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LETTER: Kelowna's BLM event 'ill-advised and tactless'

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June 08, 2020 - 8:00 AM

To whom it may concern,

I am writing to you in regards to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) event that took place at Kelowna’s Stuart Park on June 5th, 2020 at 12 p.m. While I can agree that the organizers may have had good intentions behind the event, it became very visible after just a short while how
ill-advised and tactless actions can lead to further harm to minority populations.

Unfortunately, the majority of the space for speakers was occupied by non-Black individuals. This is unlike many of the BLM protests that have happened across the country where it is ensured that the organization and speakers consist of only Black individuals. There have been many BIPOC organizations within our community who stated that they would not be attending this event as a result of the organizers’ dismissive attitudes when they were critiqued for the planning of this rally; they also stated that they did not feel welcomed to have at the
very least collaborative efforts.

Rather than speak of systematic oppression and racism that is faced by Black individuals globally, the dialogue seemed to encompass a White-saviour complex and there were many problematic statements made as a result of lack of moderation in regard to speakers statements that would be broadcasted. One instance which was particularly difficult to bare witness to was a man of European decent who was visibly White making claims that he was in actuality Black… I argue that this was very disrespectful and triggering for Black and/or other minorities who had to sit through this painfully awkward moment.

When the organizers’ were asked to prioritize Black voices during the rally, they were receptive to the feedback and said this was something that could be implemented. After a short while of inaction in doing so, further complaints were met with disparaging attitudes and
remarks as to how this was an opportunity for “all people to speak” and we were welcome to stand in the back of the line and voice our complaints publicly. If the organizers’ did not wish to take onus of ensuring this event was culturally-sensitive, trauma-informed, and to prioritize
Black voices, they should have not taken the responsibility in arranging this event.

It has been brought to surface that a lot of the donations that were raised were not given to Black organizations to help fight social injustice or to reallocation into Black communities. Instead, the majority of the funds were spent on equipment for the rally. I cannot begin to explain the utter disrespect in pastries created with the faces of Black individuals who were killed by police brutality being sold in the name of helping raise money for donations. I do not care if the baker reached out later apologizing for planning on doing so, everyone should know better.

Moving forward, when there are events about the oppression of BIPOC populations, everyone needs to do their job in ensuring these moments are created by those very people, and for those very people. As a POC, I’m telling you this is crucial to do so. We must all work together to help end colonial oppression by working with the organizations within our communities who know best in regard to what is needed at this moment. When attending these events, please attend them with a critical lens to ensure they’re conducted responsibility and justly.

Minority voices matter and must be heard which is the crux of this movement.

Reena Ahir

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