Moving Forward with Purpose in 2021   

Without a doubt, the year 2020 was an incredibly challenging year for everyone. A year many do not wish to remember. Everyone has one story or two to share about why they think 2020 deserves no mention ever again. The painful truth is that we cannot forget 2020 in the same way we still remember the racial slights, epithets, and outright violence that have become part of our daily realities. 

As terrible as 2020 was for most of us, you would agree with me that we also learned some important life lessons we want to remember and build upon as individuals and as a community.  

Like many, I learned to be grateful for life itself, and for the times we shared as a family and a community. I also learned to be patient. Those who know me well also know my mantra “Life is not a race.” 2020 taught us to be patient and take life easy. It taught us to care about people more than we have ever done. Yet, it taught some of us to slow down, be minimalistic, and embrace altruism. 

I do not wish to erase your memories of the pandemic (which is still present with us) or the racial tensions stemming from police brutalities and killings of our people and people who look like us. No. It will be dangerous on my part to suggest you forget about the pain and suffering, the mental health challenges, the hunger, and the disruption of lives and livelihoods. These are painful truths we share. I have had my challenges, health-wise but this does not stop us from fighting and pursuing excellence. We cannot just wish 2020 away without remembering the good lessons we need to guide our individual and collective progress in 2021. 

Questions to reflect on 

  1. How can we make the lessons meaningful in our collective journey and efforts to chart a better path forward? 
  2. How do we use the lessons we learned in 2020 to refocus our energies, mindsets, and priorities? 
  3. As a community what lessons did we learn in 2020 that could be used as our investments in 2021?  
  4. How has 2020 redefined your sense of community, has it made you want to engage a little bit more? 

If you have not thought of the above questions, you are not alone. Specifically, these are some of the lessons:  

Life is a Gift: The pandemic and everything 2020 brought our way has taught me that life is but a fleeting adventure. It is a gift that can vanish at any time without prior warnings. It is a gift not for us but others. In other words, the Giver of life wants us to use it, while we have it, to serve others rather than ourselves. Make no mistake, the pandemic is still the greatest enemy we face in 2021 on top of other challenges. The pandemic disproportionately affects our community than all others. The numbers are a stack reality. In Ottawa alone, black people, our community accounts for 4 in 10 infections though we make up only 7 percent of the population. Please take it seriously, vaccines notwithstanding 

Take the vaccine when it is your turn. Do not listen to the anti-vaccination folks who have opposed every single one then since the advent of vaccines and the earliest known inoculation against smallpox in 1000 BCE and 1500 BCE in China and India, respectively. They are not new. Remember, life is a gift, take the COVID-19 vaccine, and use your gift to serve others. 

That brings me to an important larger than life question. What do you want to be remembered for when the Giver of life calls you home? I know for most of you, you want to be remembered for the many other lives you touched. The many countless hours you served behind the scenes, giving your all, without ever thinking about the costs. 

The Community: Without the community we are incomplete. The community makes all the difference. That is why we need to re-examine what community means for us, the black people everywhere, and Canada in particular. We often lose focus and think more highly of ourselves than the community we are supposed to serve. That self-centered approach to community work makes us look weak, confused, distrustful, and petty. As we start a new year, let us realign our priorities and focus more on the community good than our parochial interests. Get involved, sow some good seeds, care for them, and see them grow. The community is you and me. We are the community. I am talking about the black community everywhere beyond our locations or geographical areas. 

The Shared Problems: As a community, we are plagued with serious other pandemics we need to develop vaccines for. Unfortunately, the greater society of which our community is a part has not been able to develop vaccines quickly as it did with the COVID-19. The fact that we are in 2021 does not make our situations suddenly better. We still have fights to fight, conversations to be had, poverty to eradicate, health inequities to address, racism and systems of oppression to dismantle. That is why we cannot afford to forget 2020 in its entirety. 

The Focus: We must mobilize properly, unite more than ever before if we want to create a better place for our children and their children. We fail if our children and their children fight the same battles that confront us today. Get involved in the community, roll up your sleeves, and get your hands dirty. It does not have to be spectacular. Trivial things like mentoring a high schooler, volunteering your time, talent, and treasure go a long way to put smiles on the faces of the most vulnerable in our ecosystem. Each one teaches one. Let us build people up. Whatever happens to one of us affects us all, which makes us an ecosystem. How about the systemic issues affecting us, how do we overcome them? I pray this question becomes our focus for 2021. We need power, the real power to overcome the systemic issues bedeviling us. 

