Victory and not Victims

I find it fascinating that in some of the worse circumstances of our lives is where we grow to become heroines of our own destiny; and where God lets us see that we are created for victory and not victims of our circumstances. The pain, struggles, hardships, those weeping nights, going hungry, homeless, or in shackles, are the very circumstances that lets us see who we really are. Walt Disney Pictures has this knack of turning the weak and feeble, into the strong and independent like in Mulan, Anastasia or Moana. But God, in His word, is the epitome of this very principle of turning a nobody into a somebody, or better yet, using the victims to become the victorious, for His glory.

Casting Crowns – Nobody (Official Music Video) ft. Matthew West

So many times the Word of God says, “Be strong and of a good courage” (Joshua 1:6). It’s repeated in every story where God uses a weak man, to do something beyond his capability. Joshua needed to take over from Moses, the man who led an entire generation out of Egypt (Watch the King of Egypt, this is also a Disney Pictures). When you are the person taking over from that kind of leader, you can’t see yourself for more than you really are: a weak, insignificant, powerless, nobody. Who are you to lead anyone? That’s why you need someone even greater than Moses, to tell you, “Be Strong,” you can do this! The thing is, we never look at ourselves through the eyes of God initially, we look at ourselves in comparison to someone else who seems better. But, where did their courage from? If they were to be honest, they too felt like a total loser who was undeserving of greatness.

See Deandra’s blog: A thankless job

Joshua was one of the twelve spies Moses sent out to check out properties for the Israelites. As you can imagine, they needed acres and acres of land for the millions of people to live in. Now, naturally, we didn’t expect that this land was going to be empty. We know what happens when land is sitting unused. Nomads come and squat there. These nomads were actually giants. The majority of the spies came back to report that, “We went to the land where you sent us. It really is a land flowing with milk and honey. Here’s some of its fruit. But the people who live there are strong, and the cities have walls and are very large. We even saw the descendants of Anak (the giants) there” (Numbers 13: 28-29). This negative report drained all the excitement about the milk and honey that could be found in the land. This is when we begin the the negative self talk: Look at me. I’m nothing but a loser. What battle have I ever fought? We were slaves only for the last 400 years. Who are we to fight anybody!

See my blog: Recused from bondage

Luckily, there were two minority men that saw things differently. Joshua and Caleb came back with positive news, “Let’s go now and take possession of the land. We should be more than able to conquer it” (Numbers 13:30). In other words, yes, there were giants, but we can take them. For God’s sake, there were 10 tribes, and millions of people (pun intended). It was God’s plan for the people to walk into the promised land. Why would they allow themselves to be distracted by what they saw, and feel feeble because of it? We do this all the time. We see an obstacle blocking us from the very goals and desires in our hearts, and rather than fighting for them, we give up. I second guess myself, and make excuses why it’s not the right time for me.

There is a more positive report over our lives, set by our Maker, before we were even born. According to Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you…” Don’t say you are too young or too old, or you are a woman, or you are black or whatever. Don’t say it. Instead, say that “you are well able”, say “let’s go now and take (it)!” say “this is my time,” say, “I was made for this.” Even when you cannot see it yet. That’s the beauty of faith. None of these Disney characters saw the great things they were going to do. They only knew they had to, because deep in their core, they saw things differently. But, when you look at their physical condition, they were hopeless. Mulan was an Asian woman, planning to fight in a man’s war! Anastasia was a poor little orphan, didn’t even know that she was really a Russian princess! And Moana? She was a little Indian girl who saw a world outside of the little reserve she lived in. These young women had to tear away their feelings of insignificance, feebleness, and lonliness, to walk through whatever obstacles, defy the odds, break down barriers that stood in their way, ventured out alone when no one else believed in them, to fight for the future they wanted. Before they could do that, they had to possess the Joshua and Caleb spirit, and declare to themselves, “let’s go now and take it!”

This is how we use the worse circumstances of our lives and rise above it, to become who we were meant to be. We are all a bunch of nobodies who one day will become somebodies. The power to do this is through positive self talk, you know, that Joshua and Caleb spirit. We all possess this mystical and mysterious skill called faith. It’s this weird thing where you look at your circumstances and say to yourself, “I have victory and I’m not a victim of my circumstances.” So, in Joshua’s and Caleb’s words, “let’s go now and take possession… We should be more than able to conquer it.”


