1. The week we just had
On Monday, I wake up sick. A cold coming on, I think.
And I get to work and I see that Black Lives Matter stopped the Pride Parade in Toronto while they read out a list of demands. The headlines say the protestors “disrupted” the march. That they “held the march hostage.” Even though the women leading the protest are queer Black women, the organizers back down on the demands they agree to and say they have to consult with “their community.” Because Black LGBTQ people don’t exist, and don’t count. The police say they are being discriminated against, the same police force that took two weeks to respond to protestors outside police headquarters demanding some justice for the shooting of Andrew Loku. Nobody posts headlines about how the police “disrupt” the lives of Black people. Ironically, it is this protest that gets Black Lives Matter invited as honoured guests to the parade. Now those organizers turn on Black Lives Matter once they’re the ones being challenged. Pride turns into a disgrace, the headlines say, and they’re talking about the Black protestors.
I am supposed to perform at an event for the city. On Monday I get a call uninviting me because the program is “full.” I wonder if I were white if they would have made that call. I wonder if it might have been thought rude to invite an artist to write a piece, confirm the booking, and then uninvite me three days before the event. But I think if I were white I would be seen as an artist, and not just as some Black woman. If I were white, I wonder if they would think how disrespectful they were being – but I think if I were white they would imagine me differently. You see, as a Black woman I am not supposed to be anywhere anyway, so any crumb people throw me is something I should be grateful for. I don’t have a right to that invitation, so in their minds they’re not being rude by rescinding, it’s okay because they were doing me a favour by “including” me.
On Monday, I talk to the men and women inside Burnside. One of the women protests the conditions the women are living with – some women are being put in segregation simply because there is no other place to put them. We don’t have mattresses she said. We are being locked down because there aren’t enough staff.
Tuesday Morning I wake up with a fever. I open my email to find a message from the lawyer who is handling the appeal of a Black man I know. They can’t reach him in the prison, so can I read him an affidavit over the phone, and make sure he understands it? They are trying to get his funding restored for legal representation. Otherwise, he will have to represent himself on his appeal. “I cannot read full length books,” the affidavit says. “I do not know how to conduct legal research and I wouldn’t know how to find cases online.” “I do not understand the legal terms used in my trial.” Imagine him representing himself on a serious appeal, and tell me that this is justice.
And on Wednesday I wake up, and Alton Sterling has been shot. I don’t watch the video, but the descriptions are everywhere. He was only selling Cds. The police have already seized the footage but they are claiming he had a gun, that he was threatening people. He had a criminal record. The store owner says he knew him, he gave him permission to sell Cds, he had a gun to protect himself because there were robberies in the area. They pin him to the ground and shoot him point blank.
On Wednesday we have Black Power Hour on CKDU, a show started by request of Black prisoners. But this week, before we start our topics, we have to address the complaints we have received, because people don’t like the music requested by the prisoners. I am upset, and I say so. I think it’s obscene, I say, that people are held in solitary confinement. Why don’t you call the jail and complain about that? If you listen to the show, you must hear what they talk about – doesn’t that bother you more than the music? You can listen to anything any time you want, I say. Can’t you imagine what it’s like to have no freedom at all? We can’t do anything as Black people. Can’t even listen to music without people complaining about us. Can’t sell Cds. Can’t live without being threatening or a problem or something to be fixed.
On Wednesday, I talk to an Indigenous student who tells me she was kicked out of school for failing some courses. She was struggling with trauma and addiction. I tell her that’s not right, that she should get a doctor’s note, that she can apply for accommodations. Nobody told me that, she says. They didn’t tell me anything. Don’t worry, I tell her, most of the Black people I know have been kicked out at some point. You’re not stupid, and you do belong there. It will be okay, I say, we’ll get you through this. Maybe if I’m still teaching you can take one of my classes. If I’m here.
