The Black Community Collective works to mobilize collective action
The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in early 2020 brought the Black Lives Matter movement into the public eye and caused ripples around the world. Systemic racism, injustice and bias in law enforcement became part of popular discourse, motivating many to pursue education and take action.
“It was something that was palatable in our community and reverberated across our community and so we were getting a lot of requests from media outlets,” says Tolu Ilelaboye, a volunteer project manager with African Communities of Manitoba Inc. (ACOMI).
ACOMI works to bring individuals and community organizations of African heritage in Manitoba together by offering programming that builds unity, understanding, and prosperity.
Instead of responding immediately to media requests, ACOMI recognized that one organization could not be the voice of a large, diverse community, and joined forces with the Black History Month Celebration Committee, Caribbean Council of Manitoba, Afro-Caribbean Association of Manitoba, Congress of Black Women, and representatives from more than 20 other black-led and supporting organizations. The group addressed the turmoil in the United States from a Manitoban perspective and identified the specific needs of the community here.“We got together and decided to put together the Black Community Collective to talk about and respond to what we were seeing, but also to call in not only our own community, but the community at large to say this isn’t just an American problem. This isn’t just a problem that’s happening in one place. It happens here, and it is a systemic problem,” says Ilelaboye.
The Black Community Collective (BCC) is working to implement new programs, projects, and initiatives in the community that will strengthen and enhance the Black presence in Manitoba, focussing on three key areas – policing, government, and community engagement.
The BCC was involved in the Police Accountability Coalition, a diverse group that extends beyond the Black community and works to mobilize collective action. Established in the summer of 2020, the Coalition is committed to addressing police violence and systemic racism and is endorsed by more than 100 organizations from the non-profit sector, representing a variety of focus areas and communities.
Ilelaboye feels it’s vital to be politically involved and engaged in our communities in ways that deliberately and intentionally create space for everyone.
“Being politically engaged means saving lives. It means helping people. It means building stronger communities. It means seeing the health and wellbeing of everybody, every person,” says Ilelaboye.
When the rights of some people get taken away, everyone starts to suffer.
Ilelaboye acknowledges that activism will be different for everyone, but anyone can start by finding issues that spark joy or excitement, or that address injustice. Ilelaboye encourages people engaging in activism to continuously self-evaluate, ensuring that no harm is being caused to people or the environment and that values remain focused on the issue at hand.
Since BLM gained prominence on the world stage in 2020 there have been disparate views and polarizing media attention surrounding the organization, causing some to be disheartened. For Ilelaboye, however, these critical conversations can lead to a middle ground and shared understanding of racism: “We can’t hide from it. We can’t ignore it anymore. It has to be acknowledged.”