Ontario Investing in Frontline Corrections Workers

Hiring More Staff and Updating Infrastructure Will Improve Safety 

June 16, 2020 3:00 P.M.

Written By: Ministry of the Solicitor General

TORONTO — The Ontario government is investing more than $500 million over five years to transform correctional facilities across the province. This funding will help ensure the safety and security of frontline staff.

This major investment will support the hiring of more than 500 new staff to help address challenges within the correctional system such as mental health and addiction issues. The additional funding will also be used to modernize outdated infrastructure to address overcrowding and to improve services.

“Our government heard from corrections staff across the province about the challenges they face each and every day,” said Solicitor General Sylvia Jones. “These investments will create a better, safer environment for our hard-working frontline staff and will help strengthen Ontario’s corrections system.”

Hiring additional staff will also help ensure the government is complying with its obligations regarding the use of segregation within correctional facilities. The modernization of outdated infrastructure, including building additional day rooms and making modifications to yard spacewill allow the province to provide more effective programming space.

 “We have been clear in our support for corrections staff and we are determined to continue providing needed resources to these men and women who are always there when they are needed most,” said Solicitor General Jones.

Recent government action to support correctional staff includes:

Additional Resources

Facelift for the Justice system

The Ministry of the Attorney General has made significant strides in responding to the state of emergency which began on March 17, 2020, leading to the rapid facelift of the justice system. Both the Ontario Court of Justice and the Superior Court of Justice began hearing matters remotely, by the use of zoom application and teleconferences. Judges and lawyers called into the court, while the court staff (including a registrar and reporter) managed the operation from within the court itself. These were the kinds of technological investments that were made to facilitate urgent matters in the courts during the pandemic. Covid-19 has shifted the consciousness of our justice system, giving it a facelift for the 21st century.

The Ontario government made significant investments for the purchasing of 600 new teleconference lines, over 900 laptops and VPN tokens, and 746 cell phones to name a few of the resources required to update Ontario’s severely antiquated justice system. Further, staff training have been ongoing: refresher courses for Office365, VPN, JVN, e-signature and other remote work tools. These are options that many of us have never heard of, much less imagine would be part of our “work tools.” In the last two weeks, the Recovery Secretariat has put on a number of town hall meetings held on zoom to guide Ministry staff through the health and safety measures and protocols for court recovery. In addition, court staff were methodically trained on Zoom application. The Ministry of the Attorney General have been swift and proactive in the face of challenges. My only hope is that these changes will be lasting.

Covid-19 made us see the flexibility of our justice system in implementing change, albeit slow over the decades. These changes, “…will move Ontario’s justice system forward by decades and allow it to emerge from this public health crisis more resilient and better positioned to face future challenges” says Attorney General Doug Downey in a press conference held on May 8, 2020. “These responsible investments will leave a legacy of transformational benefits to all Ontarians in every region of our province, making it easier, faster and more affordable to access justice no matter where people live.”

In the midst of the technological changes, the justice system also has to focus on an interim plan for the health and safety of our courthouses. Close to 300 protective barriers have been designed for the 74 sites, including courthouses, agencies and tribunal locations. There has been enhanced cleaning of the courthouses, on a regular basis; the cleaning of door handles, escalator rails, and the courtrooms. At the Superior Court of Justice, located at 361 University Ave, I have seen the cleaners in action first-hand. Hand sanitizers and disinfectant wipes have been readily available in courtrooms. Approximately 7,000 units of hand sanitizers have been purchased for the courts in Ontario.

In preparation for the reopening on July 6, 2020, the Ministry will take a phased approach to reopening courthouses, in line with provincial direction. In phase one, the Ministry will open a total of 149 courtrooms across the province, all while allowing virtual courts to remain essential and the online system encouraged for filing.

Ontario’s justice system is definitely getting with the times, faster than anyone could imagine. A facelift was long overdue for the antiquated system. As a result, our justice system will continue to become more accessible, more responsive, more resilient and ready to serve Ontarians in the 21st century.

Mandela, Floyd, apartheid, uprisings, and unrest.

Transformational leadership is the ability of a leader to guide nations and organizations alike, focusing on a clear vision, motivation, being a change agent, and building trust. These are the cornerstones of great leadership. One such leader that comes to mind is former President of South Africa, the late, Nelson “Rolihlahla” Mandela. At a time in history when the worse form of segregation, codified into a statutory system called Apartheid, was taken place, Mandela emerged as the first-ever elected President. He dismantled the legacy of the apartheid regime, institutionalized racism, poverty and inequality. He brought diversity into government, established the truth and reconciliation commission to foster racial reconciliation, and reestablished the balance of power for land owners. What did it take for the nation’s heart transformation? It took time, people’s lives, and 27 years of imprisonment of the greatest leader of all time. 

