VIDEO: Dozens attend Black Lives Matter solidarity protest in Daajing Giids

Steve Querengesser, who is on the Haida Gwaii Teachers Association executive, is pictured filming people who participated in the Black Lives Matter solidarity protest on June 14, 2020 in Daajing Giids. (Karissa Gall/Haida Gwaii Observer)
Supplies such as cardboard and Sharpies were made available at 1:30 p.m. on June 14, 2020 beside the baseball field in Daajing Giids, before the Black Lives Matter solidarity protest began at 2 p.m., so people could make posters. (Karissa Gall/Haida Gwaii Observer)
Skidegate resource worker Willie Russ (pictured) was one of four speakers at the Black Lives Matter solidarity protest in Daajing Giids on June 14, 2020. The other speakers were Haida Gwaii Teachers Association social justice chair Jenny Parser, Village of Queen Charlotte Mayor Kris Olsen and Haida Nation president Gaagwiis Jason Alsop. (Karissa Gall/Haida Gwaii Observer)
Following the speeches at the Black Lives Matter solidarity protest on June 14, 2020 in Daajing Giids, people lined up along the side of the highway holding signs to raise awareness. Haida Gwaii Teachers Association social justice chair Jenny Parser is pictured on the left holding signs that say “justice” and “Black lives matter.” (Karissa Gall/Haida Gwaii Observer)
A view of the baseball field in Daajing Giids on June 14, 2020, while the Black Lives Matter solidarity protest was ongoing. Haida Nation president Gaagwiis Jason Alsop is pictured at home base while making his speech. (Grace Gladstone/Submitted photo)
Other people at the Black Lives Matter solidarity protest on June 14, 2020 in Daajing Giids held signs that said “stop racism” and “silence is violence.” (Karissa Gall/Haida Gwaii Observer)
Another sign at the Black Lives Matter solidarity protest on June 14, 2020 in Daajing Giids said “police need more education or less responsibility.” (Karissa Gall/Haida Gwaii Observer)
Another sign at the Black Lives Matter solidarity protest on June 14, 2020 in Daajing Giids said “skin colour is not a reasonable suspicion.” (Karissa Gall/Haida Gwaii Observer)
Another sign at the Black Lives Matter solidarity protest on June 14, 2020 in Daajing Giids said “Canada is not innocent.” (Grace Gladstone/Submitted photo)

Approximately 50 people gathered for a Black Lives Matter solidarity protest on June 14 in Daajing Giids.

The Haida Gwaii Teachers Association (HGTA) organized the event, which began at 2 p.m. at the baseball field, to show solidarity in combatting racism.

Several community leaders made speeches at the solidarity protest, including HGTA social justice chair Jenny Parser, Village of Queen Charlotte Mayor Kris Olsen, Skidegate resource worker Willie Russ and Haida Nation president Gaagwiis Jason Alsop.

ALSO READ: Long seen as radical, Black Lives Matter goes mainstream

Speaking from home base to the crowd that gathered in the field, masked and socially distanced per health protocols, Parser touched on the colonial beginnings of Canada, the history of slavery, and the over-representation of Black and Indigenous people in police killings.

“While the experiences of the Black community are unique, many Indigenous people in Canada too face the challenges of systemic racism every day,” she said, citing the cancellation of bus routes along Highway 16 a.k.a the Highway of Tears, as well as lack of equal access to clean drinking water and health care on reserves.

“We should stand in solidarity with this movement because systemic racism affects the lives of Indigenous, Black and people of colour in Canada every day.”

Parser also reiterated what she had written in the Facebook event for the solidarity protest, that “George Floyd’s recent death has sparked outrage against systematic racism.”

ALSO READ: Last Greyhound bus leaves B.C.’s Highway of Tears

Floyd died on May 25 in Minnesota while being restrained by Minneapolis police. Video showed former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly 9 minutes, despite the unarmed Black man pleading that he could not breathe.

Chauvin has since been charged with second-degree murder and the three other fired officers who were present during Floyd’s arrest, Thomas Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao, have been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.

“It is important that we show solidarity with the Black community in challenging systems of oppression, especially in light of Canada’s own dark history of systematic racism with not only people in the Black community, but with the Indigenous population as well,” Parser said in the post. “This is tragically highlighted by the death of Chantel Moore, a 26-year-old Indigenous woman from the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, last Thursday in New Brunswick at the hands of a police officer.”

Moore died on June 4 in Edmundston after being shot by police during a well-being check.

“Her life was lost unnecessarily,” Parser said. “This should remind us of the fact that in Canada, Indigenous people, especially women and girls, face the threat of racism on a daily basis. Often, this threat results in death.”

ALSO READ: Anti-racism protesters gather in communities across B.C.

ALSO READ: Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation woman, 26, fatally shot by police in Edmundston, N.B.

Olsen was next to speak at the solidarity protest.

“I live on a street where the RCMP are my neighbours, I get to see them every day and I understand that I have a different association based on my neighbourhood and also the colour of my skin, and this is wrong,” Olsen said. “We have to start looking at society and we have to start asking these tough questions, and we have to start looking for change.

“It’s all of us together that can make that change as we stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.”

Olsen also noted he was standing on an old village site that had been covered with the baseball field.

“We’re in Daajing Gidds, this is the village,” he said. “And yet here we are living in Queen Charlotte. We have to start recognizing that we need to change.”

ALSO READ: Will the Village of Queen Charlotte change its name?

Russ was then called up and he was visibly emotional while making his speech, which included some of his own experiences with racism as a Haida person.

“I’ve grown up with it and it was normal for me to be in a racist structure that told me that I wasn’t smart enough, I was too dark,” Russ said. “I had to stand up and fight to prove that I was an intelligent human being.”

Russ reminded the crowd that all people ultimately evolved from single-celled organisms, and cells need to work together to survive and grow.

“What we’re doing is an autoimmune disease … cells attacking cells, killing one another,” he said.

After sharing a native proverb that goes, “if it’s not good for everyone then it’s not good at all,” he said people need to work together to make the world a better place.

“We should just see each other for the way we can contribute to the planet and to our society in a good way, and make sure we’re doing it for everyone,” he said.

ALSO READ: New video shows RCMP tackling, punching Alberta chief during arrest

Alsop was the final speaker, saying racism can be blatant or subtle, and comes from “seeds of hate” and feelings of superiority.

“In the Haida culture, that’s one of the teachings, is that we’re all equal, and that’s what Black Lives Matter is about, seeking equality,” Alsop said.

He said by gathering for the solidarity protest, people were figuratively dipping their pinky toes in the water, “maybe just the edge of your nail even.”

“We’re already up to our neck,” he said, inviting others to take a deep breathe before dipping their foot in, then their leg, then their entire bodies.

“We all watched George Floyd take his last breath, so we ought to be grateful that we’re here now, we have this opportunity to make that change, to take that plunge.”

ALSO READ: Teach Black history to fight racism, starting in elementary school: B.C. students

Steve Querengesser, who is on the HGTA executive, then led the crowd in lining up along the side of the highway with their signs to raise awareness.

The signs said “stop racism,” “Canada is not innocent,” “silence is violence” and more.

Querengesser’s own sign said: “Teachers are essential workers in the fight against racism.”

A solidarity protest had also been planned for Masset, but Querengesser said it was cancelled out of respect for the community after organizers became aware of a funeral for a Haida elder taking place in Old Massett on the same day.

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