DIDSBURY — About 70 people gathered in Didsbury on Saturday, July 18 to air their concerns about racism.
The event, held in the green space across from Ross Ford Elementary School and organized by Rural Alberta Against Racism (RAAR), was billed as a “community sharing and discussion” on the topic.
People sat on lawn chairs or blankets that had been spread out. Some set up umbrellas to keep the sun out.
A few signs were sprinkled throughout the crowd, saying Black Lives Matter; We Will Fight With Every Breath George Floyd Didn’t Get To Breathe; No One Is Equal Until We Are All Treated Equally; and Indigenous Lives Matter.
Near the back of the crowd, a multi-coloured flag was set up that said Blackfalds Against Racism.
One man paraded a Canadian flag with an aboriginal person depicted in the middle of it.
The crowd ranged from young kids to middle-aged people.
Once again, there was a friendly, kind of festive atmosphere. One man in the crowd twisted balloons into various shapes. Ironically, one was made into a sword, which a young boy loved.
A couple of RCMP vehicles drove by every once in a while or parked well to the rear of the event.
Taylor McNallie who served as MC and also spoke during event, said organizers had asked police to conduct patrols for safety.
Speakers from Mountain View County and from as far as Red Deer and Calgary addressed the crowd.
In general, all speakers described how racism has hurt them and society as a whole, but several times they diverged into other topics like pedophilia and education funding as well as land claims and opposition to pipelines.
McNallie, the daughter of a single white mother and a Black father, used to live in Cremona. Then she and her mom moved to Didsbury.
She said the first time she heard the word “nigger” was in Cremona. But it wasn’t until they moved to Didsbury that she heard it almost daily. She got in a fight with one girl, then later got “jumped” by that girl’s friends.
McNallie said not only does racism exist in Alberta but also claimed that remnants of the Ku Klux Klan still exist.
McNallie held out an olive branch to everyone, including white supremacists.
“When we look at them and you look at our counter protesters, we’re all going for the same goal, we all have the same idea of having a better life,” she said.
“So it’s like, how can we change that narrative and have it so we all work together? We can’t say all lives matter because all lives haven’t mattered.”
Lonny Averill who lives west of Olds also spoke.
He joined the group after attending a Black Lives Matter rally in Innisfail a few weeks ago.
Sporting a cowboy hat, Averill said he was bullied when he was young so he can relate to some of the experiences others have endured.
He railed against comments about “nerds” or “geeks” that he said, “make you sick.”
“They’re all the same; I don’t care what colour you are,” Averill said.
Like McNallie, Averill urged the crowd to unite.
“People can come together, and when we do, it’s very powerful. And it’s got nothing to do with colour.”
Averill said those in power are using the coronavirus outbreak and racism to divide the population and get them to “do their dirty work for them.”
He said mandatory coronavirus vaccines will create a second wave of the disease and called racism the “number 1 trump card” of those in power.
“For generations, they’ve used it, since the beginning of time. And man, it’s the most effective; it’s the one that hurts us the most.”
Averill said the news media is aggravating the situation by focusing on confrontation between the various groups.
He read a poem called That Old Fence about the courage to get over an obstacle and get to the other side.
Some of the greatest applause came for 12-year-old Nolan Vatcher of Carstairs, who decided to speak after attending an RAAR event in Carstairs a couple of weeks ago.
“I’m a white male and I don’t know what it’s like to be discriminated against. However, the amount of times I’ve heard kids calling each other the N word or the F.A.G. word at a public park is just disgusting,” he said.
Vatcher said people have called him brave for speaking out but he didn’t buy that.
“The thing is, I’m not brave for doing this. What I’m doing is the right thing,” Vatcher said.
"The people who are brave for doing this are the people who have dealt with this their whole lives and are standing up and talking about it today,” he added, sparking cheers and applause.
“I want to know something: why do we have to protest against racism in 2020," he asked."I thought we were past this.”