Has history taught us anything? We read books about our famous heroes that marched for justice and equality, for the right to vote, and to have equal and fair wages, thinking that these are problems of the past: We are free now. In the 1930s, our honoured Nelson Mandela was also free. Free to get an excellent legal education, free to marry and to become the next chief. Yet, when the 22-year-old ran away to south Johannesburg, now called Soweto, he saw for the first time what the lives of native Africans were like: Confined in overcrowded shantytowns or slums, where it was insanitary, no electricity, no telephones, and poor road conditions. Police visited these slums continuously in search for vagrants. This is where Nelson’s political education began, yes, this is where the vision was birthed (BENSON, M., 1994, Nelson Mandela:The Man and the Movement, Penguin). 

May Day 1950 was when the workforce stayed home. Protesters called for the removal of the colour bar in parliament, in education, in industry and in the administration. This became the turning point in Mandela’s life because he saw first-hand the ruthlessness of the police, as well as being deeply impressed by the support African workers and Indians gave to the May Day call. “Chiefs and followers, leaders of political associations, ministers, teachers, journalists and lawyers came together from all parts of South Africa and overcame division of tribes and languages, rural and urban backgrounds” (BENSON,1994).

70 years later, May 25, 2020, an African-American was killed because a police officer knelt on his neck for over eight minutes in Minneapolis, USA. Similar ruthless police practices sparked worldwide protest, every continent, language, and government came together to protest by kneeling for change. “The fight against all forms of racism and racial discrimination remains a priority for us,” said Michael Ungern-Sternberg, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Germany to the United Nations Office at Geneva. “The past weeks, many people around the world raised their voices and took to the streets to send a clear signal that racism and excessive use of force by law enforcement officials against minority populations cannot (any) longer be accepted.” Again, has history taught us anything?

See my blog: Police Abusive Use of Force: Yatim and Floyd Case

Uprisings and protests were happening in the 1950s just as they are happening now in 2020. As the unrest of protesters and anti-apartheid leaders spread and became more effective and militarized, state organizations responded with repression and violence (BENSON, 1994). The government banned all opposition, and police officers enforced curfews, causing many anti-apartheid leaders to be imprisoned, including Mandela. Similarly, the United States chose to respond to the nationwide demonstrations after police in Minneapolis killed African American George Floyd, in a manner that undermined our fundamental rights “…the right to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly,” said Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, the UN Special Rapporteur. We are watching history play over again, the police brutality and the governments adverse response to the protests.

In 1951, Mandela chose to become a change agent for his nation and his people. He was a lawyer, a founding member of the Youth League of the African National Congress (ANC), and appointed as volunteer-in-chief of the defiance campaign. “This campaign was designed to organize a large-scale resistance movement and work toward the repeal of discriminatory legislation” (JAMES, R., 2011, Nelson Mandela, Great Neck Publishing, Database: MasterFILE Premier). Mandela was arrested because he was fighting for his nation’s heart transformation. His prosecution for treason, and a lengthy prison sentence did only one thing; it bolstered Mandela’s vision for justice and equality. It was behind bars, that the transformational leader emerged. Upon his release, Mandela built the South African civil rights movement; and in 1991, became the president of the ANC, the rest is history: South Africa held its first-ever free elections on April 27, 1994. With majority of the votes given to ANC, Mandela was elected president. It was victory, not just for one race, but for an entire nation.

The death of Floyd has stirred our nation’s heart in a profound way. And it is the spirit of 46-year-old Floyd that became the transformational leader that the world desperately needed to see the vision. So, transformation requires time, people’s lives, and imprisonment. Sometimes history has to be repeated for our nations to take a stand for the vision that our beloved heroes, like Mandela stood for.

Human Rights Council calls on top UN rights official to take action on racist violence

Written by: Human Rights, June 19 2020.

The unarmed African-American’s death on 25 May was captured on video while a police officer knelt on his neck for over eight minutes in Minneapolis, sparking worldwide protest.

During the debate on racism, alleged police brutality and violence against protesters that preceded the resolution’s adoption, no less than120 speakers took the floor.

