Hundreds gather in Sackville for anti-racism vigil

Nearly 300 people gathered outside Sackville’s main post office today as part of a silent vigil to protest against racism.

Participants were responding to an invitation on Facebook yesterday from former Sackville poet laureate Marilyn Lerch who wrote:

“I would like to stand in front of PO at noon Wednesday with a sign about racial injustice. Would anyone join me?”

Today’s vigil was one of a series of protests across Canada and the U.S. sparked by the killing last week of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who had been handcuffed and pinned to the ground by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota for more than eight minutes while they ignored his cries that he couldn’t breathe.

Anger and tears

Marilyn Lerch outside the Sackville Post Office

“People here are moved, moved to tears, heavy of heart and angry,” Lerch said to Warktimes during today’s vigil.

She held a sign that declared she was “standing in support of protests in the U.S. against systemic racism: here & there.”

“I wish we could say we were not all part of that, but we have to accept our responsibility,” Lerch said.

“We have to look at Canada, the discrimination for centuries against First Nations people [and their] treaty rights,” she added.

Lerch said the big turnout at today’s vigil shows that people do care about systemic racism.

“Here we are faced with climate change, COVID-19, student debt, trying to take the hospital away, unemployment,” she said, “all of that is down on us and yet people with a few hours notice come here and stand together.”

To respect COVID-19 safety restrictions, most participants at today’s rally wore masks and attempted to distance themselves from one another.

Daily experiences

Mt. A. Black Student Advisor and Diversity Educator Ivan Okello

Ivan Okello, who serves as Black Student Advisor at Mount Allison, said he participated in today’s vigil to show his support for fighting against racism and police brutality.

He held a sign advising white people to check their own bias against associating with people of other races and cultures.

The other side of his sign read: “Racism is killing me softly.”

He explained that as a black person from Uganda he often feels its effects — everything from being followed around in stores to racial slurs and anti-immigrant comments.

“It’s been a range of experiences and the challenge of that is that it dehumanizes your sense of belonging to a specific place because you start to feel that your sense of security is threatened,” Okello said.

Policing black lives

As Okello was speaking to Warktimes, Mt. A. President Jean-Paul Boudreau stopped by briefly to praise his work at the university.

In January 2019, Boudreau himself invited Robyn Maynard to speak at Mt. A. about her book Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present.

Her speech reflected the evidence she presents in the book that racism is structural and embedded in Canadian institutions.

“It’s easy to say ‘I’m not a racist,” Maynard said in her talk at Mount A.

“Instead say, ‘What am I going to do about it?’”

To read a full report on Maynard’s talk, click here.

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