Windsor·Systemic Change

Over a year after Black Lives Matter protests in Windsor, some feel not enough has changed

It's been a year since Black Lives Matter protests were held in Windsor, Ont., and Black community members say they don't feel much in the region has changed.

Activists feel interest in the movement has waned over time

Joi Hurst, Leslie McCurdy and Teajai Travis, left to right, are activists who feel there is a loss in momentum in the movement for Black rights. (Jennifer La Grassa/CBC)

This story is part of a CBC News exploration of systemic racism, including anti-Black racism, and the promises for change made last summer.

Black community members say they don't feel much has changed in the region, more than a year after large Black Lives Matter protests were held in Windsor, Ont. 

Leslie McCurdy, acting chair of the Black Council of Windsor-Essex, feels interest in the issue has waned. 

"White people can get tired of it and leave it alone. Black people wake up with it every day and face it."

About 12 months after back-to-back BLM protests on Windsor's Riverfront — one was a BLM balloon memorial that followed the death of American George Floyd and another was a rally for Regis Korchinski-Paquet — some Black residents say not enough has been done and the momentum for anti-Black racism initiatives seems to be on the decline. 

The Black Council of Windsor-Essex was created in response to the Black Lives Matter protests last year, according to McCurdy. The group, made up of about 50 different people and local organizations, aims to create change for African, Black and Caribbean communities in Windsor-Essex. 

Activist Teajai Travis said "not enough has changed and far too much has remained the same."

"Last summer was a whirlwind of energy and excitement. People gathered in the streets," said Travis, also executive director of Artcite Inc. in Windsor. 

"It was really amazing to experience, but gathering in the streets and creating that sort of energy is the first step of many steps in creating the sort of equity and justice in society that is going to provide the gains ... necessary for the generations that are coming up to live a meaningful and high-quality life." 

The Walk for Justice last year on Windsor, Ont.'s riverfront brought out hundreds of people. (Submitted by Joi Hurst)

At the end of May, Joi Hurst, CEO and founder of Windsor's Coalition for Justice, Unity and Equity, organized the Walk for Justice — where hundreds gathered to honour Floyd and show solidarity with protests occurring in the United States. 

She said recognition has taken place, but she'd like more changes. 

"The city here in Windsor has stepped up and ... they're recognizing the faults they have in our police department here in Windsor," Hurst said. "There's a lot of work that needs to be done here and a lot of places. 

"We make a few moves here and there, but then we don't want it swept under the rug again, and that's what's been happening." 

Loss of allyship

Despite the community involvement last year, Hurst, McCurdy and Travis all agreed there is a loss in momentum. 

Travis sees it in organizations and groups that vowed to stand with the Black community. 

"The fall-off is [in] the fire, and the power in allyship," he said. "When the rallies were no longer fashionable and we're no longer in a position for capitalism to monetize — all of a sudden we see a group of young people and elders standing [alone]." 

But he said the fire is still going strong among the Black community and its activists.

McCurdy's group is one of them — she said they are still forging ahead, but changes are slow to come. 

Hurst, with the Coalition for Justice Unity Equity, says a lot of people were hurting, a reason for organized the walk. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

A current focus for the Black Council is to make curriculum and hiring practices more inclusive in the Catholic and public school boards, as well as implement anti-racism training, McCurdy said. 

She said the Catholic board is moving forward with these practices, but some members feel the public board isn't creating the same level of change. 

Hurst said her group is also working closely with youth in the school system to help them deal with racial issues they encounter. 

WATCH: Black Windsorites reflect on the year

Some Black Windsorites reflect on the past year

1 year ago
Duration 2:12
CEO and founder of Windsor's Coalition of Justice, Unity and Equity Joi Hurst, Activist Teajai Travis and acting chair of the Black Council of Windsor-Essex Leslie McCurdy talk about what the last year was like. They say not enough has changed.

'Need to do better' 

By now, McCurdy said she also would have liked to have seene people working toward getting more "inclusive hiring practices" in Windsor. 

Travis said he would like more investment in local businesses, community centres, marginalized neighbourhoods — specifically affordable and accessible housing — and meaningful policy changes that protect oppressed people. 

Fists in the air during a moment of silence at the Black Lives Matter rally on Windsor's riverfront in June 2020. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

Windsor's 2021 budget has allocated $200,000 toward an anti-racism initiative.

But in an email to CBC News, the city's chief of staff Andrew Teliszewsky said the city is still waiting to determine how to spend the money, and council will receive a report later this summer. 

While Travis said the allocated funding is a start, he said these sorts of resources need to be expanded to keep ongoing support for all types of marginalized communities. 

"One week everybody is gathering around the Black community, then the next week we're gathering around the Indigenous communities, and the Asian communities and so forth," Travis said. "It's not working, collectively we need to do better as people." 

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.

(CBC)

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