Many expressed sympathy for the family of Mr. Floyd, whose brother also addressed Council members in Geneva, in a passionate pre-recorded video message in which he urged the United Nations to act.

No international probe

Although some delegates had called for an international probe to investigate killings of black people in America, and violence against demonstrators, others maintained that the issue impacted on all nations, and required a broader approach.

In line with the final version of the resolution text, the High Commissioner should “prepare a report on systemic racism, violations of international human rights law against Africans and people of African descent by law enforcement agencies, especially those incidents that resulted in the death of George Floyd and other Africans and of people of African descent”.

The text also calls on Ms. Bachelet – assisted by UN appointed independent rights experts and committees “to examine government responses to anti-racism peaceful process peaceful protests, including the alleged use of excessive force against protesters, bystanders and journalists”.

Overseeing the resolution, Ambassador Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger (Austria), President of the Human Rights Council (14th cycle) announced that the text was ready for their consideration and asked whether a vote could be dispensed with, in light of the general consensus.

‘An historic step’

“Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, I have been informed that a number of resolutions are ready for adoption during this meeting as shown on the screen…So, I would like to ask if there is a request from anybody for a vote…I see none, so may I take it that the draft proposal L50 as orally revised may be adopted without a vote? It is so decided.”

In his address to Member States as coordinator of the African Group, Dieudonné W. Désiré Sougouri, Permanent Representative of Burkina Faso to the United Nations Office, declared the Urgent Debate “an historic step” in the combat against racism of which the Human Rights Council could be “proud”.

“The international outrage caused by the tragic events that led to the death of George Floyd underlined the urgency and importance for the Human Rights Council to raise its voice against injustice and police brutality which African people and people of African descent are faced with every day in many regions of the world,” he said.

The Council also heard widespread declarations of support for an investigation into violence against protesters supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.

Racism will remain ‘a priority’

“The fight against all forms of racism and racial discrimination remains a priority for us,” said Michael Ungern-Sternberg, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Germany to the United Nations Office at Geneva. “The past weeks, many people around the world raised their voices and took to the streets to send a clear signal that racism and excessive use of force by law enforcement officials against minority populations cannot (any) longer be accepted.”

Other speakers insisted that the resolution was necessary and important in promoting awareness about systemic racism, and in continuing the work of implementing key pledges taken to combat the scourge in 2002 at the Durban World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.

“Black lives matter,” said Ambassador Coly Seck, Permanent Representative of Senegal to the United Nations Office at Geneva. Racism continues to happen in many countries too, he said, noting that it was in “flagrant contradiction” to the UN Charter in which we place our faith in the basic rights of man and in the value of the human person”.

UN independent experts voice ‘profound concern’ over US Government accusations of ‘domestic terrorism’

And in another human rights development concerning the fallout from protests over George Floyd’s death in the US, UN independent experts on Friday expressed “profound concern” over a recent statement by the US Attorney-General describing the so-called Antifa movement and other anti-fascist activists as “domestic terrorists”, saying it undermines the rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly in the country.

“International human rights law protects the right to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly”, said Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism.

“It is regrettable that the United States has chosen to respond to the protests in a manner that undermines these fundamental rights.”

Following nationwide demonstrations that began after police in Minneapolis killed African American George Floyd, US Attorney General William Barr warned that alleged violence carried out by Antifa and other movements “is domestic terrorism and will be treated accordingly”, noted the press release issued by the UN rights office, OHCHR.

‘Loose use of terrorist rhetoric’

Although there has not been an legislative action taken following the 31 May statement, Ms. Ní Aoláin – an expert lawyer who worked extensively in the human rights and terrorism-related field in her native Northern Ireland – said that the “the loose use of terrorism rhetoric undermines legitimate protests and dampens freedom of expression in the United States, which has been a hallmark of US constitutional values, and a beacon far beyond its shores”.UN Special Procedures@UN_SPExperts

🇺🇲 #UnitedStates: UN expert @NiAolainF says the loose use of #terrorism rhetoric by the US Administration undermines legitimate protests and dampens freedom of expression in the country. Learn more: 

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Echoing the unease expressed by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights regarding structural race discrimination in the US, particularly in the realm of policing, the Special Rapporteur said that regulating protests and violence through the lens of counter-terrorism may only sharpen divisions and accentuate tensions, fuelling further human rights violations.

