Community backlash over Black Lives Matter rally in Kelowna

Some members of Kelowna’s black community stated they don’t support Friday’s rally

Several black community groups have stated they don’t support the Black Lives Matter rally scheduled for noon on June 5.

The rally was co-organized by two Kelowna residents Paige Harrison and Kermisha Pereira, to support black communities in the U.S., as well as giving residents a chance to share their experiences of discrimination.

As a black woman, Pereira said she regularly experiences racial discrimination while doing what would be considered normal things.

“When I go into stores, I get followed around even when I don’t look suspicious or anything like that. People, whenever they want to have an argument with me, will always end up using a racial slur as a way to hurt me,” she said.

Harrison said she has different experiences as a half-black woman but still hears foul language about her race.

However, some black community groups released statements on social media stating they don’t support the rally because they don’t amplify black, Indigenous and minority voices.

Hearth, an association of black and Indigenous women, posted they didn’t support the rally because “it was founded without the consultation, consent, or leadership of the larger black community in the Okanagan and also the First Nations who govern these territories.”

“By firsthand experiences, we know that black and Indigenous peoples were added as an afterthought in organizing this event and those people were later told to leave after expressing their concerns,” Hearth’s statement continued. The organization asked its followers and members not to attend the rally.

“We believe it caters to the settler consumption of black trauma, depicted in the sale of cupcakes decorated without consent of the faces of black Americans who have been murdered.”

Hearth said they believed the rally was poorly planned.

“It’s an example of inexperience in properly and strategically executing a movement of this global magnitude. There is no sustainability in the agenda of this rally because it is exploitative of our pain and our stories, without implementing meaningful structural and systematic support and decolonization in this country.”

Hearth said they are currently planning to put in place more sustainable programs to help the black and Indigenous communities thrive, and have been since 2018 and that they are now working within the community to implement the programming.

Harrison and Pereira said they didn’t know the specifics of what triggered the backlash.

“It could be a couple of reasons, but we don’t want to insinuate anything… the only thing I can say, and speaking on behalf of Kermisha (Pereira), is that we really wish that they were all here and supporting,” Harrison said.

“They would’ve been a part of it just as much as anybody else would’ve been.”

Another event, this time a virtual one, will take place on Saturday, June 6. Titled “Beyond the Discomfort”, Hearth is encouraging people to attend as there will be discussions on how to actively promote change.

Friday’s rally was attended by hundreds of people in Kelowna’s Stuart Park. Residents had the chance to go up to microphone and share messages of encouragement, acceptance, as well as share their experiences.

READ: ‘It’s in the looks people give’: Kelowna women use shared experiences to combat racism

READ: Kelowna mayor issues statement on Black Lives Matter rally


Twila Amato
Video journalist, Black Press Okanagan
Email me at twila.amato@blackpress.ca
Follow me on Twitter

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