Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia workplace racism highlighted in new website

A new website is aiming to circulate stories of anti-black racism in the workplace beyond the black community in Nova Scotia.

Working While Black in Nova Scotia website launched in December

The website Working While Black in Nova Scotia was launched in December 2014. (Working While Black in Nova Scotia)

A new website in the province is aiming to circulate stories of racism in workplaces experienced by African-Nova Scotians. 

The website, called Working While Black in Nova Scotia, publishes anonymous stories submitted by Nova Scotians who have faced racism or witnessed it in the workplace. It's a joint project by community groups Ujamaa, Solidarity Halifax and the Kwacha House Cafe.

Ben Sichel, who works with Solidarity Halifax, is one of the partners running the website. He said the idea for the site came from a series of discussions hosted by Ujamaa more than a year ago.

"Those were places where members of the black community came together to talk about experiences of racism in the workplace," said Sichel.

He began talks with Carolann Wright-Parks, who runs Ujamaa.

"Carolann came to talk to me and some other folks with Solidarity Halifax and said, 'Listen, we want to try and get our stories out beyond the black community so that other people can hear these stories of racism in the workplace.'" And the plan for the website was formed."

'I have a story'

Folami Jones, who operates the Kwacha House Cafe, decided to partner with the group after hearing about the website from Sichel.

Folami Jones, who operates the Kwacha House Cafe, decided to become a partner in the new website since hearing about it from a member of Solidarity Halifax. (Submitted by Folami Jones)

She said the philosophy behind the site resonated with her because of her own experiences working in Nova Scotia and the stories she would often hear from customers of the Kwacha House Cafe.

"You hear people come into the cafe, just in general and even in social settings, where people are telling stories about their experiences. When I heard this website was going to sort of capture those stories and it was going to go somewhere, that's what excited me," Jones said.

"Every time someone comes in and if I just mention what the project is about, they're like, 'I have a story.'"

The site has published half a dozen stories since launching in December 2014.

Sichel said there are several stores on the website that stand out to him.

"There's a story about a woman who is a home-care worker who talks about how clients tell her sometimes that she can't touch them with her black skin," he said.

"There is a story about a woman who was in a board meeting and someone made a comment about if she was too tanned and too dark, that people wouldn't want to talk to her."

'We're energized by the possibilities'

Sichel said unfortunately, he is still not shocked at the episodes that have been submitted to the website.

"More recently I've learned how white folks have the privilege to be able to be oblivious of racism most of the time and not to think about it if we don't want to," he said.

"It's become something that I realize is much more common."

Both Sichel and Jones say the goal of Working While Black in Nova Scotia is to raise awareness and get people thinking about racism in the workplace. The goal of the site, they say, is also to validate the stories of black Nova Scotians who have faced racism at work.

The website also features a section on resources so contributors can do more then just submit their stories.

Jones said the project can be used as a teaching tool for all Nova Scotians.

"The more we meet as a group, the more we're energized by the possibilities that can come out of this. There is the analysis we hope to have later and that's with all communities, with the white communities, black communities," she said.

"I was speaking with a Muslim brother the other day around organizing and just thinking of a way in which we can use media, social media or websites like this to sort of highlight or underscore experiences of oppression but also continue to build."


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