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A Message from Tshweu Moleme

(Black Lives Matter)

Racism is an awful reality that many in our city, country, and world face. It’s not fair. When I think about the many friends I have who are of a different racial background it’s painful, how are they any different? The simple truth is that they are not. We are all human, and we all deserve to be treated that way. And we all deserve a system that works within that mind set.

For this month’s entry, I wanted to talk about this issue more in depth. However, I really don’t have the firsthand experience of racism that many in our community do.

Instead this month’s entry comes from my good friend and, a leading Black Lives Matter activist here in Orillia, Tshweu Moleme. Featured is his speech from a few days ago:

“What a time we're in right now!

I’ve been thinking a lot, lately, trying to make sense of it all. However, one thing I’ll tell you is that this is a moment/movement like no other --- a multigenerational; multiracial movement. Why? Because there are a lot of white people involved - truth be told. It should never have taken this long or have been this way; Black and Indigenous voices have been pointing out all the injustices and scars of racism, for hundreds of years, but ... such is the way of the oppressor -- they will suppress resistance as much and as best they can.

However, the good news is that they are getting weak now.

So, I thank all white, Indigenous and POC, the world over, for joining this global movement to end Anti-Black Racism; thank you for joining us in the unveiling of hidden histories that still haunt and truths that must be told, dealt with, head on!

One of my favourites, respected African American writer and public intellectual, the late James Baldwin, once said:

“To act is to be committed, and to be committed is to be in danger.”

Thus, I thank all who’ve taken the step to join me and my people, in these spaces of danger, seeking nothing but justice – however dangerous!

It really, truly soothes my heart, to see so many people uniting, and saying, in unison, enough is enough!

If not now, when. . ?

You know, I was thinking the other day – looking at the thousands of people taking to the streets, globally, in support of Black Lives Matter - how sad it was that we were gathering in these great numbers, to mourn brutal losses of life and to fight injustices. I would’ve loved to see these many people uniting to celebrate Black and Indigenous lives well lived, their achievements, excellence and more, rather; not lives brutally taken away, too soon, by the heartless, by a ruthless system, it’s occupants, navigators, its enablers.

 

Indeed, we are now in a moment in history, where we see the results of many, many years of organizing and mobilization. This isn’t really a “new” movement we see unfolding before our eyes - it is an uprising pillared by a lot of historic pain and loss. This is a movement built over hundreds of years of hard work; activism and resistance. Many Black and Indigenous lives were lost in resistance here in North America – pillaged, jailed, hanged, raped, disappeared and so much more.

So, please do consider one very important fact - this movement stands on the shoulders, tears, and blood of those who came before us, a fact we should all never forget. Look back, see the pain and hurt – look ahead and pave a way, where such pain and hurt shall never be left to blossom, ever!

My own life history tells that story: I was born and lived under Apartheid South Africa. I lived in the U.S. and am now in Canada some 17yrs or so. I’ve seen people jailed, killed, and disappeared (things no child should be witness to). Why? Because people called for the end of injustices and white supremacy.

Please, think about this for minute . . . Someone says, “hey, be nice, be fair,” and your response is to kill, jail, hang, and disappear them, simply because they asked for you to do what was right and the most

humanely thing to do. Does this make sense? Of course not.

My people do not even want revenge or anything of the sort, just fairness, because we’ve seen it all and value life; we wish none of that . . . even on our worst of enemies. Even little kids understand the concept of fairness. You hear them say things like “that’s not fair.” However, power and supremacy that pervade society dictate otherwise.

When we do mobilize and organize, nothing can stop us. We see it now.

Former US President, Barack Obama, recently noted how change can be achieved through making the status quo uncomfortable. This was telling, coming from a guy who is part of the system of power in North America. He can see it and is hearing it. The movement is gaining serious ground, Folks! No longer business as usual. Let’s keep going! Lets keep fighting for justice and fairness for all, especially Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour.

Change is happening everywhere and some will resist; some will dismiss.

A local example can be that of the recent protest by our Brothers and Sisters, outside the OPP Head Quarters, here in Orillia. People are uncomfortable and saying troubling things, such as “all lives matter,” often as a counter to and erasure of the Black Lives Matter movement and message(s). Sadly, similar sentiments were uttered at that event, by a uniformed police officer sent out to speak with the protestors.

