PEI

Black Lives Matter activism earns Islander national recognition

One Islander’s role in presenting a petition on racial justice to the legislature and organizing a march that gathered thousands has landed her on a national list of influential Canadians.

‘We are willing to do the fight just like anyone in a big city’

'It was a little bit shocking and it was very, very flattering and I feel very honoured,' says Tamara Steele, president of the Black Cultural Society of P.E.I., on being chosen for Chatelaine's list. (Submitted by Tamara Steele)

One Islander's role in presenting a petition on racial justice to the legislature and organizing a march that gathered thousands has landed her on a national list of influential Canadians.

Tamara Steele, president of the Black Cultural Society of P.E.I., along with provincial epidemiologist Shamara Baidoobonso, is part of Chatelaine's 33 Black Canadians Making Change Now list.

Island Morning host Mitch Cormier spoke with Baidoobonso earlier this week, and his conversation with Steele was on the show Thursday morning.

"I was just surprised that they knew who I was," said Steele.

"It was a little bit shocking and it was very, very flattering and I feel very honoured."

It was that much more flattering when she saw the complete list.

"Authors I read and love and voices that I hear and listen to and admire," said Steele.

"You're always your own worst critic so I go, how did I end up on this list?"

A busy June

Steele was recognized in particular for putting together a petition to the legislature that gathered more than 2,000 signatures asking that every single piece of the Island's legislation and policy be reviewed for racist discrimination.

Steele's activity this summer did not end there. She helped organize a stand-in at the legislature in early June, and a Black Lives Matter march that drew thousands.

"It's passion," said Steele of what drives her.

"Any time that you hear someone from your community experiencing the negative impacts of racism it makes you want to work harder. Every time you feel support from the community at large it validates the work you are doing and makes you want to work harder. Any time someone comes to you for help or you're able to point them in the right direction, all of that collectively fuels the fire."

Setting an example

As P.E.I. becomes more racially diverse, she said, there is an opportunity to show the rest of the country what is possible.

"I think that they understand that we are willing to do the fight just like anyone in a big city," she said.

A Black Lives Matter march in Charlottetown earlier this summer organized by Steele and the Black Cultural Society of P.E.I. drew more than 2,000 Islanders. (Cody MacKay/CBC)

"If we do effect some real change here within the system I think that can be a real example for the rest of the country."

The Black Cultural Society of P.E.I. is still a small organization, run entirely by volunteers, but it has found a place in P.E.I.'s corridors of power, consulting with government to implement the measures in its petition.

And Steele sees a bigger future for the organization. It is currently going through a strategic planning process that could see the hiring of staff, and the establishment of the Black Cultural Society of P.E.I. as a permanent influence on the Island way of life.

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.

(CBC)

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Island Morning

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