KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – On Tuesday, during the daily COVID-19 briefing, Premier McNeil scolded members of the Preston communities for partying and linked that with the rate of infection in the community.
Predictably, the premier’s comments caused a social media backlash against Black people in Nova Scotia. The Premier has refused to apologize.
What McNeil didn’t mention is that the community of North Preston has been organizing to get ready for the COVID-19 pandemic since February, way before most people took the threat seriously. It did so without much support from the government.
Rather than blaming community members for the rate of infections, the premier would do well to recognize that fact, and better yet, offer tangible help so that the community can lift itself out of deep poverty, a legacy of centuries of anti-Black racism, says Miranda Cain, one of the North Preston community members who is leading the fight against the coronavirus.
“We’re already fighting the battle of being Black, the battle of being from North Preston. We’re already fighting the North Preston’s Finest battle,” says Cain. “And now we’re fighting the battle of being from North Preston and Black and with an infectious disease.”
See also: Op-ed: The myth of North Preston’s Finest
“The small handful of people that are nuisances, it’s the same people you will find in any community. It’s the same in Halifax. It’s the same in Dartmouth. It’s the same with white boys, it’s the same with white girls. It happens everywhere. It’s just because they can single us out, we’re such an easy target, that’s why they do it, I think.”
Cain and other community members started organizing against the virus in February, way before most Nova Scotians took the threat seriously.
Cain, who for the last four years co-organized a large peace basketball tournament and is the founder of North Preston’s Future Community Organization, started calling upon her government connections and asking questions.
She also reached out to the community through Facebook and word of mouth, to start a conversation about being prepared just in case the pandemic from China were to arrive in the community. The group decided to focus on establishing a test site in North Preston.
“There was more than just me who did it. It was a group of passionate younger community members from the Prestons, not even leaders, who wanted to have this here in the community,” says Cain.
Such a clinic would never be effective without community involvement, Cain says.
“You must really understand the uniqueness of the Black community. We can’t really have these people come up here and expect us to get up and get tested. The community is going to trust us, knowing that we’re going to be taking the bookings and that we’re going to be organizing everything,” says Cain. “So far we have 200 people that have been booked and tested.That wouldn’t be the case if we hadn’t set it up this way.”
Cain isn’t allowing the premier’s hurtful comments to become a distraction. “Of course I would love to have an apology or for a retraction to be made. But it’s not going to fix anything,” she says.
“It was very irresponsible for the premier to call us out without an action plan to fix the issue. Politicians are quick to show up for photo ops and to take the credit for anything that the community accomplished. The government dropped the ball once again, and has yet to reach out to us.” she says.
“We’re still on the ground, working with minimum support. This has set us back even further, if that’s even possible. What they don’t understand is that our resilience is in our blood.”
“Fix our community, so that we can stay together and we can be together. We don’t get much help at all. The little we do have, we have done it ourselves. It seems like the only time that the government and the media pay attention is when something negative happens here,” says Cain.
“If there’s anything that this government should do for us, they should make sure that something like this will never ever happen again in this community.”
“Let’s take this group of young leaders that organized this all on their own, encourage them, give them the support, give them the tools, so that we can start working and bettering our own communities, so that we can show you that we aren’t a menace to our society.”
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Speak your truth as it is times like this that Nova Scotian colonialists show their contempt for people of African descent. Congrats to the youth who are taking up the torch and doing what you must with what you have, as our politicians only come smiling when elections are about to happen. They go silent when they have to speak the truth about a situation or even take a stand and be supportive of the communities they were elected to represent. We are resilient people something that most do not acknowledge nor understand. Like the elders would say “keep doing what you do as long as your heart is true to the cause.” Power to the people who remain true to their worth and value in spite of the politicians (our Premier) who spew out such distasteful remarks.