New Brunswick

Official Black Lives Matter chapter formed in New Brunswick

An official Black Lives Matter chapter has been formed in New Brunswick to highlight some of the problems Black members of the community are facing. 

The organization has launched a petition with calls to action for the province and City of Fredericton

People at Sunday's rally in Saint John marched to city hall and chanted "Black lives matter." (Julia Wright/CBC)

An official Black Lives Matter chapter has been formed in New Brunswick, hoping to highlight some of the problems Black members of the community are facing. 

Husoni Raymond, Dorcas Tshimenga and Felomena Deogratsias are a few of the organizers behind the New Brunswick movement. 

The idea formed after seeing the swell of support at multiple Black Lives Matter rallies in the province. Deogratsias said the group hopes to keep the momentum going. 

"We're really excited that since the rally there has been so much positive feedback and desire in Fredericton to want to make a change and really address it. I've never experienced this before in my life." 

The group is in its beginning stages but has already launched a petition calling on the province and the City of Fredericton to make changes that will help the Black community. 

Some of the calls to action include conducting research on the impact racism has in the province and making anti-racism training mandatory for police and government officials.

Thousands of people showed up at a Black Lives Matter rally in Saint John over the weekend. (Julia Wright/CBC)

The petition has over 2,500 signatures. 

"We just wanted something else to follow up on to make sure that we didn't just go home and put down our signs and think we've ended racism by having that rally," Raymond said, "But we need changes within the system or change the system itself," said Raymond. 

Fredericton Mayor Mike O'Brien said in an emailed statement that he looks forward to meeting with the organization.

"I know and have worked with many of the people involved with Black Lives Matter Fredericton, and I look forward to meeting with them in the immediate future to discuss this hugely important topic."

In a statement Monday evening, Premier Blaine Higgs thanked supporters of the petition for raising important issues and said the government will review their requests.

"We all have a vital role to play to speak out against racism in our communities and our province as whole," he said. Higgs said he wants New Brunswickers to treat each other with dignity and respect, and he promised the government would lead by example. 

Experiencing racism

Thousands of people gathered in Saint John on the weekend for a Black Lives Matter rally. They chanted, marched and some spoke about their own experiences with racism. 

Raymond said Black people everywhere deal with racist acts all the time, and there are many ways racism and anti-blackness can manifest itself.

"People have told me, 'Oh, if I want to get a good grade on an exam, I should just not write like a Black person,' implying that Black people are somehow less capable of writing well than white people."

Raymond said sometimes people do or say racist things but that doesn't mean they're inherently bad people.

"Sometimes they just don't know and this is why some of our calls to action are related to knowledge and information sharing so people can be enlightened and do better."

Deogratsias said when speaking about her own experiences with racism, she worries people won't believe her.

"I just know that some of these stories can sound so unbelievable that it's a struggle. I'm nervous talking about it and thinking how do I make myself sound as credible as possible?"

An overwhelming experience

The three organizers agree that this past month has been overwhelming — in both good and bad ways. 

"What's happening in the U.S. and also what's happening in Canada with Indigenous lives, it is overwhelming as a racial minority to see these things going on," said Tshimenga. 

Organizer Dorcas Tshimenga said this past month has been hard, but this fight is one worth fighting. (Submitted by Dorcas Tshimenga)

Deogratsias said it has been stressful, but it's also exciting to see how many people are listening to what needs to change. 

"I think a lot of us just assume we're powerless, but now, with this education where people are understanding what racism actually is, then you can see the power you hold and how you can change it."

The group hopes the list of names on their petition grows and the conversation continues.

"It takes a toll on your energy and it's a lot, but it's a fight that's worth fighting for."