Paris court tries anti-racism activist for statue attack

Of note. All societies and cultures have to face their histories, but in a manner that educates and improves understanding of their context and not simply dismisses historical figures without considering the times and their other contributions, good and bad:

A French activist for Black rights went on trial in Paris on Monday for defacing a statue of a historical figure from France’s colonial, slave-trading past, calling the protest a political act to denounce deep-seated racism.

Franco Lollia was on trial for spraying “state Negrophobia” in red paint on the pedestal of a statue outside parliament in Paris last June. The statue Jean-Baptiste Colbert, a 17th-century royal minister who wrote rules governing slaves in France’s overseas colonies.

Lollia told the court that, in his view, Colbert committed crimes against humanity. He said celebrating Colbert with a statue outside the National Assembly shows that the French state “is viscerally Negrophobic even today” and that the statue’s presence is “spitting in the face of all people who look like me.”

Lollia, who is Black, called the trial “an insult.”

“I am sad to see that history seems to be repeating itself and our voices are still not heard,” he said. “I am really disappointed that the justice system is still so blind.”

The trial coincided with France’s annual commemoration of the abolition of slavery. Lollia noted that the day isn’t marked with a national holiday, dismissing it as “a bone for a dog” that fails to adequately commemorate the horrors inflicted on millions of slaves.

The sweat-top and face mask that Lollia wore to the trial both had the words “Anti-Negrophobia Brigade” printed on them. Other words on the back of his T-shirt said “Negrophobia” is a “weapon of mass destruction that doesn’t admit its name” and exhorted: “Let’s arm ourselves to the hilt to fight it.”

The judge said video footage of the graffiti attack showed him hurling paint at the statue and spray-painting its base.

“It was a political act,” Lollia said.

The charge of defacing property is punishable by a fine or community service.

Lollia’s team argued that he acted in self-. His attorney Georges-Emmanuel Germany said the judge should consider France’s past as “a criminal state” in weighing Lollia’s act.

“You are not only the judge of the accused,” the attorney said. “You are also the judge of the of the victim” — meaning the French state.

Speaking outside the courtroom, Lollia said France’s colonial past is still feeding racial discrimination.

“Colbert is a major figure of this colonial past, this past where Black people were not recognized as human beings,” he said.

“The system itself is Negrophobic from the moment it doesn’t put into question the history,” he said. “France is capable of healing from its Negrophobia and from its state racism in general, but the French state must learn to face its history, and not only part of the history it likes.”

Source: Paris court tries anti-racism activist for statue attack

How activism has evolved for Black Canadians

Interesting article on the changing nature of Black Canadian activism.

While sympathetic and understanding of some of their concerns (indeed as the Ontario government’s recent data collection and related anti-racism strategy does), and that activism is needed for change, exaggerated rhetoric hardly helps the case with the broader public discussion and debate.

But of course, that is part of free speech and related rights:

At a time when so many Canadians were celebrating the end of the Harper era and, with it, an apparent return to “sunny days,” Khogali’s words eroded the image of Canada as a genteel, meritocratic, accepting nation, instead indicting its leader on the grounds of racism and discrimination. Khogali not only named whiteness—a bold act given the state of our national discourse on race—but specifically white supremacy. She also labelled the Prime Minister a terrorist, implicating Canada as a nation trafficking in fear and oppression. While there were certainly Black Canadians who did not endorse Khogali’s words, online discussions and think pieces written in the aftermath of Khogali’s statement suggest that her statement wasn’t as aberrant for young Black Canadians as for their white counterparts. But regardless of where one finds themselves in relation to Khogali’s words, one thing is clear: a vision of change that does not require the nation state or the sanction of white allyship—let’s call it disruption—has begun to gain credence among Black Canadians. It may make some uncomfortable—but it’s also starting to produce results.

This paradigm was on display during BLMTO’s disruption of Toronto’s Pride Parade last summer, an action that drew the ire of many white members of the LGBTQ community who believed that BLMTO was undermining its authority and the gains that it had made in society. It was on display at Tent City when BLMTO occupied the area outside of the Toronto Police Headquarters. It was on display when BLMTO showed up at Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s private residence in protest of police. These are the new tactics of disruption: disruption of parades, disruption of privacy, disruption of comfort, disruption of permission, decorum, civility, and the various ways they have been used to obscure Black plight. Disruption is inspired by a lack of visible progress promised by the Prime Minister’s own father.

