Please keep in mind as you read this: the content of this blog post includes triggering topics related to our current tensions in the world (racism, genocide etc.) Please remember self-care and communal care are the most important part of our well-being to continue doing work for our communities. Thank you for reading.
On June 20th we participate in World Refugee Day. June 21st is National Indigenous Peoples Day, as well as Father’s Day. We gather, celebrate culture, resist assimilation or simply observe. When we speak about educating ourselves and diving deeper into history, I often read about all the scary realities that surround us. For example, did you know that every minute, 20 people leave everything behind to escape war, persecution or terror? How many have to escape war, racism and/or genocide before the narrative changes?
Did you know the Indian Act was in place for close to 75 years? Indigenous women were denied status, individuals were renamed with European names, children forcefully taken from their communities, and section 141 forbade any First Nation from retaining a lawyer, just to mention a few. Even now in 2020, we still see the remnants of policies that directly affect Indigenous communities.
On June 19th, we participate in Juneteenth—also known as “Freedom Day”—the oldest nationally-celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. Keep in mind that slavery had officially been abolished only two an a half years previous to the first celebration of Juneteenth, but had still not been implemented in every state.
Today many people argue, including me, that slavery has taken on different shapes or names. The effects of racism, hatred, discrimination, and the wealth gap, among other things, are still prevalent. Think about this for a second:
- Martin Luther King Jr. would be 91 years old this year.
- The last residential school in Canada closed in 1996; I was a year old.
- Breonna Taylor was shot on March 13th. It has been over 100 days since this happened and there has still been no justice.
- Emmet Till would be turning 81 years old this year, my grandmothers are in their 80’s.
As racial tensions increase, as these holidays come up, we (including you reading this) might feel like we can’t breathe. We might feel like we are being taken into a deep BLACK hole. You might feel like you don’t have a home to run to or like you don’t know what other steps you can take to make things better. This is how I felt, and still feel sometimes. Sometimes my body feels heavy as I wake up in the mornings and I fight my mind to not reach for the news. However, this is where this message really hit me.
We are fighting so that the story of our roots—how we came to be here and how we thrived as a community—is not one of only pain. Because we, we know. We fight to revitalize our cultures so the single story people know isn’t about how “all the Indians were killed on my island” or how the story of people of African descent “began when they were brought as slaves to a foreign territory”. So the assumptions and questions like “did you come as a refugee?” are not part of normal conversations. We fight so someone’s name does not hinder their chances of accessing fair employment opportunities, so children are not afraid to show up as themselves simply because of the colour of their skin.
We fight so our collective roots can be stronger for us and for the generations to come.
One day I know our stories will not be intentionally hidden, our bodies will not be buried without justice. Maybe one day our children will look up to us and understand the weight we carried and smile. When they celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day, they will celebrate Indigenous liberation and land protection. When they celebrate Father’s Day, they will celebrate how our men stood up to change the collective culture of toxic masculinity. I long for my children to celebrate World Refugee Day by learning how wars ended and communities were rebuilt.
Finally, I hope that when we celebrate “freedom”, it will be a story of how our Black liberation also led to the liberation of other communities.
Yes, that is a story I will be proud to share.