Getting the Real Power: When we unite and build each other up socially, emotionally, physically, and economically we gain power. It is this power we need to dismantle the system that was designed to elevate one race over others. Without economic empowerment, we cannot make meaningful progress in our fight against the system. No one gives up power and privilege without a fight. They will continue to deceive us with “performative allyship.” What is that? I know some of you will ask. I will give you an example of what performative allyship looks like. It is Justin Trudeau taking a knee during the June 5, protest at the parliament grounds. It is when they tell you they understand your struggles and frustration when they have the power to make your life better. Beware of those in 2021. Call them for what they are, performative allyship. 

Oh, I see, so how do we get this economic power we need to confront the system? The answer is in changing our mindset and setting our priorities right. The answer lies in our “aha” moment. Real power is people plus money.  

First, let us unite, mobilize, strategize, prioritize, and share. If one person is doing everything, they can only affect truly little. Come together right now. It is a numbers game, and we must understand how the game is played.  

Second, the money part of the equation. We must understand the concept of money. Many of us were never taught how money works. Some of us think money is in short supply. The world has enough to go round for everyone. Learn how money works. Teach your kids about money and how it works after you have learned it yourself. $1 in the black community will last for just 6 hours and will leave. The same $1 in the Jewish community last for 36 days (about 1 month 6 days). Do you see the multiplying effect? To make the dollar stay longer, we need to buy black. That is simple, isn’t it? That means we need more black-owned businesses. Create one. You do not have to depend solely on your 9-5. That is not yours because you cannot give it to your children when you retire. Plus, you can lose it anytime. No, I work for the government and have job security. This thought pattern makes us narrow-minded and prevents us from having a sense of community and service. We need to reorient our priorities and thinking. Build something you can transfer to your children. We call that Intergenerational Wealth Transfer (IWT).  

When we have power, we can boycott the white economy. Since they need our money, they will act very quickly on our demands. After all, their economy grows at the backs of we the black people. Their cities were built with still unpaid black labour. Folks, we deserve better than what we are getting. In 2021, rethink the shops you buy from. Until the money part of the equation is solved, our countless protests will be meaningless. Ask yourself, what happened ever since JT took a knee? They sprinkled carrots here and there and asked us to fight for them. 

The New Year Commitment: We need to be strategic in the fights ahead. Starting today, commit yourself to something bigger than yourself. Commit to a cause. Go deeper with that commitment. People who are committed to something do not give up easily. They fight for what they believe until they see results. Our community needs more committed people than ever before. We need people and leaders who are forward thinkers, not parochial thinkers.  

Let us grow together. Be each other’s keeper. 2021 is the beginning of a new decade, commit yourself to be community-minded, get involved. Some good old African proverbs to conclude with: “Don’t be crabs in a bucket.” Stop the pull him/her down (PHD) attitude that continues to destroy our community. “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” Join hands. 

Happy New Year! 

Your chief servant,       

Hector Addison 

 

 

 

I was swiping through Instagram stories when I saw a humorous Tik Tok video poking fun at the pressure that many parents feel to stay calm when disciplining their children in public. Embarrassed, they timidly smile at onlookers and diplomatically negotiate with their screaming kid, only to blow up with rage and reach for the belt as soon as they make it into the doorway. It seemed like befitting content in these pandemic times as stressed, overextended parents are forced to work and homeschool at once. Perhaps, for others, it was a short comedic relief from the stream of rage-inducing news about yet another police killing, a rapid rise in coronavirus cases, and an unemployment rate of historic proportions. Yet, as I replayed this seemingly innocent video over and over again, I thought just how precisely a joke about hitting children shows what those who are skeptical about police abolition fail to understand.

At first glance, corporal punishment and child abuse seem hardly related to the issue of police violence and the Black Lives Matter movement’s demand to defund and abolish police in the United States. At the very core, however, both of these social issues are rooted in the same cultural logic of punishment that has been completely normalized in our society.

Whether we hit children into submission, violate—if not murder—a “criminal suspect,” or put masses of people in prison cells, the unspoken assumption is all the same: the act of violence is a punishment, and it is an earned consequence that the wrongdoer must endure and suffer in silence in order to correct and socially atone for negative behaviors.

We see this in the way that many people desperately look for ways to justify indefensible slayings of black people like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, Eric Garner, and many more. The long-standing cultural belief that people are subjected to deadly violence or coercive force by law enforcement because they did something to merit such a punitive response is deeply engrained not only in our social institutions (like the police or prisons) but in the cultural imagination itself.