I find this troubling for a number of reasons, especially right now, where police reform and defunding are such big issues of contention. A police officer, at the OPP HQ coming out to speak with protestors is the face and mind of the OPP, by virtue of the space they occupy. They reflect what’s happening inside that building. The OPP HQ is also the knowledge producer of all OPP across the province and other forces beyond our provincial borders.

What comes out of the HQ, their words, should mean something. It was disappointing to hear such a response, when protestors never even said all lives didn’t matter. Like millions around the world, they simply said Black Lives Matter and wanted to be heard; they were dismissed.

It is worrisome to see such behavior unfold outside a building named after a Black Canadian icon, the great Lincoln M. Alexander - the first black MP in the House of Commons; a first in so many things, historically.

Proximity to history is also important and I hope that this particular officer and many others walking into that building do understand the name and history under which they take shelter. They are under the Black shelter, and that should matter; that black life under which they take shelter, should matter.

I know that, as Canadians, we like to think of ourselves as being nice. However, our history, and events such as the one I just shared, say otherwise; our history is not very nice, and that’s a fact and reason why we have so many saying enough is enough. Let us fix what’s broken! Let’s make Canada a better place, for all!

Racism is a disease. It is Covid-19 many times over. If we do not collapse and eradicate this problem, it will continue to spread, hurt, and kill.

It’s time for action. We’ve done enough talking. We’ve produced many reports, books, and studies, that end up collecting dust on the shelves. Enough is enough. Let us take to the streets, instead!

I Call for Political Action, too . . .

I call on every mayor and council in the area to implement and share their action plan on Anti-Black Racism. I’ve already reached out to Orillia City Council. I ask that you all reach out to your own municipalities, because we need real action and change.

We need to take action because, I worry about my two black boys, my family. I don’t want them to go through what I’ve endured in my life, even here in Orillia, where I’ve been stopped by police for “making a funny turn,” while driving, or have been told to “go back to your country” by a teenager, or voters/my supporters intimidated and told to not vote for me or have my lawn sign, during a municipal election, because “he (meaning me) is an immigrant.” Racism lives here in Orillia, too. Orillia is in the world. Please join me in getting rid of such racism!

Finally, to our allies here and beyond our borders, please, please, please use your power and privilege to fix broken, racist systems. Unfortunately, there remains hierarchies of race in our society, where your white or light skin means that the government or a racist person is most likely to respond to you more positively than they would with me. Use that power to fight and change the system; to change minds!

The system has betrayed us for far too long! It is broken and need fixing!

 

Again, the sad thing is, Black and Indigenous peoples have been crying, pointing to their pain in North America and across the world, for some 400+ years. Things are a little different this time --- we have a lot of white people on our side and guess what? Those in power are finally listening. [And] While this might be a bit of a heartwarming shift, it is also heartbreaking, in that millions of lives have already been lost due to racism, systemic and otherwise, and Black and Indigenous voices and resistance have always been there, fighting, for centuries. Why did it take so long, some will ask. However, the coming together of everyone, at this time, should be a big wake up call.

Folks, truth be told: racism makes us sick. It is exhausting; it kills. I’m tired of being pulled over for “making a funny turn” and other such excuses or attacks on me, simply because of the colour of my skin.

Simply put: racism is a disease, and I’m sick of being sick from such.

Remember: no Indigenous or Black man, woman, and child, can breathe, until the collapse of Anti-Black and Anti-Indigenous racisms. You too, cannot breathe . . . because, an injury to one is an injury to all!

Please consider the moment and movement we’re in, an international call for action, and possibilities therein.

Indeed, what we need is restorative, not performative justice. Taking the knee might be a good symbol, but action will speak louder. This is an important moment for us, a moment to grow, collectively.

Yes, the Iron is very hot, right now. Let’s seize the moment and do what’s right, by ironing away all racism we’ve seen eat away at our communities, for a long time . . . for far too long!

Now is the time for action. Time to focus on racism, not me, not my blackness, as some problem in need of solutions.

Thank you. Miigwech!

 

Tshweu Moleme”