On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I talk with organizer Yolen Bollo-Kamara about her experience in Toronto with the wave of organizing that has been sweeping North America in opposition to police violence and anti-Black racism.
It should be entirely uncontroversial to assert that, in fact, Black lives matter. But there are 500 years of globally dominant societies behaving as if they do not matter. And notwithstanding what many white people in contemporary Canada might claim, it’s not a problem that can be dismissed as “of the past” or “just the US” — it’s a problem here, a problem now.
On August 9, 2014, a white police officer killed unarmed Black teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Misouri. It’s a tragically common occurence, happening once every 28 hours in the United States according to an oft cited statistic. But thanks to the tireless dedication of mostly young Black organizers in Ferguson, this time non-Black North America has been unable to forget and ignore. And in late November when a grand jury decided not to indict Brown’s killer, protests erupted across the continent and around the world. Though these protests certainly seek the kind of accountability that would show that Brown’s life mattered in that specific case, they have also set their sights much more broadly or ending racist police violence in their cities and creating all of the other the kinds of change that flow from an insistence that Black lives matter.
Yolen Bollo-Kamara is a member of the collective of organizers that that came together in Toronto under the banner of “Black Lives Matter.” A student activist and president of the undergraduate student union at University of Toronto, she is very clear that the actions they have organized are not just a response to events in the United States but to the very similar realities that comprise Black experience in Canada. She talks with me about the organizing, the broader context, and the kinds of changes that need to happen in Toronto, in Canada, and globally. And please note that we spoke the day before the most recent major Black Lives Matter action in Toronto.
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.