Currently, BLMTO boasts 18,000 followers on Twitter including many high-profile members of the Canadian media landscape, some of whom subscribe to the same style of activism; Desmond Cole’s recent disruption of the TPS meeting in protest of carding is a compelling example. BLMTO is also actively involved in Toronto’s Black communities, holding many discussions and events and, in March, the group achieved its goal of having police banned from Toronto’s Pride parade.

I ended up speaking out against the elder’s words at the meeting; silence felt inadequate. I told the young man that an appeal to reason could not work in a system predicated upon his dehumanization, and that to assume otherwise was dangerous. When I spoke, I found myself supported by several others in the room, including a few elders. As Foster observes of Black elders, “many of them immigrated to Canada with their heads full of dreams. They were going to do well and succeed, become an example for all those back home. Now, in the middle of the night, they find themselves scratching their heads and asking what went wrong. For they did not attain their dream, and what is even more significant, they now despair their kids will be worse off than they.”

In these dire times, when 42 per cent of Black students have been suspended at least once in the Toronto District School Board and Black Canadians constitute nearly ten per cent of federal prisoners—but only three per cent of the Canadian population—unwavering subscription to infiltration is difficult and often dangerous. Entire generations of Black Canadians have watched Black teachers in Ontario face racism in the staff rooms and barriers to promotion. We’ve seen how the establishment of the SIU, a major reform secured through the tireless efforts of the Black Action Defense Committee, did not protect Jermaine Carby or Andrew Loku. We see the hollowness of the promises made four decades ago.

For Black Canadians wedded to the idea of infiltration, it is high time to acknowledge its limitations, the many ways in which the face of the mainstream has yet to soften. It is also incumbent upon non-Black Canadians and, especially, White Canadians to examine their relationship to Canada in light of history. To label Khogali’s words violent and call for her resignation without any discussion of state-produced violence is to ignore centuries of injustice in this country. It invests in ideals of merit and civility, assuming the effectiveness of nationhood, while conveniently overlooking the violence visited upon racialized bodies and, in particular, Indigenous bodies.

As people across this country move to celebrate Canada 150, the important shifts that have occurred in Black political engagement from Trudeau to Trudeau ask all Canadians to re-evaluate the narratives that structure what it means to be “Canadian.” The politics of disruption recognizes that systemic racism may be just as Canadian as maple syrup. The barriers to full participation in Canadian society have not been removed—in fact, many have been redoubled. In contrast to the decades of Black support for Pierre Trudeau, Khogali’s indictment of Justin Trudeau reminds us that it is racialized Canadians who are often left in the shadows of these long-awaited sunny days.

Source: How activism has evolved for Black Canadians –

Time for a new kind of black activism in Toronto

Interesting how the young activists feel that they are not recognized, welcomed or listened to by the current generation:

We are graduate students whose work, as well as experience, has made us acutely aware of the plights facing black youth within a society that privileges certain groups over others. We are aware that black youth are under-represented among post-secondary graduates and in the workforce, and overrepresented in the criminal justice system. And we are working alongside members of our community to address these issues. If the older generation of activists has not noticed our work or that of our cohorts it may because ours is, for our community, a new kind of more democratic activism.

Perhaps the most surprising comments in the Star article came from Valerie Steele, president of the Jamaican Diaspora Canada Foundation, whose work we greatly admire. She added her voice to the chorus lamenting the lack of young black leaders. But we had met with Steele before the article came out and explained to her our concern that too many black youth feel isolated and marginalized from the activist community. That too many of these older activists seem to fail to understand the needs and realities of black youth and in so doing actively stifle their voices.

It’s time for the current generation of activists to open the space for young voices, to democratically engage the youth they claim to champion. We strongly believe that the next generation of black leadership must work in concert with those who have slipped through the cracks or who are on the margins of society. Only then can we claim truly to represent our community.

As our antecedents have recognized, the only way to effect meaningful change is to have grassroots-level organizing. To this end, we have established the Jamaican Canadian Youth Council, a youth-led organization. We seek to establish ourselves as a supportive agent to empower, mobilize and motivate young people across Ontario to work collaboratively toward creating programs to generate change.

We know this can work because we’ve seen it happen. Contrary to what the older generation of activists is saying, there is an impressive group of emerging leaders who not only work for the community’s marginalized youth, but with them.

Time for a new kind of black activism in Toronto | Toronto Star.