Corridor of Love initiative shows support for people of colour who experience racism, discrimination
Tim Brody - Editor
Concerned citizens lined Wellington Street in Sioux Lookout on June 4 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., forming a Corridor of Love from the Travel Information Centre to the intersection of Wellington Street and Front Street.
According to organizers, the Corridor of Love was a way for people to, “offer a peaceful show of empathy, unity, understanding and support for people of colour, who experience racism and discrimination through personal interactions, exclusions, and systemic and institutional barriers.”
Participants were asked to observe physical distancing measures and stagger themselves alongside the road.
The event’s organizing team wished to remain anonymous, citing concerns for their safety.
Organizers shared about the Corridor of Love, “On one hand it is related to the tragic death of Mr. (George) Floyd. However, on the other hand, it has to do with the ugliness of racism in whatever form it takes, systemic or otherwise, globally and here in our community.”
Organizers further shared, “Sioux Lookout is a part of the global village and our remoteness should not exclude us from airing our voices in this most essential, global conversation... The team wants to underscore that this is NOT a protest but a stance of solidarity with the cause against racism and showing support to those who have and still suffer violence, marginalization, inequality and brutality.”
Asked about the number of people who took part in the Corridor of Love, no fewer than 160 people according to one participant, a member of the organizing team shared, “It was heartwarming to see the turnout of supporters for this event. The Corridor of Love initiative was done with the intent on observing social distancing and it was good to see that individuals respected those restrictions and that there were no offenders. We saw children, elderly and every age in between along the Corridor, and community members who were not able to make signs and stand showed tremendous support by honking and waving as they drove by.”
That person continued, “That being said, it is the desire of the organizing team that the essence of the stance of solidarity is not lost or forgotten after this event but that community members will be consciously aware of their own actions and words that may strengthen acts of racism and that they will humbly make the necessary changes to address it. We hope that they will also speak against it in their own circles and take a stand against it within their sphere of influence.”
Many of those taking part in the Corridor of Love initiative carried signs with the message, Black Lives Matter.
The Bulletin was informed, “The team is not part of the Black Lives Matter Movement, but we stand in solidarity with those hurting.”
“We believe that ALL lives matter. However, from a historical perspective, blacks and people of colour were marginalized and refused certain basic human rights. In light of the recent upsurge and the ongoing acts of brutality, injustice and violence against the black community, it is imperative that putting the spotlight on those lives at this time takes precedence. Saying that Black Lives Matter, is not an attempt to disregard other lives, but to identify that there is a need to address the issues and concerns of those among us who are marginalized and dying because of longstanding racial inequality, unfairness, injustice and blatant acts of oppression. Simply put, if two children are swimming and one gets into difficulties and may drown, the rational and intelligent thing to do is to try and assist or save the one most in need. Doing anything else would be ludicrous. So, saying all lives matter - in the face of this most recent death of George Floyd, is not just insensitive but ignorant,” the organizing team member explained.
Community member Garnet Angeconeb took part in the Corridor of Love with his family.
The Order of Canada recipient for his work over the years building bridges between peoples and cultures commended organizers of the event.
“When I first heard about it, there was a magnet there that attracted me – we have to go. There is an issue here that tragically was brought on by what happened south of the border. I think here in Sioux Lookout I was very impressed, very moved by what I saw and how Sioux Lookout responded and sometimes just how close to home these issues really are… I think this was a brave and a very courageous way to respond… so I was really moved to partake in the movement. It was just great to see the number of people who came out, especially the children - especially the children. I know I had my grandchildren there because when you talk about certain issues such as racism, that is learned behavior. And so if that is learned behavior, then I want to make sure that my children, my grandchildren are on the other side of that learned behavior, so that when they go forward, that hopefully we are, they are chartering a better course for the future of what they want this world to be like.”
He added, “I was really thrilled to have my children and grandchildren there. It was just great for my little grandchildren to be able to carry their signs, their message – very powerful. It gives us hope in this world when we see that.”
