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Black Lives Matter in the Beaches

Black Lives Matter on Toronto beach
Kendall Mar

August 3, 2020

The Toronto east end hosted yet another well-attended march for Black lives on August 1! The route which toured the neighbourhood from Leuty Lifeguard station along the boardwalk up Woodbine, across Queen street ending at the water filtration plant was organizer by two first time youth organizers, Abi and Amani with support from the founder of #beachers for Black Lives, Sapphira Charles. Beachers for Black Lives is a group for local allies and local Black people to share resources. The two young women who run the @blacklivesmatter_beaches Instagram page were moved to spearhead this action following the global movement for racial justice.

In attendance was Rima Berns-McGown, the MPP for Beaches-East York, who has been actively involved in actions for racial justice across the city. Before the start of the march, she delivered a powerful speech speaking on the importance of continuing to show up for Black lives and the significance of the action taking place on August 1, emancipation day. Emancipation day is a historical commemoration which marks the end of slavery in so-called Canada that took place on August 1, 1834, and has been recognized in Ontario since 2008. In her speech, Berns-McGown stated, "yes emancipation is liberation from slavery but it is now liberation from all the barriers that Black, Indigenous and people of colour still face" emphasizing the importance of continued support form allies to countering systemic racism. The abolition of slavery did not amount to Black liberation as the anti-Black racism that slavery was built on persists.

Attendees held signs with messages of solidarity with Black Trans folks, demands for systems change and calls to defund the police. The group kept up chants demanding justice along the entire route. One chant called for justice for Regis Korchinski-Paquet a Black and Indigenous woman from Toronto who died after falling to her death during an altercation with police responding to a wellness check. The case is now being investigated by the Special Investigations Unit but concerns have been voiced surrounding the impartiality of investigators illuminating systemic racism in Toronto's institutions.

The group's energy was powerful and the message was heard loud and clear across the neighbourhood. In closing the event, Sapphira Charles made a speech reminding everyone that the work is far from over and that we must keep showing up until we see change. Black Lives Matter!

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