The group of independent experts strongly recommend that the violent elements among peaceful protesters who have been identified by law enforcement, be dealt with fairly, and in accordance to due process under existing penal law.

Ms. Ní Aoláin is urging the US Government to take a human rights-based approach in their response to protests and violence and avoid the misuse and misappropriation of the language of terrorism.

“Unless it does, the Government risks cheapening grave crimes that fall under the rubric of terrorism and failing to fulfil fundamental obligations to ensure counter-terrorism measures are fully compliant with international human rights law.”

The Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council constitute the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, and they address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world.

The experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work, as well as being independent from any government or organization.

Migrant workers hold virtual rally seeking full immigration status in Canada

Written by: The Canadian Press

A group supporting migrant workers held a virtual rally Sunday that called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and MPs to immediately extend full immigration status for all non-permanent residents.

The event, sponsored by the Migrant Rights Network, featured a series of farm workers, caregivers, construction workers and others who expressed the difficulties of living through the COVID-19 pandemic without the government support given to Canadians.

“We are raising our voice because the COVID-19 virus has laid bare the crisis caused by capitalism, racism, climate change and war,” spokeswoman Sarom Rho said during the one-hour event.

Rho said the majority of migrants are paid low wages, and face many other challenges.

“Canada’s corporations profit off of the intentional temporariness caused by a two-tiered immigration system,” Rho said, adding that the novel coronavirus has hit migrants and the poor the hardest.

“Without access to emergency income supports, migrants have been working through the crisis without basic labour rights or health and safety protections. We are going hungry, we are homeless, we have lost our lives.”

Without emergency income supports provided to Canadian workers, she says, migrants are going hungry as they struggle to survive.

Rho said migrants are calling on Trudeau to live up to his promise to do better to fight racism.

“So today we say to him, Prime Minister Trudeau do better by ensuring full immigration status for all.”

That would provide health services including hospitalization and access to doctors, worker protections against discrimination and abuse along with access to permanent wage increases and paid emergency leave.

It wants access to community supports such as food banks, emergency shelters and other services and an immediate moratorium on detentions and deportations.

The activist group launched the one-day event by supporting efforts to defund, disarm and dismantle police over racist policies following recent deaths at the hands of police, including George Floyd and several Canadians, such as Rodney Levi, an Indigenous man in New Brunswick.

“We are in the midst of a massive anti-racist uprising against police and anti-Black police violence, a groundshifting rebellion led by Black women and youth.”

Better to Give than to Receive…

Photo by Min An from Pexels

I’m beginning to wonder if there is some unspoken truth about giving that nobody tells us about. Our parents sternly warned us to be kind and share with our brothers and sisters, but never really delve into the details about why. And as we get older, if we don’t share with our friends and family they reprehensibly look down upon us as if we’ve sinned in some revolting way. But why should we give? Are there benefits for giving? And should this be one of those things on our to-do-lists?

When I was a child my mother always had to remind me to share with my brother. It was never the thing at the forefront of my mind. And why should it? If I got a bag of delicious candies, why would I want to give it away? It’s mine, right? As I got older, a teenager, one of my aunts would constantly remind me about how selfish I was; so much that I almost started to equate that word with my name, “Shauna, the selfish”. In my mind though, I didn’t think I was selfish. I just had a firm belief about possession. When something is mine, it belongs to me only and I shouldn’t have to give it away; and when it isn’t, I’ve also learnt how not to be jealous or envious. It’s the way I saw it and sometimes I still see it that way. But I do now however, practise giving more often. Because I see that there are benefits. Well, there has to be a good reason to give something away, right?

I pick occasions to give. I consciously do it, because giving doesn’t seem to come naturally; not to me. In other words, I have to ask myself whether this is a chance to be generous, and when my mind feels greedy by thinking only about me, I remind myself that this person may very well benefit because of me.