Angeconeb said, “What I saw happen in our own community was a movement that was very powerful, that was very forward in its thinking in what we were doing, what we were responding to, and I think in any situation you will always have the nay-sayers and so on. At the same time as I say that, we must always move forward with a positive message. There are great numbers who are moving forward with this, keeping in mind people have their opinions, they differ, but at the same time as I say that, if people are going to use the line this is free speech, we need to remind these kind of counter arguments that free speech has moral obligations and it has legal parameters. I just want people to stay within those parameters in order to practise free speech.”
The event created discussion on social media and Angeconeb said dialogue is what events like this, which shine a spotlight on the issue of racism, are all about.
“This is a tough issue, and so therefore there is going to be difficult dialogue and so the challenges, we get around them and move forward. Sometimes these issues are very sensitive, but at the same time we’re all in this together. We’re all in this together is what I keep hearing in this global movement. Let’s just keep the door open for all those who may have contrary opinions, that the door is always open for them to join this dialogue.”
Bringing the community together to address racism as took place last Thursday evening, brought echoes of the Sioux Lookout Anti-Racism Committee (SLARC), which disbanded a year ago, to mind.
A former long-time SLARC member, Angeconeb said, “I for one, was kind of sad to see the Sioux Lookout Anti-Racism Committee come to an end, because I know that the issues are alive and well, more than ever in many cases, and not just here in Sioux Lookout, but throughout the country. Today (June 5) I see there was a big protest, a big rally on Parliament Hill where the Prime Minister even joined in. And that sends a strong message that we’ve got a lot of work to do, and I think that we have a lot of work to do here in Sioux Lookout… I really think that what I saw Thursday night in this community is a sign that people can come together and hopefully something meaningful will evolve out of what we saw.”
Lisa-Ann Geddes and her family also took part in the Corridor of Love.
“Our family's involvement in the Corridor of Love activity is primarily a personal one. As people of Afro-Caribbean descent and also parents, we have faced racism here in our community and in other places. We had to join this initiative in unity with others who have either faced it or are against such actions. It was powerful to see different ethnic groups standing together in one accord for a shared purpose. Racism is nearly as old as time itself. The recent murder of George Floyd on international television was just the catalyst which reopened the abyss, and exposed the ugliness of other documented and undocumented acts of violence against minorities. This includes, but not limited to, missing and murdered Aboriginal women etc. and has made the world painfully aware that we can no longer whistle past the graveyard.”
Jason Bailey, also attended the event with his son, sharing, ‘“George Floyd”, Black Lives Matter; I must fuel this statement with the match that has ignited this wildfire of change!
“I would like to send my personal thank you to the individual or group that created the event. I believe this event is a subtle beginning for our community and this area. The event held in Sioux Lookout was an opportunity for me to express my commitment to change, and also educate my son on what racism is. Yes, I said “what racism is”!
“Racism is more comprehensive then metaphors we have come to understand. It is more than just an individual’s adverse perspective in describing, or the treatment of another race or culture. It is also inaction.
“Inaction is the belief that if we are not related to the problem, then therefore we do not need to act, and we do not need to support whatever action for change that others are taking. This goes for an individual, a community, a state, a province, and any institutions that govern our societies: Financial, Political, Legal, and Education. We need to review the policies of these institutions and amend where there is fault.
“There is much more to be done; we are only at the beginning.”
Adrienne Fox said of her participation in the event, “I took part because like a lot of black and brown people, I am truly fed up with ignorance. Watching George Floyd die under that police officer's knee was horrific. And I'm not sure but something straightened up in my spirit. I've been complacent much of my life. I just accepted it wasn't "bad enough" or "that's just how it is." I was wrong. Racism is destructive and it kills people whether it's police officers killing us or government policies killing us. Racism is evil. And I'm not going to be quiet anymore. I won't be docile. I'll speak against it. Protest it. That is why I took part.”
