Youth in Montreal's West Island rally against racism and discrimination

Two Montreal community groups held a rally in the West Island on Saturday, bringing young people together to denounce acts of violence and racism close to home and abroad.

High school students and other community members came out to make their voices heard this weekend

Kayla Johnson, 16, came out to the rally because she feels she has a duty to speak out against racism. (Chloe Ranaldi/CBC)

Two Montreal community groups held a rally in the West Island on Saturday, bringing young people together to denounce acts of violence and racism close to home and abroad.

Hundreds of people gathered in Pierrefonds-Roxboro for an event geared specifically toward teenagers and other youth.

Kayla Johnson, a 16-year-old high school student, told CBC that she feels she has a duty to take part in these kinds of protests.

"When I'm older and I do have kids, I don't want them to go through the same things that we have to go through," she said.

"I feel like it's my duty to help stop that."

Akilah Newton, founder and executive director of Overture with the Arts, helped organize the event.

Akilah Newton, founder and director of Overture with the Arts, helped put the rally together in order to provide a place for youth to express their feelings about these issues. (Chloe Ranaldi/CBC)

She said it's been a year since the death of George Floyd sparked protests around the world. But not enough has changed, said Newton.

"There's still a lot of racism prevalent. And it's not just an American problem, it's a Canadian problem too," she said.

Last week, four members of a Muslim family in London, Ont., were killed in what is believed to be hate crime. Newton said these kinds of stories have an impact on kids and teens.

The rally took place around the same time as the public funeral for the four members of the Afzaal family.

She wanted to give them a space to stand against racism and have important conversations.

"It's one thing to post something on your Facebook page and like something, but to actually come out and physically be here and physically come to protest and use your voice, that speaks volumes," said Newton.

People came out to denounce racism and discrimination on Saturday, feeling that not enough has changed since the death of George Floyd over a year ago. (Chloe Ranaldi/CBC)

"Kids are the future leaders of tomorrow, so if we start planting the seeds now about tolerance and inclusion and allyship, they are then going to use the skills and the messages they have heard into their adult life."

Malik Shaheed, executive director of Youth Stars, also helped organize the event. He told CBC that "too often adults are speaking on behalf of youth."

He said that "sometimes people are really intimidated by the subject, whether it's Islamophobia, Asian hate, anti-Black racism, antisemitism. And I want to give people the opportunity to come out and hear what the youth are saying."

Bryana Catedral Sansalone, a high school student who attended the rally, said she feels the fight against racism is an all-important issue. (Chloe Ranaldi/CBC)

Bryana Catedral Sansalone, a Grade 10 student, attended the event to be part of a collective action against racism.

"I think it's really important to be part of this event so we can work together to denounce racism," she said.

"I feel like our past generations have made so many mistakes. And I feel like it's up to us to actually create change, for our kids, for the purpose of our future."

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.


With files from Chloe Ranaldi