After the rally: Kelowna empowerment coach on moving forward after BLM

Rawle James said the first big step is to have the difficult conversations

Hundreds of Kelowna residents have participated in a Black Lives Matter rally, but what are the next steps?

Kelowna empowerment coach Rawle James said the answer to that question is for the community as a whole to stop comparing who has experienced the worst wrongs due to racism because that’s what leads to pain.

“Black and Indigenous communities need to stop acting like they’re the only two who have been hurt or have gone through stuff. Right in this country, look at what we’ve done to the Chinese with the head tax, with the Japanese during the war. Look what we’ve done to other ethnicities,” explained James.

James is working towards a solution that is multi-faceted and will involve everyone to look at economic, judicial, political, and financial systems, as well as spiritual, mental and emotional well-being.

As part of his empowerment work, James said the community has to realize everyone has the same needs, no matter the skin colour. We also have to be willing to have conversations with the people who have different thoughts and beliefs means stepping out of individual pain and suffering.

One of those conversations James is having is with Kelowna’s Black community, after confusion over the organization of the June 5, Black Lives Matter rally.

Two local organizations – Hearth and the African-Caribbean Student Club at UBCO – spoke against the rally’s organizers. In separate statements, they said they felt there were no Black people involved in launching the rally, even though Kermisha Pereira is a Black woman and Paige Harrison is half-Black.

James said it was a misunderstanding, but because of hurt feelings, the two organizations chose not to support the endeavour.

Since then, he has been trying to set up a meeting with the organizations, as well as Pereira and Harrison, to help mediate and mentor them. He’s been able to speak to everyone on social media and he said they all need to rest and heal from what they experienced.

Despite what happened, he said he is proud of the organizers because they stood up and felt compelled to encourage learning and conversation in Kelowna.

“They may have been exuberant, but their intent was not to take advantage of the situation. There was no cultural appropriation,” James said.

“The point is that young people stood up and said ‘enough of this’ What is wrong with that? Nothing. People left the rally wanting to learn more, wanting to talk more. That’s what’s important, and that’s what needs to keep going.”

READ: Hundreds gather at Black Lives Matter rally in Kelowna

READ: Kelowna mayor issues statement on Black Lives Matter


Twila Amato
Video journalist, Black Press Okanagan
Email me at twila.amato@blackpress.ca
Follow me on Twitter

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