For many, being confronted with the idea that people are subjected to violence in our society because this is how our culture teaches those with power to control others is deeply uncomfortable. Seeing the use of violence as gratuitous, rather than merited, fundamentally unsettles the way in which carceral culture socializes Americans, and especially whites, to think about themselves and the social institution of policing tasked to “serve and protect” them.

Conceptually, the idea of violence as a mechanism by which society is disciplined shatters the illusion of a distinction between “good” and “bad” people and threatens our psychological investment in ideas like morality, goodness, and safety that are framed precisely in terms of these binaries. The enigmatic figure of the (black) criminal must exist so that we can be assured that “we” are not like “them” and that what happens to them cannot and should not happen to “us.”

The impulse to defend and justify how violence is weaponized to control, surveil, and dominate oppressed people shows that violence is considered to be an integral part of our cultural communication and a legitimate means of settling interpersonal disputes, particularly misbehavior. We’ve heard it all before, maybe at our own dining table or from the nearby office cubicle. “Well, wasn’t he trying to spend a counterfeit $20 bill?” “He was no angel selling untaxed cigarettes!” “It wouldn’t have happened if he didn’t start running away.” Perhaps, we have, at some point, said it ourselves.

As such, the need to frame violence against victims as warranted punishment extends far beyond the issue of racist policing. Most of us pick up on and internalize such violent ways of relating to each other early on in life. We quickly learn that some people “deserve” to be punished (with violence, bullying, silence, or indifference) simply because they have, in one way or another, overstepped the unspoken social mandate. We label people “criminals” if they have broken the rule of property law, but they need not break legal boundaries to be cast outside of social belonging. Consider all the ways in which over the years immigrants, Muslims, and, with the coronavirus pandemic, Asian Americans, too, have been ostracized, harassed, and even physically attacked simply because they are perceived as a threat to the security and wellbeing of Americans.

It is hardly surprising that cultural narratives of punishment are so well-established, since we are taught to think of violence as legitimate punishment since childhood. Despite the popular adage “violence is never the answer,” the vast majority of us learn not only to tolerate but to accept violence as a normal part of everyday life through our first experiences in the family structure. bell hooks contends that social violence begins with patriarchal conditioning within the home. “Patriarchal violence in the home,” she writes, “is based on the belief that it is acceptable for a more powerful individual to control others through various forms of coercive force.” This applies not only to the dynamic between romantic partners, she notes, but to the relationship between the caregiver and the child.

If we are not “disciplined” through violent physical and emotional abuse as children, then most of us have been at least put in the corner, shamed or in some other way isolated from others as punishment. Whenever the issue of child abuse comes up, people routinely jump up with defensive arguments about how violent discipline is necessary in order to raise polite and respectable children, despite years of research that completely disputes the effectiveness of physical punishment. Nevertheless, it is still widely assumed that “disciplining” children using physical and emotional punishment will teach them the life lessons they need to grow into responsible “good” adults.

However, if we fail to learn the lesson when we grow up, the metaphorical “reflection” corner where the young child stood—punished, shamed and isolated from others—becomes the jail cell. Law enforcement authorities mimic the patriarchal rule established in the family unit on a national scale. Just like the parent who treats the child with a sense of power and the right to punish for the sake of “discipline,” the state assumes the role of the benevolent disciplinarian over its population in the name of “order.”

Despite the ample evidence to suggest that economic poverty, substance use disorders, and lack of economic opportunities trap oppressed communities in cycles of criminalization, in a patriarchal culture the wrongdoers, like children, are penalized, isolated, and put away to reflect on their misdeeds, rather than rehabilitated and aided in regaining control over their lives. They should have, after all, made “better choices.”

All this is to say that the way we are taught to relate to another—ultimately, fearing each other and deriving a sense of comfort that those who so terrify us are kept under control—deeply shapes how our culture determines who is deserving of punishment and who is entitled to enact it. In every aspect, we live in a culture of violence.

More than that, how we think about harm and punishment has profoundly shaped social practices, public policies, and budget priorities, such that in the United States there are more police in schools than counselors, 250% more prison cells than hospital beds, and 28 states with death penalty laws.

So, as abolitionists, we want to call attention to the way in which we have accepted and taken for granted this system of enormous violence and punishment as the primary and only way of living with others.

Rooted in the history of black resistance practices, the abolitionist movement looks to shift these cultural norms towards embracing notions of healing, compassion, and holistic justice as equally viable paths for nurturing a society in which all people are free from fear and domination.