Bradyn Edwards stated, “I participated in this event because being a status Indian but still fortunate enough to experience white privilege and avoid the racism and discrimination that BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) people experience in Canada and the US, it provided me with a great opportunity to demonstrate my ally-ship, use my privilege for good and be an advocate for change.”
Shonee Kakagamic and Candace Kitchkeesick also took part in the event.
They had taken part in a protest at the corner of Wellington Street and Front Street the day prior with Kakagamic’s four-year-old son and six-year-old niece.
“The kids’ auntie showed us this educational site called Woke Kindergarten. Woke Kindergarten has a “word of the day” which is a kid friendly teaching guide to help kids understand words and what is going on in the world. The word of the day which we were learning about is “protest.” Early education on certain topics such as BIPOC / MMIWG (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls) for us is big as our own family is dealing with these issues as well,” Kakagamic said.
“I feel that the need for awareness and solidarity was important for us to show,” Kitchkeesick said. “We do live in a small town but the point of the message was to stand in solidarity with the BIPOC community and show that there is no more room for racism, oppression, murder and abuse from any form of authority or person.”
Kakagamic and Kitchkeesick said they received mainly positive feedback.
Kakagamic and Kitchkeesick also took part in the Corridor of Love.
“I thought that it was a great turn out, I’m happy that so many people came together on such a short notice. I wish we took a drive to see everyone’s posters they made but we were happy looking at the photos people took afterwards. I was happy to see that there were so many other children / babies that also came out. That is the Sioux Lookout that I want Archer (her son) and Kamryn (her niece) to grow up and remember! We would like to thank the organizers for putting it on.”
“Many times I teared up just watching the love and solidarity our little town showed,” Kitchkeesick said of the Corridor of Love.
Crystal Harrison Collin, another event participant shared, “This is an important matter that is happening worldwide. Until Black Lives Matter and Indigenous Lives Matter has been achieved, that is when we can finally say that All Lives Matter. As an Anishinaabekwe, with ancestors tied to Treaty 3 lands and across Turtle Island from time immemorial, it matters that I stand with my black brothers and sisters today. I’m glad that I wore full regalia for the protest. I was just going to wear a ribbon skirt but I thought, “What if spirit calls for a healing dance?” Right before the event was to end, I was looking into the eyes of a beautiful black woman who thanked us. We both had tears. I knew that is when I had to dance.”
Stu Finn and his family also participated in the event. He shared, “The Corridor of Love was an opportunity to show our solidarity with members of the Black community and all people of colour, including Indigenous people throughout Canada and in the United States. The events of the past couple of weeks show that if each of us does not stand up to racism it will continue. We stand for justice and equality in our community and throughout the world.”
Candi Edwards also participated in the event with members of her family, sharing, “It was an honour to join and participate in the Corridor of Love. My family was deeply saddened at the tragic death of George Floyd, and wanted to show love, solidarity and unity for him, his family, and the countless other families affected by violence and racism every day.
“Racism is prevalent – it is a problem in Sioux Lookout, in Ontario, in Canada, and the world. Black, Indigenous, and other people of colour suffer discrimination and microaggressions daily, in countless covert and overt ways and the Corridor of Love was not just a one-time event to acknowledge a horrible act of brutality, but a commitment to call out racism whenever and wherever we see it.”
Joyce Timpson also took part in the event, stating, "As both a member of Council working to improve race relations in Sioux Lookout and as a community member, I was moved by the statements of the participants condemning not only the tragic death of George Floyd, but all racism. I was reassured that we will overcome the difficulties we are facing today. With such short notice for the event, the turnout of no fewer than 160 people of all colours and all ages was unprecedented and moving. Many people expressed their disappointment that they did not attend as they were unaware of the event. The measured and peaceful manner in which it was managed left me proud to be a Sioux Lookout'er. As a member of the Council of a small diverse municipality with very unique demographics, I feel we are on the precipice of major positive change. We are all in this together; we must be proactive together."