‘It’s in the looks people give’: Kelowna women use shared experiences to combat racism

Friday’s peaceful protest is in solidarity with the Black community in the U.S.

A rally in support of the black community is coming to Kelowna.

The event is scheduled for Friday, June 5, at noon and will be held at Stuart Park.

Kelowna residents Paige Harrison and Kermisha Pereira, co-organizers of the event, said they wanted to put together a peaceful rally in light of the ongoing protests in the U.S.

The protests started last week after an unarmed black man, George Floyd, died in Minnesota police custody. Some protests have turned into violent riots.

Harrison and Pereira emphasized Friday’s event is a peaceful protest and all they want is to give people a chance to have an open conversation about people of colour’s experiences. The pair said they’ll do this through an open mic.

“It’s also a chance for people to have a safe space. Because I know a lot of people in this town don’t really feel safe sometimes when talking about stuff like that. So it’s just a safe space for us and them,” Pereira added.

As a black woman, Pereira said she regularly experiences racial discrimination while doing what would be considered normal things.

“When I go into stores, I get followed around even when I don’t look suspicious or anything like that. People, whenever they want to have an argument with me, will always end up using a racial slur as a way to hurt me,” she said.

“It’s also in the looks that people give me… they let you know you’re not really wanted.”

Harrison said she has different experiences as a half-black woman but still hears foul language about her race. She added everyone has a different experience, but the point is to learn where and how to combat racism in Kelowna.

“(Racism) is prevalent. Just because some of us may not see it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. But we want to open that conversation peacefully,” Harrison said.

They said there will be cupcakes and lemonade for all to share and at 8 p.m., there will be a march in the downtown area.

“It will be between five and seven minutes and will be in silence to remember those who have lost their lives to police brutality,” Harrison said.

In light of the unrest in the U.S., Pereira said they felt now was the time to showcase an opportunity to achieve equality.

“Even though something horrible is going on, we can find unity in this. We can all stand together against something unjust and not right,” she said.

“We can all support each other and get justice.”

Pereira added they also hope Friday’s protest can provide Kelowna residents with an opportunity to learn.

“We’re hoping that Kelowna will become more aware of what is going on and realize that racism is everywhere. And just because Canada hides it a bit better and doesn’t show it as much, it’s still here. It still affects people of colour and minorities,” she said.

As far as social distancing during the protest, hand sanitizer, as well as several masks and gloves, will be provided at the rally, but Harrison and Pereira are asking for people who have masks to wear them to the event to ensure everyone is safe.

READ: Social justice advocate yells at Kelowna council, demands presence at black Lives Matter rally

READ: Thousands gather at Vancouver Art Gallery protest


Twila Amato
Video journalist, Black Press Okanagan
Email me at twila.amato@blackpress.ca
Follow me on Twitter

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