Nfld. & Labrador

Thousands come together for Black Lives Matter rally in St. John's

The peaceful rally featured speeches and performances from members of the area's black community sharing their own stories of racism.

'All we want is equality,' says organizer

Thousands of people take a knee for nine minutes at Confederation Building in St. John's on Saturday at the Black Lives Matter rally. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

Thousands of people kneeled on the lawn of Confederation Building in St. John's during a rally in support of the Black Lives Matter movement Saturday.

The peaceful rally, organized by newly established Black Lives Matter NL, featured speeches and performances from members of the area's black community sharing their own stories of racism.

Precious Familusi, co-founder of Black Lives Matter NL and one of the event's organizers, hopes the event can get people talking about racism in Newfoundland and Labrador and begin to create change.

"I think it's about time that we open up the conversation of what anti-black racism looks [like] in N.L., and how we can make steps toward not just having conversation, but unlearning racism," he told CBC Radio's Weekend AM Saturday.

"Making [people] aware, because there are folks here in Newfoundland that believe racism doesn't exist."

Precious Familusi is a co-founder of Black Lives Matter NL and one of the organizers of the rally. (Marie Isabelle Rochon/Radio-Canada)

He said support from the community has been overwhelming, and feels mixed emotions about responses being both positive and negative. However, he said, it's something that has to be done.

"Talking about racism and talking about Black Lives Matter, we're not saying that Black Lives Matter is more important than the other lives. What we're saying is that right now black lives is seen as inferior, and all we want is equality."

Zainab Jerrett has been living in St. John's for 28 years, and was overwhelmed to see the public support for the black community. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

Zainab Jerrett came to Newfoundland in the 1990s, and is the founder of Tombolo Multicultural Festival NL. She was one of the speakers on stage and was overwhelmed by the public support.

"That shows that this problem is affecting everybody, and everyone wants to chip in to bring a solution," Jerrett said. "I almost got emotional because there's so many people … young people of all cultures in Newfoundland.

"This is an awakening. The people are interested in listening to the black community," she added. "[But] we are all the same. The more we come together as a human race, the better."

People gather on the steps of the Confederation Building on Saturday to stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. (Marie Isabelle Rochon/Radio-Canada)

Celia Quadjovie, who has been living in the province for 10 years, said it was important to bring her five-year-old son to the rally so he could better understand issues in the community and what is being done.

"I thought, 'I have to come with him for him to see,' 'cause that's the way of bringing up the subject, communicating and explaining why we are doing this," she said.

"I hope that this is just the first seed we are planting for better things in the future."

Quadjovie had a message for parents during the rally.

"Our children, they are going to be the adults of tomorrow, they are the ones who are going to continue the world," she said.

"When we are born, we are not born racist.… My message for parents is to be good examples, and teach their children that we are all the same."

Crowds were able to physically distance during the rally, spreading themselves across the lawn of Confederation Building. There was a small police presence, but no incidents were reported.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Weekend AM and Meg Roberts