Reflections on Black History Month: In Solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter

This Black History Month, the Canadian Association of Muslim Women in Law (CAMWL) affirms its ongoing solidarity with Black struggles for social justice in Canada.

CAMWL knows the importance of solidarity within and across movements. As we embark on new projects in 2016, we remind ourselves that Canada’s claim to multiculturalism does not render it “post-racial” or post-colonial. Anti-Black racism has personal, social, economic, and political dimensions. We take leadership from Black and Indigenous movements that remind us of the complexity and urgency of anti-racist, anti-colonial work: we know the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the ongoing settler-colonization of this continent continue to have dire consequences for Indigenous and Black peoples on Turtle Island.

Indeed, a new epoch in critical Black leadership emerged in 2012 with the creation of Black Lives Matter (BLM)  in the United States by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi. BLM’s Toronto chapter was established in 2014. This adds to hundreds of years of diasporic Black activism in Canada, including the the Maroon settlements of Nova Scotia and Montreal; Anti-Black Racism Network; Black Action Defence Committee; Black Liberation Collective; Brown, Black, and Fierce; Black Education Project; Commodore Books; Congress of Black Writers; Gashanti Unity; SpeakSudan; SomaliCanadianYouthMatter; Third Eye Collective, and the Underground Railroad, among many others.

We especially note the disproportionate targeting by police of Black people in Canada. In Ontario, this has included both police surveillance and police killings. Recent examples include Jermaine Carby in Brampton and Sudanese refugee Andrew Loku in Toronto. Despite public outcry, the Special Investigations Unit has declined to press charges against the police in either case.

Another active realm of Black advocacy is education, particularly equal access to higher learning and racially informed curricula for Black youth. Black educators have argued educational institutions too often perpetuate white supremacist ideologies, while erasing Black and Indigenous knowledge.

CAMWL also acknowledges the double consciousness experienced by Black Muslims, who even when targeted by state-sanctioned violence and Islamophobia, are often invisibilized within the broader Muslim community. We were honoured to participate in #BlackinMSA, a recent event hosted by the Ryerson East African Students’ Association and the Ryerson Muslim Students Association, to discuss the experiences of Black Muslims in Muslim spaces, through the lens of intersectionality. We also helped organize the #SomaliYouthLivesMatter event, consulting with Somali mothers about upcoming leadership projects for Somali Canadian youth.

As we continue to attend to the terrain of post-9/11 Islamophobia, CAMWL remains guided by our roots: the first Muslims to come to this continent were enslaved Black people stolen from their homes.

We accordingly commit to another year of combating injustice in all its forms, we hope you will join us in solidarity with and learning from the leadership of these movements.

Further Reading