“We are one!” shouted emcee Morné Van Niekerk to a crowd of hundreds who nodded in and called back in agreement during a Black Lives Matter and solidarity rally at Charles Hoey Park in downtown Duncan Friday evening.
The peaceful rally was attended by people young and old, and by a great many ethnicities and featured speakers like Joe Thorne, Maynard Johnny, Monica Jones, Jason Williams, and songs by Glaucia Desrochers and Rob George, among others.
Steven Najera gave a moving speech to those who are at the root of the world’s collective pain.
“To my oppressor: you have my pity. Whatever hurt or misunderstanding or battles you face on the inside, which causes you to hate me for the colour of my skin is a heavy burden,” he said. “But no matter what, Black lives matter. To the oppressed, any of you who are oppressed. You are beautiful and you count and you matter with the utmost importance. Remember how far we’ve come but remember how far we’ve got to go.”
While the death of George Floyd sparked the movement, the rally was in acknowledgement of racial injustice of all kinds, including that directed toward First Nations.
Indigenous artist Maynard Johnny spoke above the passing vehicles that periodically honked in support.
Johnny was one of many who spoke to the importance of the BLM movement but also linked it to the struggles of Aboriginals in Duncan, in B.C., in Canada and beyond, throughout history and in present day.
He said: “It’s not anything new. It’s been happening since the beginning of North America…this isn’t anything new, it’s just the Black Lives Matter movement is just recent history. I want to acknowledge that George Floyd getting murdered by a cop, and it was caught on video, that’s why this started. All across the world that’s why this started. It was caught on tape but this has been happening for hundreds of years. Racism is deeply rooted in Canada just as much it is in the United States and people don’t want to acknowledge it. Canadians don’t want to acknowledge it.”
Johnny went on to talk more about the plight of the First Nations in Canada and how they’ve been fighting for generations.
“George Floyd was the spark that is going to ignite a fire across our world to abolish racism,” he said. “I don’t know if we’ll see it in our generation. I don’t know if I’ll see it in my daughter’s generation. I hope we’ll see it in my grandkids’ generation. It doesn’t matter what colour what creed you are. We are all humans. We can all get along. We have to work together,” Johnny added. “Black Lives Matter is a very important movement that will change this world and we have to stand side by side with it.”
Speaker after speaker told their stories and how now is the time for change.
“It is important to hear these things. It is uncomfortable but it is that being uncomfortable that shakes the foundations of our thinking that we have now and we have to lift each other up in order to get past this,” Van Niekerk said. “Black Lives Matter. We are one.”