featured Racism

‘It makes us sick, it affects our children, and it needs to stop’ – African Nova Scotians and allies rally against racism in Nova Scotia

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Early this afternoon some 50 African Nova Scotians and their allies gathered on the sidewalk at the foot of the Maritime Centre, to once again call attention to the racism that pervades Nova Scotia politics and society.

One of the speakers was heavyweight boxer Kirk Johnson, who some 15 years ago won a human rights case against Halifax police, who had stopped him merely for driving while Black.

See also: Why was I a suspicious person? Four videos on police street checks in Halifax

“It seems we have been fighting for our rights for eternity, and we shouldn’t have to. I first experienced racism when I was just four years old. Then when I was 26 I was pulled over and harassed for a long time by the cops. I won the case, they paid a bunch of money, but the cops didn’t apologize,” Johnson said.

Kirk Johnson. Photo Robert Deevt

“Now 15 years later we still face exactly the same situation. Now I am scared because my son is going to be driving, and he will call me and say, Dad, I’m stopped by the police,” Johnson said.

Other speakers included Nova Scotia Advocate contributors Angela Bowden and Raymond Sheppard, Judy Haiven of Equity Watch, activist Ifo Ikede, Nova Scotia Government & General Employees Union (NSGEU) President Jason MacLean, and more.

Jason MacLean. Photo Robert Devet

“I am fortunate to be in a position where I can talk to government officials, and use whatever little bit of privilege I have in my role to get the message across that the NSGEU supports African Nova Scotians,” said MacLean.

“We don’t get a fair shake in this province. We can walk down the sidewalk, but when a police officer pulls up I get uptight, I am waiting for someone to check me, it happens all too often,” MacLean said.

Speaking about police officers, during the rally there were four cops constantly bothering demonstrators, supposedly to ensure that pedestrians would not be forced onto the street.

This in a downtown where people frequently have no choice but to use the street, since sidewalks are blocked because of construction.    

The cops approach seemed unnecessarily heavy handed (and not very smart), especially as racist street checks and  intimidating police behaviour were topics several speakers addressed.

“Racism hurts us all so much. I find these uniforms that are walking around right now to be very intimidating, very harassing, and as you saw, very triggering to me. I thank my friends for grounding me,” said Angela Bowden.

See also: Angela Bowden: Street checks and the trauma stories of our elders and youths

“I am at a loss for words right now, because that is what mental illness will do to you, that’s what happens when you experience a trigger like that and live with the trauma that I have endured,” said Bowden.

“That is the consequence of us allowing racism to continue in our province. It makes us sick, it is debilitating, it affects our children, and it needs to stop.”

See also: Petition demands complete ban of police street checks in Nova Scotia

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