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All photos by Samantha Moss

Black Lives Matter Peterborough (BLM PTBO) is taking big strides towards building a strong community for people of colour in Peterborough.

The movement was formally initiated in 2014 by two dedicated individuals, Charmaine Magumbe and Niambi Leigh. They seek to give a voice to the black people who have been killed at the hands of police brutality, an injustice seen especially in the US.

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“BLM PTBO is not about the rally—it is all about the injustice, especially in regards to how black men are killed in a really violent manner,” says the cofounder Charmaine Magumbe. She added that this is really a cry to bring to the forefront the injustices black people are facing not just in the US, but all around the world.

According to Magumbe, the movement seeks to create a safe space where they can come together to speak freely about how black people experience injustices right here in Peterborough.

Additionally, the goal is to to achieve a long-term goal of justice, equality, dignity and respect for black people, people of color, and Indigenous people. “We don’t want to be seen as invisible people in society, but want to be active members included in decision making processes,” she added.

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The opportunities for BLM moving forward would be to break down barriers and create a better inclusive environment. “Right now [Peterborough] doesn’t feel like it is inclusive; it is extremely exclusive because of the fact that it is 96 percent white,” expressed Magumbe. People tend to deny that racism exists here in Peterborough, and question why BLM events even happen. But just because one doesn’t see it, doesn’t mean that this town is free of racial discrimination: “I can tell you as a chair of the Community and Race Relations Committee of Peterborough, we have the highest hate crime rate in Canada,” Magumbe clarified.

The major challenge BLM PTBO currently faces is its lack of enough black people to lead its rallies. There are certainly black people in Peterborough, but it is just those two cofounders who are directly involved with planning the events and keeping the movement alive.
“Finding people—people of colour—willing to get on board and help move BLM forward, is the main challenge,” pointed out cofounder Niambi Leigh. BLM does have a lot of allies who help them out, but that help can be obtained only behind-the-scenes based on the premise of what the organization is about,” added Leigh.

IMG_7731The movement has been fairly successful at meeting its goals, but “it is still Peterborough, and we worry about people trying to protest, or showing up and not supporting the movement but just causing disruption,” admitted Leigh.

So far, although they have been fortunate enough to not experience any of that directly, there has been a case where after the recent rally one of the speakers was harassed. “That was not acceptable but we as a movement are trying to plan better ways to self-care,” Leigh explained.

BLM is planning to hold workshops on how to safely promote the cause and how to be a part of the movement while still protecting individuals’ mental health and physical safety.
Leigh elaborated on the vision of the movement: “We want to build a strong Peterborough community for people of colour that knows about each other, are supportive to one other, and has a sense of reliance on each other when needed”.

They explained that as people of colour, and black folks specifically, it is very hard to not have somebody to talk to where one does not have to explain all the layers of why they speak or feel a particular way.

They also mentioned some common misconceptions regarding the BLM: that it is not a movement of peace, or is not accepting of help from anyone besides black folks and people of color. This is not the case, stressed Leigh.

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“We are just focused on having black folks and people of color being visible in the BLM movement but there are lots of allies in this chapter who are being very helpful. It is just behind the scenes,” she explained.

It was also made clear that they are trying to incorporate Indigenous people in to the movement because of the fact that they are on the Indigenous land and also for the reason that they are people of colour.

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Besides, Peterborough has a very strong Indigenous community who has been involved in a lot of similar things that BLM is trying to do. And not to mention the immense support the Indigenous community has already rendered them, from giving advice to helping out at the events themselves. “It is the support from them which has been a big part of why we are at where we are right now, and having them incorporated just makes more sense!” stated Leigh.

Moving forward, Black Lives Matter Peterborough is extending its communication with bigger BLM movements such as BLM Toronto. It is also looking to officially register to become a part of the national movement, and is working towards incorporating the Indigenous community into the movement as “BLM PTBO-NO GO”.

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Ugyen Wangmo is a self trained media personal, steadfast to ‘right to information’. She has about six years of media experience through a variety of roles as Reporter, Editor, Stringer, and Freelance writer. She graduated from Trent with a degree in Chemistry and Biology. When not nosing around for leads to write a thing or two about, she indulges in books, fashion, and dance.