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08 Jul 2020

City of Vaughan Residents Call On Mayor To Take Action On Anti-Black Racism Featured

In unison with the cries for justice and equality of Black lives across the globe a rally was held at Vaughan City Hall, July 4, 2020 to confront anti-Black racism. With the support of the organizers, local support groups and allies: Vaughan African Caribbean Association (VACA), BCFN, Black Lives 4 Change, Italians for Black Lives, etc. the community spoke up about the impact this has on the lives of Black people who call the City of Vaughan home.

My family and I have lived in Vaughan since 1998 and yes there have been changes in the faces of people on the street, the ongoing development, and the types of cultural events accessible in the city. However, this does not erase the fact that anti-Black racism still exists and permeates its way through various systems of power in this city. Noticeably absent at the rally were any members of Vaughan city council or the Mayor to show the slightest solidarity with members of Vaughan’s Black community. The absence of elected officials and the unwillingness to be held accountable for the lack of insight and direction to remedy anti-Black racism and the many ways in which the Black community has been marginalized in Vaughan clearly shows a lack of foresight, integrity, and compassion. I find this particularly offensive given the many hours and time I dedicated as a volunteer to ensure that Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua was elected as a Member of Parliament, and eventually as Mayor of Vaughan. As one of the few Black people who volunteered in Mayor Bevilacqua’s re-election campaigns as well as for current councillor Mario Ferri I can state clearly there’s a disconnect between the will to listen and the will to act.  

I address this to the Mayor directly as someone who has known him for several years, with the highest of expectations in his capacity as an elected official to champion the cause of all constituents. Unfortunately, it appears he has chosen an alternate route to duck and avoid accountability and seek to sideline the voices of Black community members in Vaughan who are making demands to combat anti-Black racism.    

Mayor Bevilacqua, platitudes and congenial statements to pacify community members with complete disregard for the lived experiences of anti-Black racism and the impacts it has for Black people living in Vaughan will no longer be accepted. This is a watershed moment in history and you must ask yourself which side do you want to be on? Subsequently, this calls for courageous white political leaders such as yourselves to complete an examination of conscience, as well as your staffers, and your city policies/practices to carefully examine and dismantle the ways anti-Black racism is at play. Twenty-eight days in February with lofty sentiments on the City of Vaughan website is not enough. To be fair it never was, advocates like the Vaughan African Caribbean Association and others that you have met with (albeit at times briefly) have been clear in their demands and concerns. There have been continuous opportunities to demonstrate leadership coupled with critical thought and integrity.

Looking around the staff at the City of Vaughan it’s very hard to see the representation of racially diverse voices, especially Black voices in positions of influence and executive leadership who can speak openly on anti-Black racism. I can list here the many instances that have occurred at the City, the York Region District School Board, the abrupt cancellation of S.O.S. Fest, the undermining of the CariFestival Vaughan, etc. These slights as you may see them demonstrate a disregard for members of an already marginalized community in this country. Anti-Black racism is not new and the City of Vaughan is not exempt. Without progressive voices from the Black community amongst your staff, and political colleagues it may seem easy or even simplistic to wipe away such concerns as trivial matters.

I find it interesting, however, how all too often Italians forget their history in this country. Italians were not easily welcomed here with open arms and would often encounter open acts of hostility from white Anglo-Saxon protests Canadians. This was a history that said they were not the right kind of “white” people. This, of course, evolved and today many descendants of Italians benefit directly from white privilege and refuse or chose ignorance to the many instances of anti-Black racism and suffering of Black people. Deciding not to take any action to combat anti-Black racism makes you no better than any avowed racist spewing bile and hateful rhetoric. Racists, no longer wear white sheets, or swastikas and chant racial epithets in public. In the twenty-first century the dress code of a racist is a suit and tie or quite frankly looks like the “guy next door.” Even worse are those who chose to remain silent because this is an issue they can avoid due to their whiteness and white privilege.  

Those white Canadians who act as though the killing of George Floyd has no direct connection to the experiences of Black people in Canada, or closer to home in the community of Vaughan are just as lethal to the Black community as those who will put a knee on our necks with ease. This is a system of oppression that privileges whiteness with access, social status, and economic prosperity. Therefore, if you are not actively involved to dismantle such a system then it is imperative that you understand you are part of the problem.

Mayor Bevilacqua, you have hard choices to make moving forward in the manner that you will engage with members of the Black community. Demands have been highlighted, requests for greater participation have also been made, the ball is now in your court to see if you have the will to take on the challenge. History will judge you and all politicians across this nation for the treatment of Black people in the face of everyday racism and systemic oppression. It is truly a sad commentary on society when a man has to be brutalized on camera for eight minutes and forty-six seconds to unleash unprecedented change placing Black lives once more at the forefront of the struggle for justice and equality.

The Black Lives Matter momentum is not a trend or hashtag and yes, it has come home to the doorsteps of Vaughan’s elected officials like yourself. The demands for real change are necessary, and in this instance inevitable. Having worked alongside you I know that you have the capacity to drive initiatives that are important to the communities that have you have been elected to serve. Therefore, I am asking you: are Black lives in Vaughan important enough to force changes necessary so that all of us in this city can move forward towards justice and equality? We will be watching, I am watching, history will also be your judge.

Read 555 times Last modified on Tuesday, 13 October 2020 15:39
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