The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, March 21, will see two events in Sudbury honouring the day, both happening at the same time.
It is an intentional choice on behalf of Black Lives Matter Sudbury.
With the tagline ‘Coming Together While Staying Apart,’ the Greater Sudbury Police Service will be hosting their GSPS Breaking Barriers event virtually at 11:00 a.m. on March 21 and will be hosted via Microsoft Teams.
Both the event and the Microsoft download required are free of charge and the event itself is hosted by a specific committee, the Greater Sudbury Police Service Diversity Advisory Committee, which is calling it an ‘annual virtual celebration of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination via Microsoft Teams.’
But it is the ‘celebration’ aspect that Black Lives Matter Sudbury takes issue with as the origins of the day are far from those that should be honoured with a “glib approach.”
The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is a United Nations observance that was ratified to mark the anniversary of the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre in South Africa.
The police shooting of fleeing unarmed anti-apartheid protestors drew global condemnation and has since become symbolic of the anti-apartheid movement.
In a statement to Sudbury.com, representatives of Black Lives Matter Sudbury said, “The Greater Sudbury Police Services has an annual tradition of observing this rather solemn and purposeful occasion by hosting lighthearted, self-congratulatory luncheons celebrating their "diversity" initiatives. This is perfectly in line with statements from our Mayor and city council celebrating the increasingly diverse face of our city, while doing nothing material to make Sudbury a safer and more welcoming place for these people to live, even as solutions are virtually handed to them while Sudburians rally and cry for change.”
The GSPS Event is called “Breaking Barriers.” The Black Lives Matter Event? “BLMS Actually Breaking Barriers.”
The ‘Actually’ event is also on Sunday, March 21 at 11:00 a.m. and can be viewed live on Facebook.
The itinerary for the GSPS day offers a chance to meet the members of the Diversity Advisory Committee and according to their event listing, an opportunity to “celebrate diversity, inclusion and equality.”
There will be a Keynote Speaker, Dr. Elaine Brown Spencer who will be speaking on Affinity Bias, a presentation by ULU (Uluntu = Humanity, Lungisa = Justice, Usawa =Equity) which is a Sudbury-based advocacy group, as well as international music, dancing and cooking demonstrations and raffle prizes.
It is also offered as an opportunity to “learn about GSPS’ strategies and projects with respect to diversity, inclusion and equality.”
The Black Lives Matter event, which representatives say will run approximately two hours, will focus on the theme as chosen by the United Nations: Youth Fighting to End Racism. Programming will include “an introduction to the BLMS board, the history of the Sharpeville Massacre, and a look into why the “colonial racist underpinnings” of Canadian policing are still visible today.
The organization's hope is that this event will provide the insight and historical context necessary for real anti-racist change to happen within our municipal systems.”
It’s a specific choice, the group told Sudbury.com, to counter the tone and discussions of the GSPS event, and to offer more information to those interested.
“BLMS wonders how it is that the GSPS hopes to learn about systemic racism when the agenda's only mention of police's role in perpetuating racist violence is a presentation on ‘the GSPS' strategies and projects with respect to diversity and equality,’ punctuated with a playful ‘looking eyes’ emoji,” read the statement.
“GSPS appears to have a persisting view of racial discrimination as an interpersonal issue that can be solved through individual responsibility. While that is certainly an element of racial discrimination, the issue runs far deeper into the roots of our systems of law and government, and it cannot be resolved without deep, system-wide overhaul and public accountability. Of course, BLMS has no expectations that police services will be capable of having meaningful conversations about the fact that racism is woven into the fabric of their institution, as such recognition would run counter to their own self-interest.”
You can find the Greater Sudbury Police Services Breaking Barriers event here.You can find the Black Lives Matter “Actually Breaking Barriers” event here.