what are our lives worth? Is my life worth a noise complaint, is that enough to end it? When I call the police for help, because maybe I'm having an episode...and that need for help is seen as something threatening?"
 – Janaya Khan

Slavery officially ended in the United States around 150 years ago, but the legacy of slavery continues into our own time, an aftershock of prejudice and bigotry that continues to shape attitudes toward African Americans — and African Canadians — right up into our own more 'enlightened' era. You won't find many people today to argue that one race is inherently inferior to another, but the statistics tell us the truth — that in the U.S. a black person is five times more likely to be in prison than a white person, or that in Toronto you're three times more likely to be stopped by the police.

"Allowing ourselves to believe that we can really change an entire system, just like our ancestors did — I think that's what it's going to take to really, truly shift this system — for everyone." – Sandra Hudson

Prejudice has deep roots, and being Black provokes one of the oldest prejudices of all. It's little wonder that organizations like Black Lives Matter have sprung up in the aftermath of so many violent Black deaths — think Michael Brown, Andrew Loku — at the hands of the police. But BLM, with their flamboyant skills in media relations and community organisation, has done a lot more than move race relations to the front of public debate. BLM also proposes that we rethink how each of us, as individuals, relates to the next person. 

"I want us to ask ourselves: what does it take for me to care about something beyond my own lived experience. What does it take for me to invest in a set of principles that are going to guide my performance in this game (of life)?" – d'bi. young

Protesters huddle for warmth in front of the Toronto Police Headquarters in Toronto on Monday March 21, 2016. A group of Black Lives Matter protesters have set up to occupy a space in front of headquarters after the Special Investigations Unit cleared a Toronto police officer of any wrongdoing in the shooting death of 45-year-old Andrew Loku from this past July. (Cole Burston/Canadian Press)

Staging a sit-in at Toronto Police headquarters, or at the Toronto Pride parade — these are spectacular public events that make friends and enemies alike: you're forced to takes sides, no-one is neutral. And maybe that's for the best. Janaya Khan points out that it's fashionable to assume we're better than our neighbours to the south, but that bad stuff- we do it here too. And the battle for social equity — it's not only about taking to the streets.

"We have to be really creative, and we have to find joy in each other, and so, as much as it might be easy to think all we do is talk about revolution, we also talk about joy in the type of world we're creating, because we understand that revolution isn't just the end of something, it's the beginning of something." – Janaya Khan


Guests in this episode:

  • Janaya Khan is the co-founder of Black Lives Matter Canada. Khan is "Black, queer, gender-nonconforming activist, staunch Afrofuturist, boxer and social-justice educator".
  • d'bi. young is a poet, educator, thee-time Dora Award-winning actor and playwright, founder of the Watah Theatre.
  • Sandra Hudson is an award-winning community organizer, founder of Black Lives Matter – Toronto and one of Toronto Life's 50 Most Influential Torontonians in 2016.


Further reading:

  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, published by Spiegel & Grau, 2015.
  • The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin, published by Penguin Random House, 1992.
  • Freedom Is a Constant Struggle by Angela Davis, published by Haymarket, 2016.
  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, published by Penguin Random House,1995.


**This episode was produced by Philip Coulter. It was recorded at the Stratford Festival. Thanks to David Campbell. Special thanks to  Ann Swerdfager and Antoni Cimolino.

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