Northern Heart + Home was designed to celebrate the people, places and positives that set the North apart. This spotlight series focuses on exactly that: the people who are at the very heart of our Northern communities. Each profile highlights leaders (and organizations) who are pursuing their dreams, creating meaningful lives and truly shining in the North. This Northern Heart Q+A features Black Lives Matter – Sudbury.

2020 has been a year of change. It’s forced many of us to look at people, situations and old habits in new ways. It has been eye-opening and heart-shattering, but it’s also been filled with hope that love and true equality will conquer all. 

We have been deeply touched by this call for change and like many, wanted a better understanding of what the Black Lives Matter movement represents. We have been learning and unlearning while recognizing our privileges in an effort to compassionately move forward with a commitment to allyship, inclusivity and social justice for Black People, Indigenous Peoples and People of Colour in the North.

We are honoured to share our interview with the local grassroots organization, Black Lives Matter Sudbury. We encourage you to read on, learn more and commit to allyship in the North.

The Northern Heart Q+A: Black Lives Matter Sudbury

Tell us about Black Lives Matter – Sudbury: who are you and what work are you doing?

Black Lives Matter – Sudbury is a grassroots organization that is committed to fighting systemic racism in all of its forms, demanding that society and all levels of government address and fix the root causes of racism in all social institutions.

We currently have three sub-committees which tackle specific initiatives/actions in relation to the Public sector, Education sector, and the Arts/Media/Culture sector.

We are a Black-led coalition of educators, students, activists, artists, and everything in between and we work in solidarity with Indigenous communities.

Photo by: Incapture

You recently collaborated with UpHere, Sudbury Pride and Place Des Art to paint the bilingual ‘BIPOC Lives Matter’ mural on Elgin Street in Sudbury. What was this process like and how has the response been?

The process was certainly tedious, but incredibly rewarding. It required a lot of networking and reaching out to local allies and organizations to determine if this was even a possibility. After we received a greenlight, everything was set in motion quite quickly from coordinating sponsorships to retrieving the proper permits from the city.

This truly would not have been possible without the support we’ve received from Up Here, Fierté Sudbury Pride, Places Des Arts, ROCS (Regroupement des organismes culturels de sudbury), On-Site Printers, Will Morin, The Laughing Budha, and Townehouse Tavern. Special thank you to all the volunteers who spent over 10 hours on site to get the mural completed!

The response has been out of this world. Images of the BIPOC ground mural have reached over 80,000 people on social media, and have been shared hundreds of times, including by the CBC News (National) Instagram account.

For the most part, community members love the ground mural and what it represents; a message of visibility and inclusivity. We are proud to have created one of Canada’s most inclusive ground murals here in Sudbury which includes colours of the Indigenous Medicine Wheel, the Pride Flag, the Trans Flag, the Pan African Flag as well the official Black Lives Matter colours. We are looking forward to continuing our work toward a City of Greater Sudbury that is welcoming, supportive, and safe for our BIPOC and 2SLGBTQ+ communities!

Photo by: Incapture

How do you respond to those who say that racism and discrimination aren’t prevalent in the North?

When an individual makes this statement, it needs to be recognized as false. If you’re unaware of the reality of systemic and cultural racism, it can be challenging to reckon with that reality. Imagine what it’s like to be on the receiving end of that oppression! Understand that experience is not universal, and anyone able to live their lives unaware of actual violence being perpetrated against entire groups of people is experiencing a sort of privilege.

What this statement is truly doing is, minimizing and dismissing the critical issues that plague the lives of many Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour in Northern Ontario. White supremacy is woven into the very founding of our country, from the very first Indigenous-British relations, to residential schools, to existing laws, practices and biases that affect housing, employment, education and police relations to this day. Burying your head in the sand and refusing to engage with this reality does no one any favours.

If you do your research and listen to BIPOC communities in the area – you’ll quickly learn that just as in the rest of the globe, racism and discrimination are extremely prevalent in the North, and must be taken seriously.

When having conversations about race, it’s critical to acknowledge your own privilege and how this may impact your lived experiences. Take the time to connect with the people who are bravely sharing their experiences. Believe them. Amplify their voices. Question why it is so hard for these stories and all of their nuances to find purchase in public consciousness.

How can we be allies, get involved, show support and donate to B​lack Lives Matter – Sudbury​?

Call people in, not out! If there are other white people who are engaging in problematic discourse we ask that you try to call them in. Engage with patience and openness with the end goal of finding common ground on which to build new understanding. This provides for multiple perspectives and encourages paradigm shifts.

Remember that you are there participating in this movement as support and in solidarity—it’s not about you. Sometimes questions or discussions will not invite input from white allies and that’s okay. Consider that your role might be as a witness and support to others’ expressions rather than expressing your own feelings.

Can you recommend books and/or reference materials for those who are looking to learn and unlearn?

We would recommend for readers to visit this useful online resource created by Rita Steele titled “Resource: E-Learning on Defunding and Abolishing the Police”. It was created specifically for Canadians and is a collection of articles and media that are easy to understand and focuses on a topic that black communities have been discussing for the past century.

Click here for the resource.

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Do you know of an amazing Northerner who is pursuing their dreams, creating a meaningful life and truly shining in the North? Let us know!

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