It’s actually motivating to give when you think of the reward. Not the ‘other’ reward that you’re going to benefit, which you are; rather it is the feeling of doing something kind. It feels fulfilling and uplifting when someone is happy because you gave of yourself. It is as the bible says,

‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Acts 20:35

What is interesting though about being generous is that often, the same hand that you’ve helped isn’t always the hand that repays the favour. It is here I’m reminded of a movie, “Pay-it-Forward” because it highlights the principle of giving. When you help another person by giving of yourself, your time, and your energy there is a greater reward stored up for you and it comes in the least expected of ways, like the homeless man that tried to save a woman from jumping off a bridge. The homeless man was helping this woman because someone had helped him and he was looking at the world differently, from eyes of compassion. The bible says it this way,

Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

Luke 6:38

So is giving important to me now? It most certainly is! There are countless benefits for giving and that’s why we should always remember to do so. We give not because we expect to get something in return, but because good naturally flows out of giving. It’s one of those common beliefs that is so important that it had to be written in the bible. When I listen to other people’s stories, you get the picture that because they were kind, God opened a miraculous door in a way that they needed it most. And you have to ask, was it because they gave?

When it rains…it pours in Jamaica

Photo by GLYSON Thomas from Pexels

“What is going on?” I wondered while finding shelter and looking up at the Sangicor bank, thinking someone must be out of their minds. “Were they watering flowers up there?” Donald quickly stepped into the building next door, the IBM building where he works, and I followed. I was trying not to get wet by the person who was emptying buckets of water from the tower. As I look out the glass door, I saw that umbrellas were going up, and while others run for shelter. In fact, the big drops of water were actually coming from the sky and it was sending people scattering.

I watched as the wind blew the palm trees in an attempt to uproot them. “From no rain to lots of rain, lovely weather” a woman walking into the elevator said aloud. The puddles were now forming. Then, it seemed, someone turned off the faucet. The rain slowed down, and so did the pace of walking. The puddles are the only remnants that the rain was falling. Clouds parted and the sun was out again, at its zenith.

I leave the building to get lunch at the Juici beef restaurant. When it was my turn, I ordered a patty with coco bread and a soda. I take a seat alone by the window. The rain was pouring again. There is no floodwater drain so the water flows on to the sidewalk. I would not be able to cross the street without getting my feet wet. Traffic was building up. Police sirens ring but there is no space to get the vehicle through. Here in the restaurant, the calmness and the slowness of conversations is the complete opposite of the mayhem outside.

“She almost fell because she is barefooted” A woman behind me commented. I look outside the window to see a woman holding her flip flops in her hand while trying to keep her balance. The rain still falling with the same velocity as before and the water build-up on the sidewalk is increasing. The Jamaican flag across the street hangs limp  on its pole now. Another woman slips and a security officer catches her. More umbrellas come out. A customer and I share a joke as we watch a man trying to measure the distance of the flowing water between him and the sidewalk. He took a leap but missed the sidewalk. His feet now soaked in spite his efforts. Others chose to walk directly into the water. Now, more people are carrying their shoes and slippers in hand while walking barefooted on the sidewalk. The rain slows and I watch the water on the sidewalk disappear.

“Excuse me” a restaurant worker said as she mops the floors. I lift my feet for her to mop underneath, and watch her return the table to its original position. I see the water on the sidewalk dries, almost instantaneously. The sun comes up as bright as before and the dark clouds pass. Another server knocks on my table. Instinctively I lift my belongings so she could wipe the table. I look out the window and see the wind causing the Jamaican flag to sway proudly, and I take this opportunity to walk out into the Jamaican sunshine.

There is Hope

On this Sunday afternoon I took part in the anti-Black racism protest held at Celebration Square in Mississauga, Square One area. This is one of a sequence of protests being held around the Greater Toronto Area for Mr. George Floyd, the African American who was killed by police officers’ brutal use of force on March 25, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Chants of “George Floyd, say his name” and “Black Lives Matter” were heard loud and clear by over 2500 protesters, representing the Canadian melting pot; black, white, asian, brown, hijab wearers, and durag wearers alike. It was hard not to get your hearts filled, as vibrations of hope, community, love, and faith emanated through the streets of Mississauga.

Read my blog: Police Abusive Use of Force: Yatim and Floyd Case

The protest was organized by Mr. Innis Ingram, a Mississauga resident, whose best friend in grade 8 was an African Canadian girl. Ingram, a white man with ginger beard says his best friend got heckled when she was young, during the time of the Rodney King incident (an African American man who was brutally beaten by the Police in California). These were the pullings on Ingram’s heart which led him to take action. “It’s time to get off my butt and do something” says the Mississauga resident, “we want to show that Mississauga stands in solitary.” Looking around at this massive crowd peacefully marching around the downtown core, along Hurontario Street, it’s clear where the hearts and minds of the residents are.

