On May 25 of this year, the world saw tensions rise and anger turn to action when George Floyd was murdered by Derek Chauvin, a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The Black Lives Matter movement fought to bring attention to this injustice, and continues to fight to put an end to police brutality, white supremacy, and systemic racism.
On June 2, Fredericton saw a protest in support of the Black Lives Matter Movement. This event was organized in less than 24 hours, and demonstrated overwhelming support from the public for the movement.
Husoni Raymond, one of the organizers of this protest, recognized the need for a Fredericton chapter of Black Lives Matter, and immediately began working toward making this a reality. Through connections with the Toronto and Vancouver chapters, he and the other organizers were able to attend training sessions hosted by Black Lives Matter Toronto.
Following the formation of the chapter, an email campaign was organized which encouraged people to email their elected officials encouraging them to defund police and reallocate resources.
“We've had hundreds of emails sent to elected officials across the province on both the provincial and municipal level. Through that we've been able to meet with all the party leaders prior to the election, and also some municipal leaders like city councilors and the mayor, to talk about our calls to action,” said Raymond.
One resource that has been helpful for growing the chapter is defund.ca, a site which offers contact tools to help contact government officials.
Raymond explained that defund.ca helped them “to continue the conversation around rethinking community safety and moving towards more preventative means of community safety through investing in community resources, rather than reactive approaches such as investing more money in police.”
Defunding the police creates community resources that can lead to tangible improvements, while police reform is a surface level solution.
“Reform [makes] an adjustment to the way it currently works... so it's basically adding body cameras, or anti-bias training, or those kind of superficial means of addressing police violence… which is good but it's proven to be ineffective and it doesn't solve the root cause of crime. Defunding is about reconsidering community safety by investing in community, such as instead of criminalizing homelessness and calling the police on homeless people, we could invest in affordable housing,” explained Raymond.
Black Lives Matter Fredericton recognizes the importance of collaborating with the Indigenous community in Fredericton. The chapter participated in a unity ceremony with Indigenous elders and Black elders on August 13.
“We can support each other to advance our common interests and make our communities better,” Raymond said, and described the ceremony as very empowering.
The chapter began reaching out to Premier Higgs prior to the election and, following a period of silence, was able to meet with the Progressive Conservative leader to discuss implementing their calls to action.
“The premier is very keen on working on the education point,” Raymond said. “We're willing to work with any government, or any elected officials, that are willing to implement our calls to action, and fight for collective liberation. So, we're looking forward to collaborating and working with them to empower black communities here within the province.”
Working toward the education point, the chapter has partnered with DMV Fredericton to create a resource for Black History that local teachers will be able to use in their classroom. To bring this to fruition, the chapter has hired three interns from UNB, and one intern from STU.
“We’re coordinating that project right now, and [working] with Fredericton City Council to open up a conversation around community safety in Fredericton.”
The chapter is in the process of creating a website which, among other things, will include information on how to be the best possible ally.
“It’s listening to racialized communities to see what they want and how you can help, it's about educating yourself on these issues and spending some time doing some research… and then using the knowledge and the privilege, you have to educate your family members and friends who might not be keen on doing that research and labour themselves,” explained Raymond.
If you are interested in learning more about Black Lives Matter Fredericton, you can find them on Instagram (@BLM_FREDERICTON), Facebook (Black Lives Matter Fredericton/NB), and Twitter (@BLMFredericton).