featured Racism

Announcing Black Lives Matter New Brunswick: This province has a lot of catching up to do

My mother and I at the Black Lives Matter protest in Fredericton New Brunswick

“Hey Hey, ho ho, systemic racism has got to go!”

That was the powerful chant mom and I were doing on Tuesday, June 2nd  as we marched, together with over 500 fellow protesters, to Fredericton city hall, circling the city.

We heard powerful speeches and stories about how racism happens right here and right now in Fredericton, New Brunswick, not just the United States, and that Canada has got to do better. 

Especially in New Brunswick.

When I came home excited about next steps, I realized something. New Brunswick doesn’t have any infrastructure for Black social change. At the grassroots, organizational and government level, there are so few resources for Black New Brunswickers that it seems there’s not even an attempt at collaboration on any level. 

Things must change things at all levels

Unlike most provinces in Canada, Nova Scotia has a great infrastructure to foster social change for its Black communities.

They even have an entire government branch dedicated to it. The mission statement of the department of Nova Scotian African affairs is to “assist, support and enhance the provincial government’s delivery of services to African Nova Scotians, and be a partner in developing innovative solutions that lead to self-reliance and sustainable development for African Nova Scotians and their communities.”

African Nova Scotians have resources for social change in place at all three levels. At the grassroots level there are activists and poets such as El Jones and David Woods.

At the organizational level, they have multiple museums and organizations dedicated specifically to their Black communities. For instance, there’s the Black Cultural Centre in Cherry Brook on the outskirts of Halifax, or the Black Loyalist Heritage Centre near Shelburne, there are the African Nova Scotian Decade for People of African Descent Coalition, the Africentric Learning Institute, and so many more.

All these resources help inform and keep the government accountable to the ever-changing needs of the Black community. Without strong advocacy organizations, how will anything change? How would anyone even know change is needed if we don’t have organizations dedicated to educating everyone about the issues? If we are going to increase opportunities for our Black population in New Brunswick, we would do well to emulate and strive for the structure Nova Scotia has. 

So why doesn’t New Brunswick have any of these things?

In New Brunswick we are in a unique position compared to other provinces when it comes to Black social change in that we lack an organizational infrastructure. What could be more racist than not even acknowledging one of the founding groups in your region?

Why does New Brunswick fall behind, while Statistics Canada reports that most of our Black population are born here and lived here for many generations? I’m 7th generation, my ancestors helped put this province together.

Why does New Brunswick not have a single organization dedicated to advocating for Black New Brunswickers? Why at the organizational level is there not one single building or organization to record the traumatic experiences Black people faced and continue to face each and every day in this province? Why is no organization turning those terror tales into demands for change?

We have no place to show our art, no building dedicated to our history, no representation at our universities, no representation in our news, none in our government. At every single level In New Brunswick being Black has been pushed into the shadows, while we have been here contributing to society for centuries.

Black Settlers helped build this province

While the actual population of Black people In New Brunswick isn’t large compared to some other provinces, if you dive into the data a little more, you’ll see its history is amazing.

New Brunswick and the Atlantic provinces are unique because our population is primarily based on the communities that have been here since before confederation.

A screenshot of a cell phone

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The Black communities in the Atlantic provinces have been here hundreds of years.

I would run out of fingers and toes counting how many Acadian organizations and government branches there are in this province. So why then at every level of society in New Brunswick are Black communities ignored, and erased? Not one single organization dedicated to advocacy about the racism Black communities face. We don’t exist in the government structures in New Brunswick.

Black university students leave New Brunswick in high numbers. The largest rally held here recently was organized by Black youth. Many of these passionate, educated young people have plans to leave New Brunswick after years of not being hired in positions that reflect their education.

Being able to work for organizations or even the government to help create real change in the province would help keep Black intellectuals in New Brunswick. 

Black artists are rarely showcased at any level in New Brunswick. I’m a member of a few artist organizations, and in most of those I am the only Black person. At most, I’m one of ten in groups with hundreds of members.

Is this representative of the Black creative population in New Brunswick?

No, because I’ve met dozens of fantastic Black painters, poets, authors, and craftspeople that don’t even know that any of these resources exist. We need an organization that can keep our culture alive by providing things like contests and buildings that showcase just Black art. 

Similarly, there’s not one location innovative Black entrepreneurs can go to research Black New Brunswickers’ needs so they can come up with solutions. An organization built on the mission to advocate for Black lives in New Brunswick could offer grants and workshops to these Black entrepreneurs, so they not only stay in New Brunswick but lift up our economy as they create more jobs and help their communities.

So what can we do?

A while ago I wrote about a fantastic event in February this year called “Rediscovering the Roots of Black New Brunswickers.” The University of New Brunswick showcased 30 New Brunswick Black local heroes dating back to the 1700s.

See also: Thandiwe McCarthy: Who writes the stories of Black success?

The post ended with me pleading with people to find a place to permanently house the traveling exhibit after February.

Why have I never heard of this amazing person until now?! I want more stories of entertainment industry success!

Where are those posters now that it’s not in season to celebrate Blackness? Whose responsibility is it to keep the great things we do from fading away?

If we look at New Brunswick from a grassroots, organizational and governmental perspective, we see the momentum of these recent protests falling apart.

This province has many well defined issues regarding social change, and one of them is that there is no organizational infrastructure to investigate, report and advocate Black issues. 

Watching a Black man being murdered by police is terrible. Will white history place its knee on all my accomplishments so that nothing of what I or my family have done will be remembered? 

We will not let this happen, and I’m proud to announce that motivated Black individuals are doing something. We are creating a Black Lives Matter organization. 

We are going to begin the mountainous task of investigating and addressing the specific issues New Brunswick Black communities have. We’re going to build the structures to empower Black New Brunswickers. 

So don’t stop after you’re done protesting on the street.

Support Black Lives Matter New Brunswick by signing the petition. Donate via Paypal: or reach out if you have a space we would be able to meet in. Check us out on Facebook, Black Lives Matter Fredericton NB

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  1. Fantastic article Thandiwe. This strikes right at the heart of the matter. There is next to nothing in place to support Black artists and/or culture, save for the New Brunswick Black History Society, and it’s small group struggle along on a meager and ever diminishing annual provincial grant. Now is the time to lobby government and society at large for more resources, more recognition and more credit for those, like the six generations of family before you, who help build this province into what it is, despite the systemic racism they faced. In 1900 Abraham Walker became so frustrated with the lack of movement on equal rights that he began lobbying for an en-masse exodus of all North American Blacks to Africa. This was a Utopian dream to be certain, and fraught with dangers of it’s own. But it gives us a sense of just how bad things were at the time. Recent events in Edmundston and Miramichi have have demonstrated to us that we in New Brunswick are not that far removed from similar events south of the border. Keep up your good works.

  2. Hi, how do I become involved with this new Black Lives Matter chapter? I have a number of connections to UNB and some government organizations here if that could be useful.

  3. The black heritage society located in.saint john.has been.very active. Ralph tiger Thomas was very actively promoting black culture and heritage

  4. Has the Premiere of New Brunswick acknowledged anything about Systemic Racism in New Brunswick?

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