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We seek justice, nothing special, just the law – Angie Bowden on the racist attack on Nhlanhla Dlamini

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Earlier this week we reported on the Halifax rally in support of Nhlanhla Dlamini, the young Black man shot with a high velocity nail gun by a co-worker. Here is a transcription of an excellent speech delivered by Angie Bowden at that rally, wherein she addresses the impact of such racist acts on the entire Black community in Nova Scotia, and especially also on its youths. Published with Angie’s kind permission. 

Angela Bowden speaks at the HAlifax rally in support of Nhlahla Dlamini. Photo Robert Devet

Good afternoon, everyone. I would like to thank each and everyone of you for coming out this afternoon and supporting Nhlanhla. I also want to acknowledge our activists and allies who are rallying in solidarity right now in Pictou. We support them as well.

Many people will talk about race-related trauma, and what that does to an individual. Having suffered race-related trauma myself I am very much triggered by the whole situation.

There are many versions going around of what happened and what didn’t happen. There are conversations taking place around the dinner table, in our workplaces, in our community spaces, over social media, on the media, people are emailing and people are questioning what exactly happened.  How did this happen? What is being done about it?

What if I told you that prior to Nhlanhla being shot in the back by a high-velocity nail gun on September 19, 2018, he endured three weeks of racial assaults and bullying on the job. He was referred to as Squigger daily, his jacket was nailed to a staircase, and his boots were damaged. On the day Nhlanhla was shot he was first told by the accused that he was working too slow, and that he knew how to speed him up. Sound familiar?

What if I told you that Nhlanhla was scared to death, and any other young man would feel, up against a 43-year old bully as he watched the accused remove the safety from the nail gun and smile. Picture Nhlanhla turning away, afraid for his life and running before the accused pulled the trigger and fired the gun, lodging the nail deep into Nhlanhla’s back, at a speed and velocity with the ability to kill him.

Nhlanhla Dlamini. Photo Robert Devet

Nhlanhla needed emergency surgery for his punctured and  collapsed lung. He spent four days in the hospital, he had a tube inserted to release the pressure, and what stood out to me in a CBC interview is that Nhlanhla thought that if he just put his head down and continued to work, that eventually it would just go away.

But what if I told you that the reason Nhlanhla put his head down and continued to work was because during one of these bullying incidents, the time Nhlanhla’s jacket was stapled to the staircase, Paul Quinn (Nhlanhla’s employer) was present. He witnessed it, he joined in on the laughter, passed the joke along to people who weren’t present, and didn’t discourage that behaviour, not even once.

See, when you experience these types of bullying behaviours, subtle or overt, in your workplace,  and everyone remains a bystander and the people responsible for your safety are not only aware that it is going on but participate and ignore the behaviour, that sends a clear message to the employee to shut up, put up, or get out.

This is an all too familiar pattern for the Black communities in Nova Scotia. It’s a pattern that still exists today as anti-Black racism is duly noted to be an ongoing problem in Nova Scotia, as countless reports support. We see and hear the evidence and personal stories every day. It is alarming.

As a mother of a Black son of Nhlanhla’s age I felt his story and I was deeply triggered as most of us were in our respective communities. We all felt the pain of him and his family, for ourselves and for our families. When racism is this hateful it rips open old wounds

As a mother of a Black son of Nhlanhla’s age I felt his story and I was deeply triggered as most of us were in our respective communities. We all felt the pain of him and his family, for ourselves and for our families. When racism is this hateful it rips open old wounds, exposing many victims. It is a concern to us that our youth feel hopeless in these situations. Our youths continue to be targets, and the hatefulness of these attacks is not responded to with the seriousness that it requires.

The shooting event itself, compounded by the continued minimizing of Nhlanhla’s punctured lung , the attempts to marginalize Black lives, the lie that it is contained in the media releases and in the news recordings of lawyer Greg Clark are plain hurtful, disrespectful, and mean. The inappropriate laughter when Craig Clark dismissed Nhlanhla’s injuries as not serious enough to require a band aid was just as painful as the shot fired from that nail gun. 

All this created serious psychological and physical wounds for this young man and his family, as well as the psychological wounds visited on our communities. Our healthcare system already lacks adequate resources to address the mental health epidemic. We are in the middle of a serious mental health crisis that continues to plague our Black communities. Our communities have decades of wounds that we have yet to heal.

What we are collectively saying is that we the Black community of Nova Scotia refuses to allow anyone to create yet another wound among our children to be left unhealed. Our children deserve better, and we demand better. We seek justice, period, nothing special, just the law.

Lightly edited for clarity.

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  1. So very well spoken by Angela. She hit the nail on the head here. Thank God for all of the support for this young man because he should never have had to go through this trauma in the first place in this day and age but unfortunately these types of things are happening everyday. I just pray in this instance that justice is served.

  2. Thanks Angela, It’s nice to know that the community has a voice in you.Keep up the great work.Peace/Love.Howard.

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