By BRAD BRADFORD
COUNCILLOR, WARD 19 BEACHES-EAST YORK
One of the best parts of being an elected official is being able to celebrate the many incredible aspects of this community. There’s a long list of people, places and activities to celebrate. As those of you who’ve joined me on a patio know, I will go through that list, at length and in detail!
There’s one topic however that I – and we – need to talk about more: racism.
Beaches-East York is a welcoming, forward-thinking community. It’s rare to see acts of overt or explicit racism.
Unfortunately those too can happen as we recently saw with racist, hate-filled graffiti scrawled on a door at the Michael Garron Hospital construction site.
White supremacist groups also have a history in parts of the community with long-standing, serious efforts to root them out.
What exists more than we might think – and needs more attention – is systemic racism and the kind that bubbles just below the surface, like our implicit biases. I become more aware of how these impact Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) lives with each conversation.
Back in late August we saw a group of community members come together to make powerful, beautiful artwork supporting messages of anti-Black racism in Dentonia Park.
There were reports of these being torn down over night. It was heart-breaking. Folks in the community felt unsafe and as if they were being attacked. The rash of nooses being left on construction sites have a similar effect.
One of the biggest things we’re grappling with as a community and a city is how to root all this out.
At the city level, it’s something Toronto Council is working on with a lot of energy and focus.
At our September meeting we implemented 10 of Council’s 36 recommendations from the anti-Black racism debate in July.
Among those recommendations the city’s set up an Accountability Table on alternate forms of community safety, reforming staffing of our Anti-Black Racism and Indigenous Affairs offices, and beginning the community engagement process for a new Police Chief.
We’re also starting the work of retooling our emergency service so that police aren’t responding to mental health calls.
At the community level, I’ve been trying to engage person to person which is where I think real change happens.
I’ve also been trying to be more vocal while recognizing much of this story isn’t mine to tell.
It’s also been important to join in solidarity in supporting the many groups spreading the powerful message of confronting anti-Black racism.
This is happening through conversations like the town hall I joined with MPs and MPPs after the first noose was found at MGH and through rallies led by groups like Beachers for Black Lives.
In early-October I held a community safety townhall with Supt. Rueben Stroble from 55 Division where anti-Black racism was a central part of the discussion.
I’d like to encourage all of our community to find ways to be informed and participate in the dialogue.
Join a training session through your workplace – all of Toronto Council is being offered anti-Black racism training and I’ll be doing my refresher in a couple of weeks.
Join one of the many community conversations online. Talk to a neighbour, or reach out and let me know more of what you’d like to be done.
There are many ways to engage. Engagement with each other on the issues that matter is one of the things this community does best and I know we won’t stop here.