On Feb. 21, 2022, ActingOutWR, a new queer and anti-racist advocacy group, held a rally to show solidarity and support for the region’s diverse population. Cait Glasson, founder of the group, helped organize the rally after recent racial attacks against community members.
“We had racist attacks on [community members] and I was at a Wellbeing Waterloo meeting and I wanted to respond to it. So I thought, maybe we should have a day of solidarity and get some people together,” she said.
Attendees heard from speakers such as Kamil Ahmed, an organizer with the Community Fridge project, Laura Mae Lindo, Amy Smoke, Fanis Juma, Marjorie Knight and other local activists. These speakers shed light on issues around race, exhaustion and the need for love in anti-racism work.
Speakers also touched on their own experiences of racism in the region. Knight mentioned experiencing inequalities in accessing housing and Dewe’igan Barefoot, a member of the Landback camp, described her experiences trying to access healthcare in her times of crisis.
“I leave the house knowing that at some point that day, I will face some sort of microaggression,” Barefoot said.
Laura Mae Lindo, MPP of Kitchener-Centre, acknowledged the exhaustion of community members who keep having the same conversations. She referred to the Freedom Convoy and the lack of timely response undertaken by local authorities.
“When we talk about leading with love, putting love into the universe…it’s not a joke, because we are at a crossroads,” she said. “We had Nazi flags flying in Ottawa; we had Confederate flags flying in Ottawa. We had people making fun of Indigenous ceremonies.”
“I do not feel safe or secure when it takes three weeks to decide…it’s not a good idea to hang out with people that think it’s cool to have Nazi flags in Ottawa,” Lindo said.
While some speakers talked of discrimination and others emphasized compassion, Ahmed reminded attendees that everyone should be aware of the racism they carry within.
“I think about my own conditioning as an immigrant and the racism that was embedded in me, that I still carry with me today as baggage, towards everybody except white people and that’s something that I have to take stock of and be accountable for,” Ahmed said.
“But what do you do next?…maybe you’ll just keep a note on your phone like I do. And every time you notice the bias pop up, you just note it down and take stock of it. Maybe it’s as little as that let’s get you started. But I guess all I have to say is as long as you’re doing something that’s all that counts,” he said.
Barefoot echoed a similar message and challenged allies to become more mindful of and vocal about the racism that is pervasive throughout our community.
“Call it out when you see it,” she said. “It needs to end for our future generations.”
Near the end of the event, one onlooker began to disrupt the final speaker, Amy Smoke. Smoke is a part of the Landback campaign and an educator.
The man, unidentified, started with a small confrontation near the doors to the Shops proclaiming he was pushed by one of the attendees. Then, he walked around the rally attempting to disrupt it with his claims of being pushed and experiencing hatred in a rally held by people touting the importance of love. Smoke continued to speak.
They recounted that last year, an art installation by Bangishimo Johnston that featured Smoke and her child in a life-size photo was vandalized. Addressing the incident, they said that it was an example of how the message really was that they do not belong in white spaces as they do not meet the ideals of euro-centric beauty.
“When the artwork went up in Waterloo Park, it was the Afro-Indigenous and the Indigenous person in front of the tipi, those were the pictures that were vandalized, ripped from their frames and tossed into the bushes. That is how much anger we incite in people and it’s literally what you’re doing to us: tossing us aside in the bushes,” they said.
“And we can’t live like this anymore, like seriously. I am tired. I am so tired. You’re breaking us,” Smoke said.
According to a tweet by Johnston, this is not the first time someone has deliberately attempted to disrupt events like this rally. It is part of the reason that members of the Landback Camp are less and less willing to be a part of such events.
Smoke emphasized that Indigenous communities and leaders have already done a lot of work to make reconciliation easier for Canada. They referenced the 94 recommendations in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, saying that Indigenous people have already done the homework.
“White supremacy is a white problem. It is your problem, you need to clean up…There are 94 calls to action, we did all the fucking work. We did all the homework. They’re laid out, very easily readable. And they’re not for the government, they’re for you,” they said.
The rally ended with a short rendition of Bob Marley’s “One Love” led by one of the rally attendees.
For more information about ActingOutWR, visit their twitter page, @ActingOutWR.