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'People are still dying': Black Winnipeggers issue call to action in response to police violence and racism
WINNIPEG -- Members of Winnipeg’s Black community are calling for action in Manitoba to end police violence and racism in the wake of George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis.
“This is a callout to the community as a whole, that we want to understand that this is an issue that seems to be trending today, but this is an issue that is not new to our community,” said Rhonda Thompson, with the Black History Month Celebration Committee and the Congress of Black Women of Manitoba. “We want to ensure that the severity of the cases that are involved is relayed and it’s relayed strongly to everyone.”
“We do not want to see any more incidences of murder and killing happening to our people.”
Thompson shared those comments during an online media conference Thursday afternoon held by The African Communities of Manitoba with representatives from Black History Month Winnipeg, Black Space Winnipeg, the Council of Caribbean Organizations of Manitoba and the Congress of Black Women of Manitoba. They addressed the issues ahead of a Black Lives Matter rally Friday on the grounds of the Manitoba Legislative Building scheduled for 6 p.m.
Organizers highlighted it’s not only a problem in the U.S., pointing to the February 2019 death of 43-year-old Machuar Madut. The South Sudanese Winnipegger living with mental health issues was shot and killed by Winnipeg police after he was allegedly threatening officers with a hammer. The Independent Investigation Unit of Mantioba announced in January no charges would be laid against the officer who killed Madut, ruling the shooting was justified to prevent injury or death to himself or the other officer.
“It is not brand new,” said Thompson. “George Floyd is not the first individual to fall victim. Machuar Madut is not the first victim in Winnipeg, there are many different instances. So, we just want to know, are you willing come on board with us and if you are, please reach out. We don’t know who you are, you need to make yourself known and please do that. That is the call to action today.”
Black History Month Winnipeg chair Nadia Thompson said police services have reached out to say they’re willing to listen, which she sees as one step forward in resolving the issues at hand.
Nadia told those listening in to the media conference, people involved in organizations such as hers have taken time to process what happened to Floyd, to ensure time for personal healing.
“It is not just a news story,” said Nadia. “It reflects our lives as people, Black people. We have fathers, we have sons, we have brothers, we have uncles that could’ve been them. Everyone is going to react differently. Some people are angry. Some people are hurting. Some people are overwhelmed.”
“If people are not listening by us talking softly, then we’re going to shout. People are still dying and we have to make that change.”
African Communities of Manitoba president Titi Tijani said it goes beyond policing and asked people to look within their own institutions and lives to make change.
“A Black person has to do three times better than their white counterparts in order to be recognized. That is not fair,” said Tijani. “In jobs, we know that Blacks are bypassed, as soon as they see your name, you’re bypassed. Why?”
“These are the things, the systemic racism, the systemic biases that has entrenched our minds is what we’re asking people, our white folks, to look into themselves, look at yourselves in the mirror…and see how it affects other people who are being disadvantaged. It’s hard being Black. It’s difficult. It’s tough.”
While organizers encouraging people to attend Friday’s rally, they discouraged and condemned any acts of violence.
Organizers said people who want to be allies and can’t attend the rally should reach out and support Black-led community organizations.