British Columbia

Black Lives Matter billboard turns heads on busy Prince George road

A church congregation in northern B.C. has put up a high profile billboard in support of Black Lives Matter.

Northern B.C. church puts up giant ad as United Church nationwide vows to fight racism

Trinity United Church put up this Black Lives Matter billboard above a busy street in Prince George. (Betsy Trumpener/CBC)

A church congregation in northern B.C. has put up a Black Lives Matter billboard on a busy street in Prince George to show support for the anti-racism movement.

"You can't miss it," said Trinity United Church's minister, Rev. Dr. Bob Fillier.

"The billboard is absolutely huge and it's backlit. It's just very, very public and intentional," he said.

Fillier said his congregation of several hundred families wanted to go public to show it is fighting racism.

"There's so much traffic that people will actually see it. And if nothing else, it might cause them that moment of pause [to think about Black Lives Matter]," he said.

A church leader in Prince George says his congregation wanted to put up the Black Lives Matter billboard to publicly show its commitment to anti-racism. (Betsy Trumpener/CBC)

Fillier describes his congregation as "predominantly white" but he says it is a diverse group that includes Black and Indigenous worshippers, immigrants and people of colour

The minister said the sign has already attracted new worshippers to his church.

"We've had a number of folks come to us and say, 'Wow, like we're absolutely there with you. This is great. We didn't know there would be a church that would say this kind of thing and certainly not say it this publicly," Fillier said.

Rev. Dr. Bob Fillier is working to make the United Church an 'anti-racist denomination.' (Betsy Trumpener/CBC)

He says the Prince George congregation is at the forefront of a national effort by the United Church to become an "anti-racist denomination."   

Last week, the United Church's General Council voted to move ahead with a plan to "become an anti-racist church," challenging systemic racism both within the church and outside.

"This doesn't mean we have achieved this goal," said United Church moderator Rev. Richard Bott in a written statement. "But we are taking a stand and saying we are publicly committed."

The national church has just hired its first equity and anti-racism officer.  

Back in Prince George, Fillier said most of the reaction to the BLM billboard has been positive. But some people who drive by don't like the sign.

The United Church in Canada is moving ahead with work to become an 'anti-racist denomination.' (Betsy Trumpener/CBC)

Fillier said speaking with those people is an opportunity to change people's minds. 

"This is a particular moment in history, when there is this ability to name this kind of anti-black racism that is prevalent everywhere, including Prince George," he said.

A Black Lives Matter rally attracted roughly 700 people in Prince George on June 6, 2020. It followed an equally-well attended event outside city hall on June 5. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

In June, up to 700 people attended each of several Black Lives Matter rallies in Prince George. 

According to Statistics Canada, fewer than five per cent of people in Prince George identified as Black in 2016.

At a Black Lives Matter rally in Prince George in June, Robert Eneh told the crowd he covers his hair whenever he travels through airports in an effort to avoid being profiled by security. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

(CBC)

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Betsy Trumpener

Reporter-Editor, CBC News

Betsy Trumpener has won numerous journalism awards, including a national network award for radio documentary and the Adrienne Clarkson Diversity Award. Based in Prince George, B.C., Betsy has reported on everything from hip hop in Tanzania to B.C.'s energy industry and the Paralympics.

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