Abolition calls forth a world where each and every one of us has a birthright to be our whole selves and live in full dignity. Therefore, in calling for defunding the police and investing in communal wellness, abolitionists offer a fundamentally different model for thinking about human interconnectedness and social belonging. Instead of punishing, policing, and locking communities in cycles of violence, we can choose to center the ethos of radical love and collective care by providing our communities with compassion, dignity, and financial resources that would lay ground for stable access to safe and affordable housing, education, healthcare, and economic opportunities.

Abolition challenges the limits of our imagination and calls on our inherent capacity to imagine otherwise—to think outside of the regime of violence and to envision alternative ways of being in this world. Abolishing policing is a necessary step towards ending four centuries of racial violence against black people but it is only the beginning. To build truly anti-racist, feminist social structures that work for and empower all of us, we must radically shift and re-imagine how we relate to each other. As prolific black feminist abolitionists Angela Davis, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, and Mariame Kaba teach us, we must heed the call and decriminalize our imagination by not merely dreaming or wishing for change but actively working towards the kind of world that we know, with all of our being, is possible.

This post was curled from the Medium

CTV has parted ways with Jessica Mulroney and pulled her new reality show I Do, Redo from all Bell Media channels and platforms after she was accused of trying to silence a Black Toronto influencer and ruin her career. 

Canadian blogger and marketer Sasha Exeter alleges things went left once she put out a call to action on social media for her peers to use their platform to speak out against anti-Black racism.

She says Mulroney wrongly assumed she was being called out as she had not been vocally supportive of the movement, and took it personal.

According to the SoSasha founder, Mulroney lashed out at her several times in the span of a week and blocked her on Instagram.

Exeter said the celebrity stylist threatened her livelihood in writing, saying she had spoken to brands and companies about her – which could’ve jeopardized her income – and threatened to sue her for libel, even after issuing a public apology.

View this post on Instagram

Please read my statement. It is from my heart.

A post shared by Jess Mulroney (@jessicamulroney) on

Exeter says the entire ordeal made her sick to her stomach and she could no longer remain silent because she is raising a Black daughter. 

CityLine, Hudson’s Bay, and ABC have also cut ties with Mulroney. CityLine said she will no longer appear as a guest expert on the show, Hudson’s Bay said she will no longer represent the company or Kleinfeld Canada as a fashion and bridal expert, and ABC announced she will no longer appear on Good Morning America as a fashion contributor,

View this post on Instagram

A message from Hudson's Bay.

A post shared by Hudson's Bay (@hudsonsbay) on

Mulroney is the wife of Canadian TV personality Bel Mulroney, son of former Prime Minister Ben Mulroney, and BFFs with Meghan Markle. 

Watch Sasha speak out about her “Amy Cooper Experience” on her IG below: 

View this post on Instagram

I’ve been silent. Not anymore!⁣ ⁣ I’m used to being so transparent on this platform. I think it’s the main reason why most of you follow me. Today, I’m opening up about something that has been haunting me for the last week. I have felt like a complete fraud fighting for racial equality and using my voice openly here, while letting a white woman silence mine behind closed doors. In sharing this very personal story, I know that I am risking a lot. Opening myself up to criticism, bullying and potential ramifications with my job in this space. However, I must speak my truth. Enough is enough. Hopefully my voice will be heard by many and help change things for the next generation and for my daughter Maxwell… because I will be dammed if my child ever has to deal with this level of ignorance.

A post shared by SoSasha (@sashaexeter) on

Lids at the Tanger Outlets in Ottawa is facing backlash after the store manager refused to customize a hat with the phrase “Black Lives Matter.”

Vincent Obiang told CBC News that he tried to get the baseball cap embroidered with the slogan ahead of the No Peace Until Justice march against police brutality that was held on June 5 in downtown Ottawa.

He said when he returned to pick up the hat, the store manager told him the order couldn’t be done because the message was “too political,” and gave him a refund. The Gatineau resident says he also could not find any policy on the company’s website to that effect.

When he followed up with the store manager the next day, she informed him that it was her personal decision. “These are the kinds of things that we want to fight. We want to be able to change that mentality” Obiang told CBC News, adding, “That’s why I didn’t want to let it go. I was angry.” 

In response, Lids claimed there was “some confusion over the copyright status of BLM or Black Lives Matter” and the manager mistakenly thought it was a registered trademark.