Like Ingram and many others, it was important to me as a Jamaican woman to show my support for Floyd’s death. Feeling the immense passion of this young diverse group paints a picture of where we are going as a nation and society. This march is not only for today, it is a banner that the young will carry into their futures as they take on positions in civil and private sector. This march will influence young people to know what they believe, and take a stand for themselves and for others, in the name of justice and equality.

The signs clearly made their points: No Justice No Peace” “Racism is a Pandemic too”, “White Silence is Violence say their names”, and “Love Black People, Like You Love Black Culture.” The voices were loud and passionate in their chants. The purpose of this Mississauga protest is for policy changes against systemic racism, including the use of body-worn cameras for Peel Regional Police, for which the Mayors of Mississauga and Brampton expressed support.

Yes, these protests send out a clear message to all of us, and particularly for this generation to hear, to see, and to feel differently about racism. There is hope. The streets of Mississauga was filled with it, this Sunday afternoon on June 7, and it will be remembered for a long long time to come.


I spy with my little eye, racism

For a long time, I thought I understood racism based on the definition, “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior” (Oxford online dictionary). But now as an adult, I have to ask, do I really know racism, if I see it face to face? How can I tell? Can you? When I watched Malcolm X movie for the first time in my grade 12 religion class, I saw what racism could do to people, to a nation. The divisiveness of it, and how it created such practices as John Crow laws, and the offensive apartheid regime in South Africa. But, when I left the protective embraces of my school, and stepped into a world of big bad wolves, I don’t see these flagrant acts of prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism. Instead, what I see are very polite people who are going about their daily lives, too busy, too focused, too apathetic to concern themselves about me. In other words, everyone is out there, trying to get what’s their’s, “by any means necessary” (to steal Malcolm X’s words). So, how do I spy with my little eye, a racist in all its disguise?

How can I tell that one believes that he/she is superior? This is the premise of racism, right? For one thing, I cannot read minds. So if I enter a room with an all white interview panel, and a month later, I am informed, I didn’t get the job, is that because of racism? In an isolated situation, we can never know. I am unable to tell whether the simple act of not picking me for the job was discrimination, or straight up, I wasn’t the best candidate. But here is a real incident that happened to me in 2014. I was one of approximately 20 students in a Public Administration program at Seneca College. The program had an internship component, which was why I chose to take this graduate certificate program in the first place. Four months into the eight-month program, seven students were selected for the internship. All seven were white. Is that a coincidence? What was their selection criteria based on? Grades? We were not given an explanation. The rest of us who were not selected were part of the great Canadian non white diversity. And we did nothing about it. Why? The students expressed their concerns to me, that they were shocked, and disappointed, but on the other hand felt afraid that if we were to do something about it, we would be punished (i.e. getting a bad grade).

Check out Deandra’s blog: This is a Phase   

Upon doing some research, I find that we condone racism in one of two ways. Either we do nothing when it happens, or we benefit from someone else’s demise, then lap up the blood from the corners of our mouths. It’s a wolves world and we are in it for ourselves. But, there comes a time, when each of us have to stop and think. Stop being naive, stop acting in apathy, and definitely stop benefitting from someone’s loss. It’s time for me to wake up, and realize that racism doesn’t come with a label. It comes with a subtle feeling that something isn’t right.

Recently, I went grocery shopping at my local Food Basics. As I was pushing my cart, I saw an older white staff standing in front of one of the aisle with his coffee in hand. Having been to this food basics many times, these people are aways working, so it confused me as to why he was standing so stiffly. I looked down the bottom of the aisle, and there it was. The staff’s target was a black young man, early twenties, searching for something on a top shelf. Was that what I thought it was? Even as I made my way to the cashier I wondered. I felt something was wrong because I had spot racism. It can’t always be determined with those big words, but it can be with your gut.

When we spot it, we must decide what to do about it. In Food basics, I did what many Canadians would do. We acknowledge it, but we do nothing. I was not the one being a racist, and I was not the one experiencing it. But, I was a witness. So what is my role? It’s important to think about it in terms of what the bible says,

“Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

In other words, be brave for our friends, for our co-workers, for our neighbours. Why? Because God said so. “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).

We may never truly know on the onset when we are experiencing racism, or when we see it being done to someone we know. But, rather than labelling it immediately, listen to your gut. Trust it. What you do after, is your decision. Ultimately, we all have a role to play when it comes to racism in our society, and playing a blind eye, or feeling sorry for ourselves, is not a role. We must act.