Wednesday night, I go to meet a friend at a mentorship event for Black students considering the health professions. I’m doing a research project for work about racism in the health professions, I tell her. What are your experiences of racism? And she tells me about how when she was in school and students did a presentation and the before image before the woman was fixed was an old, broken Black woman. And then they fixed her and the image after was a young, blond, white woman. And I had to sit there, she said, and feel assaulted. And she introduces me around the room, and I meet doctors and nurses and home care workers, and they all have stories. We should get together and talk about this, they say. There’s so few of us, we never get to. There’s an old joke, you know. What do you call a Black person with a medical degree? I’ll let you figure out the punch line.
And Wednesday night Philando Castile is shot with his daughter in the backseat and his girlfriend live streams it. And his daughter says “It’s okay mommy, I’m right here with you.” He was reaching for his licence. And then there are reports of how many traffic violations and stops he had, as if Black people aren’t pulled over just for driving while Black. And apparently the police call said they looked like people who might be wanted for robbery, because he had a “wide-set nose.”
On Thursday, I open my mailbox and there is a letter from a Black man, a prisoner, waiting in jail for his trial. He thanks me for my letter. He speaks about Black Power Hour, thanks us for the knowledge. Will I write him back. He thanks us over and over and over. This is as little as Black lives matter, that one hour or one letter is so unexpected that it can seem like a miracle.
It’s okay, I’m here with you.
Thursday night, a Black Muslim man calls me from jail to say they’re locked down, he can’t talk long. I ask how he’s feeling and he says, it’s the end of Ramadan. But they didn’t have anything special, and there’s no Imam that comes, and he’s been asking. But the Muslim guys get together and teach each other, he says. Eid Mubarak, I say, and let me see what I can do.
I am sick all week and I am in bed watching the US Olympic Track and Field Trials. A Black woman wins the 100m and falls to the track praising Jesus. A Black woman falls in the 800m, and kneels on the track sobbing. She runs to the finish, collapsing in grief. The running message board I read for results is scornful of them both. We can’t praise, and we can’t cry. We can’t do anything.
And Friday, I am invited to go on CBC and talk about the shootings. I am still feverish, but I go, because somehow we have to speak. It’s not just in the U.S. I say. You have to look at Canada too. Remember Andrew Loku. I know people who were beaten when they were arrested. Africville. Shelburne. I start to explain the history of enslavement and surveillance and policing of Black bodies. I say that structural violence is still violence, and the fact that some listeners will hear this and if they can leave comments they will leave vicious ones, that this is why racism is a Canadian problem too.
“I had to block people from Facebook because they kept saying I was racist for supporting Black Lives Matter.” “Is there anywhere we can go to grieve? We don’t have any space to just be.” “Please don’t show me the video of his daughter, or I’ll cry.” “Mama, says my five-year-old, I thought police were good.” “Please God don’t let me or mine end up as a hashtag.” “It could be me.”
How does it feel, we are asked? And part of me thinks, that’s funny, because y’all didn’t care how we felt a week ago when we were trying to tell you about police shootings at the parade. Then we were disruptive. But now there’s shootings in the U.S., and suddenly our feelings matter.
Are you going to write about this week, people ask me. They want to understand, they say, they need someone to help them make sense of this, to put it into perspective. What do Black people have to say about this? They say, I know I can’t imagine what this feels like for Black people. What a terrible week, they say.
And I think, which week? Because in some ways, they’re all terrible weeks. Because there’s always going to be some injustice, some tragedy, some grief. It’s just, most of our weeks don’t make the news. Because whether you’re a doctor or you’re in prison, there’s going to be some bullshit you have to deal with just because you’re Black. And you’re going to have to deal with it. You have to swallow it, be polite on the phone, don’t burn your bridges, keep ya head up, shake it off. If you want to watch TV, then you’re going to have to deal with it. And if you want to go on Facebook it’s going to be there, so you’re going to have to deal with it. And you have a job to go to, you know. So you’re going to have to work around it. Like 2Pac said, life goes on.
So which week isn’t terrible?
