Manitoba

How some Winnipeggers are speaking out and supporting Black Lives Matter

Many are sending donations, but black organizer Alexa Joy says that's not enough.

People are fundraising to help, but Black Space Winnipeg co-founder Alexa Joy says that's not enough

White people who are attending protests like this one in Washington, D.C., need to do more than show up and donate money when black trauma is trending, Alexa Joy says. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

George Floyd's death has triggered emotional responses across the world and it's no different in Manitoba. 

As black Winnipeggers plan a rally to show solidarity with US protests against police brutality, non-black locals are also speaking out. 

Floyd, 46, died on May 25 after he was held down by police officers, one with his knee pressed against Floyd's neck.

Derek Chauvin, the officer who pressed his knee into Floyd's neck, was initially charged with third-degree murder. That charge was upgraded to second-degree murder on Wednesday. Prosecutors also charged the other three officers involved — Thomas Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao — with aiding and abetting second-degree murder. All four were fired last week.

Winnipeg artist Franklin Fernando created a 60-by-90 inch painting depicting the scene of Floyd's death — except in Fernando's painting, Chauvin's face is replaced by a pig and Floyd by the Statue of Liberty. 

Franklin Fernando's painting Broken System Murder of George Floyd depicts a pig-faced police officer kneeling on the Statue of Liberty. (Franklin Fernando/Facebook)

"I feel very sick, honestly, just seeing the whole thing … how in broad daylight, a white guy, a cop could just kneel on a black man and just kill him on the spot," Fernando said. 

"It's just very frustrating. You know, I feel very sad, angry, like, just disgusted by it," he said.

This is not the first incident of police brutality he has seen in the United States. 

"People in certain authority can just exercise their power the way they want, whenever they want, and they should be held accountable. I think cops should be held accountable for their actions."

Fernando believes police brutality also happens here in Canada.

As a Winnipegger of Sri Lankan descent, he has experienced racism. 

"It was New Year's Eve that I got this email from a person destroying my art piece and calling me the N-word and all kinds of words, you know, and so we're not far." 

Fernando doesn't know what to do with his new painting yet. He hopes to use it to fundraise for Black Lives Matter. 

"I'm very grateful that I'm able to share a true message and people could kind of get something out of it and think about it," he said. 

Winnipeggers speak out and support Black Lives Matter

2 years ago
Duration 1:35
George Floyd's death has triggered emotional responses across the world and it's no different in Manitoba.

Businesses chip in 

Small businesses across Winnipeg are also chipping in, with some, like Meg Does Pottery and Sarah Sue Designs, announcing they're raising funds for Reclaim the Block, Black Space Winnipeg and QPOC Winnipeg.

Plantiel, an online plant store that's hoping to open a brick-and-mortar shop on Donald Street in the summer, is donating 25 per cent of its sales this week toward Black Lives Matter.

Co-owner Nathaniel Deguzman said he felt compelled to help after watching the video of Floyd's arrest. 

Nathaniel Deguzman is the co-owner of Plantiel, an online plant shop based in Winnipeg. (Peggy Lam/CBC)

Deguzman hopes to raise at least $500 for the campaign. 

"Every dollar helps.… If we can't reach it, that's okay, we'll still have something to donate," he said. 

"Everyone has a voice and I believe that we should speak up for what we believe in."

In a Facebook post, the West Central Women's Resource Centre urges people to donate to Black Space Winnipeg, QPOC Winnipeg and Black Lives Matter Toronto.

'Dollars can only go so far' 

Alexa Joy, one of the founders of Black Space Winnipeg, said it's great that people want to donate, but she's also fed up because donations only come when black trauma is trending. 

"Oftentimes, non-black people just throw money at black causes and think that's enough. It's not. Your dollars can only go so far," Joy said on CBC's Up to Speed on Tuesday afternoon. 

Joy questions whether people will continue to support the community after this is over. 

"Where were you last year? Where were you … the years that we've been organizing?" she said.

"Obviously you know what's happening is wrong, but it took you this long to do something, to say something, to donate something or to just even listen and call on what's happening in your life, in your community, and I think that's where I'm frustrated."

Alexa Joy, one of the founders of Black Space Winnipeg, speaks at a rally for Matchuar Madut last year. Madut, 43, a newcomer from South Sudan, was shot and killed by Winnipeg police at the start of 2019. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC News)

If people really want to help black people get justice, they should apply pressure to the government, she said. 

"I think if people really want to do something, they should be writing," she said. 

"Saying, 'Hey, we noticed violence is happening in black communities, by the police, by the institution. What are your plans to fix this in Manitoba?'"

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