Activists hold alternative racism summit in Winnipeg

A Winnipeg group is holding an alternative summit Thursday to discuss racism in Winnipeg. Organizers say the mayor's summit on racial inclusion does not go far enough to include local perspectives and experiences.

'This is for the community, by the community,' event organizer Leonard Monkman says

Lenard Monkman, left, and Sadie-Phoenix Lavoie are organizers of an alternative summit on racism in Winnipeg called Our Summit. It takes place Thursday, Sept. 17, at 6 p.m. at the Forks. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

A Winnipeg group is holding a racism summit Thursday without the benefit of the mayor's clout.

Our Summit is a free event put together by North End community organizer Lenard Monkman and indigenous advocate Sadie-Phoenix Lavoie. It will be held at 6 p.m. at the Oodena Celebration Circle at The Forks.

"This is for the community, by the community," said Monkman. "We're not just going to stand around and listen to people talk."

Lavoie and Monkman created the summit as an alternative to One: The Mayor's National Summit on Racial Inclusion, happening Thursday and Friday at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, because they feel the higher-profile event lacks local voices.

Some of the guests invited to the alternative event include Manitoba Muslim leader Shahina Siddiqui, anti-oppression facilitator Jackie Hogue and Rosanna Deerchild, host of CBC's Unreserved.

"Local issues around racism in Winnipeg seem to be overlooked (in the One summit)," said Lavoie.

Keynote speakers at the mayor's event include author Joseph Boyden; Rev. Gerald Durley, a personal friend of Martin Luther King Jr.; Manitoba Treaty Commissioner James Wilson; and Ry Moran, director of the National Research Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba.

"It seems like a way of repairing Winnipeg's image, and it sort of screamed of political lip service," said Monkman. "(Our Summit) is open to anyone and everyone who is sincere about talking about racism in this city."

Price was one of the major motivators for Lavoie in creating the alternative free event. Admission to the mayor's summit, which is sold out, is $50 and $25 for students.

"Me, as a student, I couldn't afford that," said Lavoie, "even though racism issues in the city are one of the things I really care for."

Mayor Brian Bowman said he commends Monkman and Lavoie for their efforts and "passion on the issue."

Tickets were set aside for those who cannot afford the $50 entrance fee, One Summit organizers said.

"Some of the people with the grassroots effort were offered free tickets," Bowman said. "They declined."


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