Why a Kelowna black student association isn’t attending Black Lives Matter protest today - InfoNews

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Why a Kelowna black student association isn’t attending Black Lives Matter protest today

A scene from the Black Lives Matter protest in Kamloops, June 4.
Image Credit: Brie Welton
June 05, 2020 - 10:41 AM

The organizers of the Kelowna for Black Lives rally may have had their hearts in the right place, but the president of the African Caribbean Student Club says the club is not attending the march because local black student communities weren’t consulted beforehand.

Jane Udochi is a second-year student at UBCO and president of the student club. She said the student association members initially supported the protest but were skeptical.

After hearing that the protest would have the faces of victims of police brutality on cupcakes and sold to support the George Floyd memorial, she drew the line.

“We understand their intentions were good, however, the process (of going about) it, we cannot support it at all,” she said. “That is not helping us destroy the negative impact, that is feeding into the already existing trauma.”

Other student bodies that promote black communities at both Okanagan College and UBCO also didn’t hear about the protest until it was planned, she said.

READ MORE: Anti-racism demonstration planned for Penticton

"The fact (that) no black bodies (were) invited in this in the beginning and just introduced as an afterthought when this protest was seemingly for us, kind of made it seem like ‘we’re organizing, you guys can show up,’” she said.

The African Caribbean Student Club was created to promote black voices, so “the issue of racism has always been in the limelight, it’s just been buried in ways that people can overlook (it). For me this is a regular occurrence, every day it’s my life so for this to be ‘in the limelight’ it has always been there. Right now we’re going to continue doing what we’re doing, promoting and encouraging black voices and allow them to take time for themselves because this can be tiring and this can be degrading.”

“Most of us are feeling that what we’re doing is not enough,” she said, adding that as long as your incentive is to bring awareness to the issue, then you are doing your part. “And if your method of application is in the right way, then yes you are doing something correct.”

The organizers of the Black Lives Matter Kelowna rally could not be immediately reached for comment. The protest is scheduled for 12 p.m. at Stuart Park. A candlelight vigil to honour the black victims who have suffered from police brutality is also being held tonight at 8 p.m. 

Yesterday, a march in Kamloops was cancelled roughly an hour and a half before the event as criticism arose regarding the organizers not being part of a minority group. The community banded together shortly afterwards with no established organizer.

READ MORE: Peaceful crowd gathers for Kamloops anti-racism rally, despite official cancellation

To support the black perspective, there’s more than 400 years of history that white people should research to understand the current situation, Udochi said.

“Our past rewrites the present, I’m a big believer in that,” Udochi said. Sit down and research what is happening, what has happened, she added.

“This is what we mean when we say sit down and educate yourself. Sit down and learn about our history because we know about yours.”

Udochi has experienced subtle acts of racism while here in the Okanagan, she said, where people have come up to her and touched her hair or those who have tried to tell her where she’s from. On campus, peers have asked if it's OK to use the n-word.

Her answer is always no.


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