The black lives matter movement although founded in 2013, the uprising of community support became the forefront of everything on social media and mainstream media in the beginning months of the pandemic.Maggie Asselstine
During the pandemic it came to light the inequities of the black community. While sitting in our homes we were witness to the murder of George Floyd, Breona Taylor and Regis Korchinski-Paqutte to name a few all at the hands of the police. Some of us sat as a community and started to truly acknowledge the systemic racism and barriers that affect the BIPOC community. Some of us stood up as allies for those affected by racial trauma and systemic racism.
The black lives matter movement although founded in 2013, the uprising of community support became the forefront of everything on social media and mainstream media in the beginning months of the pandemic. Black people have always had increased risk of violence or death by police and experienced inequities with employment, education, housing and access to services that provide culturally aware and trauma informed support.
The Kujenga Wellness Project, is a Black-led grassroots organization. In October 2020, the organization managers applied for emergency relief funding through the Ontario Trillium Foundation. The emergency funds supported over 60 families in Durham Region with gift cards and food.
Racial trauma is rampant and bearing witness to violent acts against members of society that look like you can cause racial trauma which in turn can look a lot like post traumatic stress disorder. Oftentimes people who experience racism are invalidated or told that they need to “get over it” or “stop being so sensitive.” Sometimes feeling invalidated means people stop talking about their pain and just live with it. Therefore
continuing the racial inequities in society today.
Kujenga Wellness Project, a Black-led grassroots organization, was able to access funding through the Ontario Trillium Foundation- Covid-19 Emergency Relief fund to address some of the inequities within the black community. One of the programs developed to address food insecurities and was called “The Gift Project”. The program was developed by the Program Managers, staff, students and volunteers.
The volunteer’s perspective
To qualify for this program participants were required to identify as one of
the equity seeking groups the agency supports.
During the process of working with the community to assess their needs for food sovereignty it was noted there is a large community of newcomers specifically from Africa and largely living in low income housing and low income neighborhoods specifically a large number in south Oshawa. A significant amount of participants were single parents with two or more children and families that were larger than their western counterparts of four or more children. A lot of the participants talked about their lack of access to services to support them with employment, counselling and food. When speaking with families there was a sense that they felt so grateful of the support and felt, and almost relieved to be working with an agency that understands their unique needs as a black family in the region of Durham.
A number of participants were either unemployed or underemployed and lacked access to technology to support either their own academic endeavours or their children’s. The paradigm of the black community and the urban indigenous community is unwavering. The systemic racism and continued
inequities from these two equity seeking groups is vast.
How does one do good work with the Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour community?
Truly, if you do not work from the framework of acknowledging your own privilege as a person not from the equity seeking group you are working with you are doing yourself and the person you work
with a disservice and perpetuating systemic racism. The community needs allies and appreciates allyship but not when it’s cultural appropriation or someone being “white saviour”. Black people need to know there are safe places to access services that address systemic racism. But if you do not understand
the historical context of the BIPOC community and their lack of equal access to
everything without being exposed to racial trauma then you are not doing good work.
The systemic racism and continued inequities from these two equity-seeking groups, Black and Indigenous people is vast.Maggie Asselstine
History is everything and without it you know nothing. Sometimes we have this view that
every single person who identifies as BIPOC has the same story but gaining this
knowledge from the person you are working with in developing a true relationship
means everything. There is a term pan Indigenous and this means that often people will
think that Indigenous people come from the same cultural backgrounds and group these
people together which couldn’t be further from the truth. Every indigenous community
has their own ceremonies, their own medicines, their own beliefs and their own
traditions just like every single person who identifies as black or a person of colour.
BSW student, Ryerson University.
“The Kujenga Wellness Team would like to thank our amazing volunteers, students and interns, the Family Outreach worker, and our donors for the outpouring of love and support for our Black community members. A special thanks to the Ontario Trillium Foundation for making this grant possible in December 2020″
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Durham Region represents a diverse community, and highest population growth of diverse people.