On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Folami Jones, Matthew Byard, and Ben Sichel about the Working While Black in Nova Scotia project. It is a response to anti-Black racism in workplaces in the province, and it is organized around a website where people may anonymously share their experiences.
Amidst accounts of direct actions and demonstrations and strikes, it can be easy to forget the profound interconnection between stories and questions of power and justice. Harm and violence to so many are made to seem normal and legitimate through stories – stories that tell us in a million different ways “That’s just how things are” or “That’s just what those people are like” or “They deserved it.” Yet stories are also inevitably woven through efforts to challenge such unjust harm. The act of telling stories that name the violence, name the injustice – the act of refusing to be silent, refusing to accept all those other, dominant stories that legitimize injustice and harm – are crucial. Through stories, we build the relationships, the solidarity, the support, the collectivity that can be vital in surviving such unjust harms, and in finding ways to challenge and change them.
For all that a lot of white folks try to deny it, there is a centuries-long and ongoing legacy of stories that support the range of indignities, disadvantages, and outright harms that people of African descent on this continent continue have to navigate, including in workplace contexts. Working While Black in Nova Scotia, on the other hand, aims to collect, affirm, and mobilize people’s stories of anti-Black racism in the workplace in the service of justice and change. The project brings together three organizations – Ujaama, an organization that advocates on behalf of the Black community in Nova Soctia; The Kwacha House Cafe, a cafe and community space focused on addressing social inequities in general and with an emphasis on the African Nova Scotian community; and Solidarity Halifax, a non-sectarian, multi-issue, anti-capitalist organization. Emerging from some community dialogue sessions held by Ujaama, the project, its website, and the anonymously submited stories of anti-Black racism in the workplace that it collects, document important aspects of everyday experience for African Nova Scotians. They have the potential to be a basis for mutual support among people who have these experiences, and for public anti-racist education among those who do not, as well as for being turned into tools for use in future community dialogues and change-processes. Jones, Byard, and Sichel talk with me about the past and present of anti-Black racism in Nova Scotia, about the origins of the project, about the stories they’ve collected so far, and about their hopes for what the project can accomplish.
To learn more about Working While Black in Nova Scotia, click here.
Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show in general, visit its website here. You can learn about suggesting topics for future shows here.
Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Sudbury, Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.