And there’s nothing new to say about it. Nothing that wasn’t said when N.W.A. came out with “Fuck the Police” and they called a senate hearing, not into police brutality, but into obscenity in music. Or when Rodney King was beaten and the officers were acquitted and then everyone talked about how Black people were “rioting.” Nothing new to say when we know the names of more Black shooting victims than we know of Black inventors. Hell, we practically know the names of more Black shooting victims now than we know the names of athletes in the Hall of Fame.
And the parade is always going on around us, and we’re trying to stop it just for one minute, for half an hour, just to take a moment. I know you’re having fun, but can we just pause for a second to see our pain? I know you brought balloons, but we’re always having to plan funerals, so can you maybe just stop walking around us for a moment and listen?
But most of the time it’s not news. Most of our weeks we just negotiate living in bodies that can’t be on the ground, or have our hands up, or run, or reach, or stop. It doesn’t ever stop.
It could be any week, really.
2. White person experiences discrimination. Is news.
In shocking news, a rich white man went somewhere, and he wasn’t made totally welcome.
Glynn Williams remembers the wariness and distrust he faced 11 years ago when he started buying properties in Guysborough, N.S.
“There were some vocal people … who said, ‘Who’s this guy from Toronto, and who does he think he is buying up the town?”‘ said Williams, who spent 20 years running a Bay Street equity firm before bringing his entrepreneurial zeal to the economically depressed community.
They called him a CFA — a “come from away.”
SPOILER ALERT: the white man is fine.
I don’t know, sounds like he’s pulling the discrimination card. Does he have video evidence that this so-called hostility happened? What did he do to provoke people? Maybe they were just calling him a chartered financial analyst. Sounds like he has a chip on his shoulder and he’s too sensitive.
Well anyway, since a white man got called something kind of mean like once in his life, apparently it’s really important that we “ban” calling people CFAs now.
It’s an enduring slight that — to some — speaks volumes about Atlantic Canada’s apprehensive attitude toward newcomers and its legendary cliquishness.
Now, Nova Scotia’s senior federal cabinet minister is on a mission to change that.
In recent weeks, Scott Brison has provoked debate by suggesting the phrase should be banned from the Atlantic Canadian vocabulary.
Not banned: Confederate flags, nooses in schools, calling people nigger since Black people say it in hip hop so they deserve it, the use of the word “Oriental” to refer to Asian people, “the gays,” asking Black and brown people where they’re from and refusing to take Canada as an answer, calling things “ghetto,” using “urban” as a euphemism for Black, saying “Got-a-gun Street,” saying “what about Black on Black crime?” every time Black people talk about police brutality, calling the police on people speaking Arabic…
Brison made a point of wagging his finger at those who still speak ill of CFAs.
3. Peggys Cove, Thailand
According to this story on CBC:
“The owner of a theme resort in Thailand fashioned after Peggys Cove, N.S., is asking for Nova Scotians to help teach him and his staff about the tourism icon.”
Well, that’s a good start, but basically, you need more dead bodies of tourists whirled from the slippery black rocks by the cold grasping ever-hungry hands of the frothing waves into the dark reaches of the demon sea.
“Sahachok hopes residents of the original Peggys Cove aren’t offended by the reproduction.”
Nah, we cool.
4. Summer news
YAY! Puppies will be allowed into stores on Quinpool!
More than 50 businesses and shops on Quinpool Road are going to the dogs.
The Quinpool Road Mainstreet District Association officially launched its new Paws Here on Quinpool campaign Thursday.
Designed to allow four-legged friends to accompany their people into numerous shops and services, the initiative includes 42 businesses that welcome dogs inside.
Can you guess where I’m going with this?
Wait for it….wait for it…
NOW WE JUST NEED A CAMPAIGN TO WELCOME BLACK PEOPLE IN STORES.
NOT A GOOD LOGO. DO NOT USE.
5. Authentic Nova Scotian story. Thailand take note.
You really just have to read this story.
My favourite parts are the Dickensian names (the villain Arthur Pugsley and the big city lawyer John Shanks,) the shocking plot twist where the road maintenance contract is offered to Pugsley, the snowshoes, and this photo:
How, even? Where did he get the sign? How is it all professional?
Maybe he’s just a CFA:
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