The company said it had “a strict stipulation around registered trademarks,” which required “written authorization,” and the manager made an “error.” According to CBC News, the BLM slogan is not trademarked in Canada or the US. 

Lids says they’ve since “clarified” the policy with all of its stores.

Source

A former Aritzia employee is calling out the Canadian retailer for anti-Black racism. Karissa Lewis says she was treated differently from other managers at Aritzia’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre location because she is a Black woman.

Even though she was an associate manager, Karissa was made to spend the bulk of her time working cashier shifts compared to a new white employee with a lower position, who was given management shifts.

She also recalled a time when the company VP visited the store and would only engage with the white members of the management team.

Another former Black employee who worked for Aritzia at two Toronto locations also spoke out against the company.

Of course, Aritzia is doing damage control given the current climate; their COO Jennifer Wong says they’ve “launched a full investigation” and are committed to “immediate action” to improving diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Source

CBC News host Wendy Mesley has been suspended for using a “word that should never be used” during an editorial discussion about Black Lives Matter and media coverage of racism.

Mesley took to Twitter to explain herself, claiming she “quoted” another journalist she was planning to interview on a panel, but did not identify the word in question.

She said it “was not aimed at anyone” and “was wrong to say it.” She added that she is “deeply ashamed” and “immediately apologized to her co-workers.”

Responding to questions about the word she used, CBC’s Head of Public Affairs Chuck Thompson declined to go into detail.

Mesley, who hosts the Sunday program The Weekly, is now off the air pending the outcome of an investigation by CBC.

 

Source

Toronto has officially declared anti-Black racism a public health crisis in the city. 

The move comes a week after a coalition of Black health leaders, backed by NDP leader Andrea Horwarth, called on the Ford government to formally recognize anti-Black racism as a public health crisis. 

The motion, introduced by Joe Cressy, was unanimously approved by the Toronto Board of Health on Monday, June 8.

It also asked for Board of Health members to affirm its commitment to support policies and programs that address inequities faced by Black communities; a request for the Medical Officer of Health to re-prioritize resources to address anti-Black racism in health inequity; and a request for the Civic Appointments Committee to promote diversity when filling positions on city boards and committees, including the Board of Health.

Cressy said he hoped the recent protests would provoke a change in policies that contribute to systemic racism and not just changes to behaviour.

Source

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders will be stepping down from his position on July 31. He made the announcement during a news conference this afternoon.

Saunders has been Chief of Police since 2015 and was expected to remain in the position until at least 2021. His resignation comes after more than 37 years with the Toronto Police Service and eight months before his contract is set to expire.

He did not give a reason for his decision, but said he plans to spend more time with his family. 

As for what’s next, he says he’s not retiring altogether and wants to work for the City of Toronto for free on issues that are “near and dear” to him.

“I see a lot of young black boys getting killed by young black boys” said Saunders “Law enforcement deals with those symptoms and I want to help the cure for the disease and I think I have a ton of knowledge that can help keep governments in-check and do the right thing to make sure that we get it right.”

Watch the police chief’s comments below:

WATCH LIVE: Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders announces he is stepping down from his position as of July 31.

Posted by CBC Toronto on Monday, June 8, 2020

Congratulations to Dr. Chika Oriuwa who made history as the second Black female valedictorian at the University of Toronto (U of T) Faculty of Medicine. 

The first generation Nigerian Canadian was the only Black medical student in her 2016 class of 259 people.

Check out her valedictorian speech from the virtual graduation ceremony below:

An Ottawa police officer has been charged in connection with one of two racist memes that were being circulated within the Ottawa Police Service.

Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly announced that the officer was charged under the Police Services Act in relation to the creation and distribution of the image, which pictured 13 racialized members of the service and the phrase: “Ottawa Police Service – We’re always hiring…anyone.”

He did not confirm if it was the same officer who was suspended earlier this month as part of an investigation into the meme.

Chief Sloly also revealed an administrative investigation is underway into the source of the leaks, saying it “further victimized the people depicted in the meme along with their families and it victimized other OPS members and their families.” He stated, “It further damaged the OPS reputation and it further undermined the trust and confidence that the public has in the OPS.”

As a result, he said they’d be overhauling their policies and their IT practices to prevent this from happening again.

Addressing the killing of George Floyd and ensuing protests, Sloly acknowledged that it is “impacting members of our local Black community,” including himself. 

The OPS chief says the entire organization “failed” and is going through “remediation.” 

Read the full statement HERE.