A common misconception about the Midland area is that racism doesn’t exist.
But close to 400 area residents gathered at Little Lake Park to demonstrate that this is not the case during Saturday’s Georgian Bay Black Lives Matter March.
“Living in a small town, there is not a lot of diversity, you see a lot of racism especially when they’re young” said Laura, who came out with her family. “It’s good to bring the young ones out and get awareness.”
The event was organized by Emily Duckett and Amani Chabikuli, two former students from St. Theresa’s Catholic High School, who said they have been met with much hostility over the years.
“The constant comparison we do with the United States is dangerous," Chabikuli said, noting a town councillor even asked him if he was from Midland when they started organizing the event.
“It absolves us from doing the actual anti-racist work here, in our communities.”
The pair had a crew of volunteers helping to give out masks and water with donations separated between Fierté Simcoe Pride and Black Women in Motion.
“We are a small town, and if everyone says yes to coming, we get a majority of people here and we can make people listen,” volunteer Katie Browning said.
Prior to the march, speakers took to the Rotary stage to share their experiences with racism in Midland, something that takes a lot of courage especially in such a non-diverse area, say event organizers.
They shared stories of racism in schools, among their peers and teachers as well as generally in the community along with how various opportunities have been taken away from them and how they sometimes felt uncomfortable and alone in a place they call home.
“Eighteen years of sitting in a classroom, or at the beach, or at a party and knowing no one in the room can relate to anything I’m going through because they don’t have to drive to the city to get their hair products,” Duckett told the crowd.
“They don’t have to be extra polite and smile at adults to seem unthreatening, and they don’t fear for their lives when they get pulled over by the police. Your skin colour will never keep you up at night crying because people who look like you are dying and no one cares, your skin colour will never be a death sentence.”
Following the speech, protesters waving placards then followed a short route that took them through the park and down King and Yonge streets.
“We want to show local support in a small town, even though we may not be a big urban centre, racism is a Canadian issue too” said Julie, “people wanted to show their support, and they are getting the chance, we are really grateful to the people who organized this.”
Added fellow protester Emily Parker: “We want systemic change and more funding for community programs. Racism happens in every community no matter the size, even in Midland, Penetanguishene and Tiny.”
Chabikuli also offered a comparison between racism and COVID-19, noting they should both be characterized as pandemics.
“COVID-19 is a virus that will pass, but we’ll still be black, we need to target the disease that is racism and change needs to happen.”