A vigil against anti-Black hatred in remembrance of the victims of the May 14 mass shooting in Buffalo will be held in downtown Toronto Thursday evening, May 19.
Organized by a coalition of 21 Black-led and Black-serving organizations and foundations from across the Greater Toronto Area, the gathering will get underway at 6 pm at Nathan Phillips Square, 100 Queen St. W. at Bay Street.
All are welcome to come together to mourn, and show support and solidarity with the families, friends, and Black communities grieving the victims of this mass shooting, which killed 10 people and injured three others. Eleven of the 13 victims are Black.
The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating this incident, which occurred in and around a Tops supermarket in one of Buffalo’s predominantly Black neighborhoods, as a hate crime and an “act of racially-motivated violent extremism.”
Payton Gendron, 18, of Conklin, New York, has been arrested and charged with first-degree murder.
Aside from hosting a vigil in Toronto, the team of Black leaders is also calling it out and condemning racially motivated hate crimes and acts of violent extremism, which are on the rise in Canada as seen in recent deadly attacks committed against Muslims in London, Ontario and Quebec City.
“This heinous act (in Buffalo) reminds us that the threat of racially motivated violence and hatred is a constant and increasing reality for Black communities. This atrocity is simply the most recent in a long history of unrelenting and consistent brutality against Black communities across North America rooted in anti-Black hate, ”the group wrote.
“This latest attack reminds us that anti-Black hate, white supremacy, replacement theory and far-right extremism continue to make even the most basic activities unsafe for Black people, such as shopping for Sunday dinner.”
Alica Hall, the executive director of west Toronto’s Nia Center for the Arts, is part of the organizing team, whose primary members also include Foundation for Black Communities, Justice Fund Toronto, Network for the Advancement of Black Communities, BlackNorth Initiative, and Ontario Coalition of Agencies Serving Immigrants.
She said it’s imperative to keep working to address anti-Black hate, white supremacy and far-right extremism here in Canada and everywhere.
“What happened in Buffalo is not an isolated incident. These ideologies and narratives are just a click away, ”Hall said, pointing to racist, intolerant rhetoric that is readily available online.
“We know Canadians are participating in these kinds of communities.”
The coalition has prepared a list of recommendations for all levels of government, which they said are “part of the necessary and critical steps we must take to counter the rise in anti-Black racism, white supremacy, far-right extremism and hate crimes targeting our communities. ”
1. Work with Black communities to ensure that concrete measures such as tackling hate speech and radicalization online to address anti-Black hate are incorporated in the National Action Plan on Combating Hate.
2. Every provincial and territorial government to establish an Anti-Black Racism Directorate / Office / Secretariat if one does not already exist.
3. The federal government ensures it works with Black communities to build on the gains of the United Nations Decade For People of African Descent as a permanent forum in accordance with the decision of the United Nations.
4. Expanding the Supporting Black Communities Initiative program to support community organizations assisting victims of anti-Black hate.
5. Continue to support the Mental Health of Black Canadians Fund with a focus on addressing racial trauma.
6. That the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada accelerate and work closely with Black Canadian communities in the development of the Black Canadians Justice Strategy.
7. We urge the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to encourage its members to develop plans to combat anti-Black racism and hate in municipalities, similar to the work of Toronto’s Confronting Anti-Black Racism Unit.
Organizers went on to say that “ignorance and indifference, I do not know, and I do not care attitudes, can no longer be tolerated or prevail.”
“We must look for and erase all explicit and implicit racism in our societies – wherever it exists, whether it’s in our judicial systems, our educational systems, or in everyday life,” they said, adding the massacre in Buffalo “must never happen again . ”
“We demand actions that go beyond pledges and statements and instead demand strategies and solutions which must be co-developed with our communities and implemented by all institutions, organizations, and levels of government that address the root causes of anti-Black hate.”