I believe that it is important for all of us to speak out and stand up and denounce hatred and bigotry. Right now, with what is going on in our communities, including the recent graffiti in Winnipeg as well as with the “alt right” in the USA it is more important than ever for leaders to speak up (as our Mayor did) clearly for what they are against and for what they believe in. While we need to speak against the negative forces we are facing in this world, I also firmly believe we must amplify the solution – protest is not enough. Attention gives power and if all we ever talk about is the problem – our opposition to the problem, how much the problem hurts us, the negativity of the problem – all we are creating is more problem. But if we denounce what is wrong, then focus on the medicine – the solution, what helps, what heals, what makes us better, what we can do to not feel helpless and the actions we need to and can take – then, we create the solution.
When AYO! began we called ourselves an “anti-gang” and said we wanted to oppose gangs, but we soon learned we were alienating the very relatives we wanted to reach out to and help make better choices. So we changed to a movement, and that change provided us with language to promote and build up what we believe in and what we actually are. When Winnipeg was labelled murder capital of Canada in 2011, Meet Me at the Bell Tower began and said they wouldn’t stop building community until the violence was gone. The event continues every Friday over 5 years later. The idea was to displace negativity with positivity and that space now is home to Bear Clan and Farmer’s Markets, a basketball hoop and more! When Winnipeg was labelled Canada’s most racist city in 2015 the community responded by hosting the grassroots Our Summit that launched the 13 Fires Winnipeg conversation series on racial inclusion. This initiative hosted a community event today!! None of these initiatives are ignoring the issues they work against but in all of their actions, the solution and the medicine is a larger part of the their story.
I don’t know what the answer is for the USA. I don’t even know what the answer is for Winnipeg. I’m only beginning to understand what the solutions can be for my neighbourhood. But I do know we must not be afraid to listen and learn, especially if unsure of what actions to take. Do your homework. Follow the lead of those directly affected. When I say protest is not enough, I mean we have to move beyond protesting to being helpers, solution oriented & informed, creating the positive that will displace the negative. In a world where we are sick as a society, our actions and words can be the medicine. It isn’t going to be easy. But one place we can turn our attention to is Susan Bro, the mother of Heather Heyer who was killed in Charlottesville, who shared this powerful message at her daughter’s funeral:
“Find what’s wrong, don’t ignore it, don’t look the other way, Say to yourself, ‘What can I do to make a difference?’ And that’s how you’re going to make my child’s death worthwhile.”