Black-led Manitoba organizations call for allies, an end to police violence
'Time for those outside the community to take action,' groups say
Black-led organizations in Manitoba are appealing for an end to the violence against black people in Canada and the U.S., urging governments and individuals to examine their own impacts.
"As we continue to see the ongoing oppression and violence that is inflicted on black people internationally, we grow wearier and more restless for honest change in our communities," Titi Tijani, board president for African Communities of Manitoba Inc., said during a press conference Thursday afternoon.
The conference was headed up by ACOMI, in partnership with the Black History Month celebration committee, Black Space Winnipeg, the Congress of Black Women of Manitoba, and the Caribbean Council Organization of Manitoba.
"Fuelled by bigotry, racial profiling, and systemic racism, black-led and black-supporting organizations are calling for an end to the violence that we continue to see against black people," Tijani said.
"We are calling on all levels of government and individuals outside of the black community to educate themselves and evaluate their impact on the injustices that we see every day."
Rhonda Thompson, board member with the Black History Month Celebration Committee and the Congress of Black Women of Manitoba, said the plight of black people is trending today but it is not new.
She urged people to not let the current momentum, the hashtags and the outcry vanish once the next big news story comes along. She also called for black organizations to be given better funding and resources because "we can no longer be sustained through the volunteer model."
"We are not looking for a hand out, but a hand up" to better serve the community, Thompson said.
She encouraged people to become black allies, to reach out to the organizations and ask how to help.
"That is the call to action today — make your voice heard," Thompson said.
"Please reach out," added Tijani.
Five years ago, the United Nations declared 2015-2024 to be the International Decade for People of African Descent, calling for a global focus on recognition, justice, and development for people of African descent.
"However, recent and ongoing events have proven that one of these areas — justice — is not, and has not been, on the minds of individuals and governments around the world," Tijani said.
The deaths of Machuar Madut in Winnipeg in 2019, and those of Regis Korchinski-Paquet in Toronto and George Floyd in Minneapolis last month — all of which involved police — are just three of the many tragedies that show the problem is not only an American one, the groups said.
"This needs to stop now. Racial inequality impacts us all. We continue to recognize the need to have safe cities, spaces, and systems for members of the community of people of African descent in Canada, in the U.S.A., and around the world," Tijani said.
"We have provided the education, resources, and knowledge. It is now time for those outside the community to take action against the violence we are seeing and to choose change.
"Do your little bit. When everybody does their little bit we will have a better community. That's all we are asking."
'Talk is cheap'
She acknowledged that Premier Brian Pallister and Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman recently reacted to Floyd's death and the protests against police in the U.S., and expressed their support for people of colour.
But condolence aren't enough, Tijani said.
"We've heard it over and over and over again. What actions are you going to do, in terms of reaching out to us to work with us, so that we can be able to work together and reduce the violence and the tragedy that that has been inflicted on black people.
"Talk is cheap. We want actions."
She also implored black people "to get up from our seats" and get more involved, too.
"Things are not going to change through other people. We need to ask for the change and we need to make it work," Tijani said.
'Today, we are being killed'
Thompson was asked about the phrase "All Lives Matter," which some people have used in response to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Of course, everyone matters, she said, but when people use that phrase it is demeaning and disrespectful because right now, there is a great amount of inequality. The purpose of the BLM movement is to highlight that.
"We can hold hands and hug another day and talk about how everybody matters but today, we are being killed. We are suffering injustices. And that needs to be the topic," Thompson said.
"Until that is rectified and we're all on a level playing field … then we can't have the conversations about everybody. Everybody's not hurting like we're hurting. This is about us right now and we need help."