Photo by Joe Yates on Unsplash

One year after the BLM protests: what we learned

By:
Tasheal Gill (@tashealgill)

Content warning: Police violence and brutality

It’s been one year since the streets were flooded around the world with thousands of people marching for racial justice.

The murder of George Floyd in May 2020 spurred a movement of outrage, protest, and in a rare turn of events -- the outcome of a fair conviction.

The anniversary is a painful and solemn reminder that lives continue to be lost at the hands of the police; and most often, Black, Indigenous and people of colour. 

The anniversary is an opportunity to look back and remember how far the movement has come, but how far it has yet to go. 

Throughout the year of reflecting and unlearning, many people have dedicated themselves to being allies and anti-racist advocates. They called to defund the police, they called for accountability, and they called out the names of those lost to police brutality around the world. 

Rodney Diverlus, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Toronto, is among one of those social justice advocates.  

Diverlus said last year that you could really see that the groundwork of the Black Lives Matter movement had begun to grow. He said the major turning point was that they were able to start a conversation by explaining why it was important in the first place.

Now, coming up on a year later, Diverlus said the work has really begun, as community members follow up on the promises made last summer. 

“Today we’re seeing the collaboration, support and solidarity between Black organizers and the Black global protests with that of Indigenous protests, with that of Palestinian protests--all in unison, calling for a just world,” said Diverlus.

In addition to the crucial solidarity that grew from the Black Lives Matter movement, we saw a few undeniable global shifts that were a direct result of the protests.

Here are some of the key takeaways:  

  1. Defund the police
    One of the lasting takeaways from the Black Lives Matter movement was the initiative to divest police funds and reallocate to other forms of public safety and community support, including mental health services. For example, in cases where mental health is involved, like the case of Charles Kinsey who was shot trying to calm a severely autistic patient down, mental health workers could be there to help de-escalate rather than a number of untrained police officers.

  2. Abolish the police
    Abolishing the police may sound like a radical concept, but it’s really not… It just goes a little further than defunding. Instead of just the removal of funds, police forces are dismantled over a period of time and,at least in this case, having a more community-based approach to policing. Community infrastructure like health and housing receives a greater amount of funding and police work actively with the community, helping to build trust. There would also be a greater level of accountability for those working within the new ‘police department’.

  3. Dismantling capitalism
    The capitalist system was built off the free labour of enslaved Black people. It was the relentless buying, selling, insuring, and financing of Black bodies and the products of their labour that made Wall Street the thriving trading centre that it is today. According to Angela Davis, “the ultimate eradication of racism is going to require us to move toward a more socialist organization of our economy and our other institutions.”

  4. Reflection is key
    This painful anniversary serves as a call for reflection - to stop, listen and learn about how we can take effective action as individuals to tackle stereotypes, biases, and systemic racial injustices. We can continue being allies by asking ourselves what biases we hold, how we can support those who face various forms of systemic oppression, how we can change our behaviours that might oppress others, etc.

  5. The wheels of change are rolling
    All across the United States, reforms are being instituted to hold police accountable. New York recently repealed a law that kept police disciplinary records secret, allowing the public to see which officers have a history of abuse. State legislatures have banned chokeholds from their police forces in Florida and California, showing that the BLM movement has successfully pushed for some reform from local and state governments.

  6. The fight is not over
    Though Chauvin was convicted, there are still policies that need to be enacted. Currently, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act is waiting to be passed, with momentum seemingly growing for its passage or another form of the bill. If we want to see serious changes in policing in America, new policies must be enacted. There needs to be a continuous and unending demand for more reform, more changes, and more laws to prevent police brutality, as opposed to being reactive.

What’s important to remember is that Canada is also complicit. It is clear that anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism, hatred and violence by police forces is a form of terrorism that has plagued Canada for centuries. 

Blatant denials that racism exists in Canada only serve those who benefit from silence. 

The Black Lives Matter movement started from the ground up, and is now beginning to see the fruits of its decade-long fight. 

But it must not stop. Now is the time to take the momentum that accumulated and focus it not just on individuals, but on systemic levels.

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Tasheal is a screenwriter and poet who believes creativity fuels true happiness. She is studying her first year of Film Production at UBC. Tasheal first discovered her passion for telling stories when she typed up old manuscripts for her dad at the ripe age of 9. Ever since, she has fell in love with the art of storytelling. Tasheal is an Aquarius who uses sarcasm as a defence mechanism and enjoys binge-watching Frasier on a regular basis. Find her on instagram at @tashealgill

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